By: Bishop Paul S. Loverde
If I asked you to choose the single event that has most influenced and touched human history, what would you choose? The invention of the alphabet? The discovery of the New World by Columbus? Maybe you would name a medical advancement that saved millions of lives, or an invention that allowed us to accomplish things previously never imagined. Yes, human history has included many world-changing discoveries, inventions and advancements, but, in point of fact, none of them would be considered the single event that has had the greatest influence on our history — at least, not for the followers of Jesus Christ.
For us, that single event — the one that has most influenced and touched our history — is the reality we gather here this Easter day to celebrate with so much joy: the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the reality at the heart of the good news — the Gospel — which Saint Peter proclaims in today’s first reading: “This man (Jesus) God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us,…who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead.” This single event is the very core of our Christian faith, so much so that without the Resurrection, there would be no reason to believe, no reason to hope; there would be no Christianity.
This one single event, the Resurrection of Jesus, has indeed most influenced and touched all of human history, because through it, the Lord Jesus has won for all peoples of all times the victory of life over death. Through it, Jesus has reunited the Lord God with His people once again and forever. By the paradox of His dying and rising, Jesus shares with each believer His victory of life over death, and unites each believer with God in the new bond of friendship, harmony and love.
Even more, this one single event makes all the difference to us because the rising of Jesus Christ from the dead to new and unending life radically changes our outlook on life: how we journey with genuine and enduring hope through life as we serve one another in true charity. The reality which we celebrate and relive through this Easter liturgy makes the real difference — the only difference — in how we live our daily life.
Of course, we shall not escape the uncertainties and the contradictions of life; we shall not avoid frustration and difficulty, suffering and pain, and, in the end, human death itself. No, we shall not be spared any of these, but the reality of the Resurrection allows us to endure and to cope with them, to pass through them without being completely crushed by them. Ultimately, we shall experience what Christ gained for us: victory, not defeat; joy, not sorrow; peace, not conflict; life, not death; and all these, not for a time, but forever.
Yes, we already know that the rising of Jesus Christ from the dead to new and unending life is precisely why we can live differently: with hope and strength. But, we often forget. Today, like the women at the tomb, we are again being reminded: “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for He has been raised just as He said… .” Before we leave this holy place with this good news echoing in our hearts and return to our daily routine, the Risen Lord Jesus will embrace us with His very own self in holy Communion.
Then, filled with the life-giving strength which comes from our encounter with Him and the joy and hope intertwined with His life, we shall be able to carry out the instruction given us by the angel: “[G]o quickly and tell His disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead!’…” Yes, this one single reality is too good to keep to ourselves. By the very way we face the realities that confront us each day, we will witness to the amazing power that comes from our union with the Risen Lord. We shall, in fact, be evangelizing with hearts afire!
Today, we are once again in touch with the one single reality that makes all the difference: here and hereafter. As I wish you a blessed Easter, I echo Pope Francis: “Let the risen Jesus enter your life, welcome Him as a friend, with trust: He is life! …be confident that He is close to you, He is with you, and He will give you the peace you are looking for and the strength to live as He would have you do” (Easter Vigil Homily, March 30, 2013, Vatican Basilica).
Paul S. Loverde is bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. A new edition of his pastoral letter on pornography, Bought with a Price, and his recent letter on the new evangelization, Go Forth with Hearts on Fire, are available at Amazon for Kindle and at www.arlingtondiocese.org/purity.