You seek Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He is risen, he is not here, behold the place where they laid him.
As we celebrate this Easter Sunday, we relive the central act of our faith. With our mind’s eye we can picture the impact of the angel’s voice: He is not here, for he has risen as He said…"
The Acts of the Apostles, the writings of the evangelists, and the letters of St. Paul all agree to various appearances of the Risen Jesus to individual disciples and to various groups of believers, but we have no record, no indication that any nonbelievers saw the Risen Lord. Certainly the Scriptures were written for people who already believed in Jesus: but is it possible or probable that only Jesus’ disciples saw him? Was there no one else in the garden when he appeared to Mary Magdelene? No other travelers on the road to Emmaus? Or are the appearances of the Risen Jesus like the other signs in John’s gospel—something that any number of people might physically see but could fail to understand? The Easter appearances were not open to neutral observation or verification. Only Jesus’ disciples saw him, and all of them were called to new responsibilities in proclaiming the kingdom of God.
To us as to the apostles, followers of Jesus, the resurrection of the Lord from death’s tomb is an event of great meaning. It confirms beyond a doubt the divinity of Christ and stamps his mission and his message with the seal of divine truth and assures us that we have been delivered from sin and from Satan. It is also a solemn pledge of the glorious life which God has planned for us beyond the grave.
There is something enduringly powerful in the celebration of Easter which we do today. No truth has been more persistently challenged than that of Christ’s glorious resurrection, three days after his suffering and death. Yet we are confronted today with the inescapable fact that the Christian world still believes in the Resurrection as something which rests solidly in history. Even researchers and learned scholars operating from a philosophy of life which accepts as real only that which can be seen and heard and sensibly experienced, have been unable to persuade this great majority of religious people that the account of the Resurrection, as presented in the New Testament is only the creation of a disturbed imagination. The human mind finds it easy to distinguish between myth and reality, between fact and fable. If millions of intelligent people join in commemorating the Resurrection, it is because they are irresistibly persuaded that Easter is not the symbol of a tradition without foundation. If the appeal of Easter is so widespread, its sources must lie far deeper than the external splendor with which the world surrounds it, even though many are so unmindful of the fact that it is of historical origin.
And we know in faith that the same Lord who appeared to the first disciples reveals himself to us and strengthens us to live as people who believe in the Resurrection.
How often has it been said that we were never taught that Jesus is my Lord. But if we have no belief in a God whose reality transcends the limits of our experience, we cannot live as creatures of God. We find ourselves imprisoned in the dreary contemplation of our own nothingness. If we do not believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, true God and true man, then we must disavow the name Christian which implies so much of what we have come to love. And if we do not believe that Jesus Christ proved his divinity by rising from the dead, we are painfully hypocritical in turning to Christ for inspiration and help, as we make our way through the periods of human history.
Fr John R. Mulvehill