The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead and His glorious passing through the sealed tomb of the Holy Sepulcher happened, as we say, “on the third day.” That is to say, Christ Jesus, true God and true man, underwent His Passion and death and was laid in the tomb on Good Friday. That was the first day. Holy Saturday, the second day, all creation is a bit lost, not quite knowing what to do or how to spend the day, when the Light from Light is surrounded by the shadows of death. But as early as possible the next morning, the third day, Christ rises to life again and appears to Mary Magdalene in the garden, to some disciples heading towards Emmaus, and to the Apostles in the upper room.
From ancient times Christian liturgy has celebrated this as one sacred day, so intimately are these mysteries united. It is the one overriding principle of Christian life, that death in Christ means life in Christ. As the should-have-been Bl. Fulton Sheen said, “The Cross had asked the questions; the Resurrection had answered them….The Cross had asked: why does God permit evil and sin to nail Justice to a tree? The Resurrection answered: That sin having done its worst might exhaust itself and thus be overcome by Love that is stronger than either sin or death. Thus there emerges the Easter lesson that the power of evil and the chaos of any one moment can be defied and conquered, for the basis of our hope is not in any construct of human power but in the power of God who has given to the evil of this earth its one mortal wound – an open tomb, a gaping sepulcher, and empty grave.”
What was sown in dishonor is raised in glory, St. Paul tells the Corinthians about the resurrection. The image directly refers to one Christ Jesus used about Himself on the very eve of His Passion: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.” Jesus Himself was that grain, dishonored in His crucifixion, and sown into the ground of the Holy Sepulcher. His fruit is the Church: missionaries and married folk, virgins and confessors, martyrs and Apostles, and Mary, Mother of the Church—His entire Mystical Body.
We remember in a particular way this Easter the living voice of our recently deceased Pope Benedict XVI. Referring to this same saying of Christ, he wrote, “Jesus is the grain of wheat which dies. From that lifeless grain of wheat comes forth the great multiplication of bread which will endure until the end of the world. Jesus is the bread of life which can satisfy superabundantly the hunger of all humanity and provide its deepest nourishment. Through His Cross and Resurrection, the eternal Word of God became flesh and bread for us.”
Pope Benedict found in the Eucharist the source of power for the Christian faithful to live their faith in the resurrection of Christ. Speaking directly to Christ Jesus, he goes on, “Through the death of the grain of wheat You give us Yourself, so that we too can dare to lose our life in order to find it, so that we too can trust the promise of the grain of wheat. Help us grow in love and veneration of Your Eucharistic mystery—to make You, the Bread of heaven, the source of our life. Like the grain of wheat which rises from the earth, putting forth its stalk and then its ear, You could not remain enclosed in the tomb. No, You did not see corruption. You have risen, and have made a place for our transfigured flesh in the very heart of God. Help us to rejoice in this hope and bring it joyfully to the world. Help us to become witnesses of Your resurrection.”
This is how the life of Jesus may be manifested in our bodies, as St. Paul would have us do. Worthy and fruitful holy communions increase our faith in the rising of Christ and the hope of our own rising on the last day. Such faith answers the deepest need of the human heart; such belief is itself a witness and proclamation—heart speaking to heart, deep calling on deep. It cannot be hidden but must show itself through us.
To give the last word to Pope Benedict: “Faith in the resurrection of Jesus says that there is a future for every human being; the cry for unending life which is a part of the person is indeed answered. God exists: that is the real message of Easter. Anyone who even begins to grasp what this means also knows what it means to be redeemed.”
Given 4/9/23 at St. Michael's