Mystery of Life from Death
Guest editorial: Fr Ralph de Hahn – Never in the history of mankind was there such a shattering victory as when a dead man brought new life to a broken world.
It was the greatest battle ever fought: one for the souls of humans. And the inaccessible pure Light vanquished our devastating darkness.
God’s infinite love and mercy shone forth to repair the incalculable damage inflicted on his creation. Now we celebrate the glorious victory of life over death; the triumph of Christ who is the Light of the World.
The stunning truth is that the all-powerful Son of God, in fact, “emptied himself” and was humbled from the crib of Bethlehem to the heights of Calvary, and finally to a borrowed grave.
The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the tomb is the central tenet of Christian theology and the essential part of the Nicene Creed of 325AD.
“On the third day he rose again, according to the scriptures.” The tomb was empty.
The many possible explanations offered were without any evidence. There was no eyewitness to the actual removal of the stone and the corpse coming to life. But we have the authentic testimony of his disciples who had sight of him over the 40 days before his ascension into heaven.
This was no ghost; he had a body, indeed glorified; he spoke to them, he ate with them, they touched his wounds, he conversed with two disciples at the inn on the road to Emmaus.
The amazing Pentecost event answered all their questioning and doubts.
A significant part of the resurrection episode is the vital part played by the women. It was to Mary Magdalene and the “other women” that the risen Christ first revealed himself, and called them to be his messengers.
We may presume that his mother, Mary, was well aware that her own son, her flesh and blood, had triumphed over death, and she was then able to unite and strengthen his disbelieving disciples. The Church today is listening to the scriptures and calling on believing women to take up their rightful place.
We recognise the date of our Easter corresponds roughly with the Jewish observance associated with the Exodus. Jesus gave the Jewish Passover meal a totally new meaning, for “Christ our Passover Lamb was sacrificed”.
Fundamental to St Paul’s theology is the connection between Christ’s resurrection and redemption, for “just as we share in Christ’s death in our baptism, so we shall share also in his resurrection” (Rom 6:3-8 ).
But we still ponder the deep mystery of new life proceeding from death. Look again at the promises of the Lord who walked this earth: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains only a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it will produce much fruit” (Jn 12:24).
And again: “I am the living bread come down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever” (Jn 6:51).
Then reflect on Jesus speaking to Martha at the grave of her brother Lazarus: “Your brother will rise again.” This she knows, but assumes this to apply only to the final resurrection. Then comes that powerful declaration: “Martha. I am the Resurrection… He who lives and believes in me will never die” (Jn 11:24-26).
We Christians live by that truth: that “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, was buried, and rose again on the third day” (1 Cor 15:3-4). And Paul reminds us: “If Christ had not been raised then all our preaching is in vain, and your faith is futile…and you are still in your sins…and all those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished; and if our hope has been for this life only, then we are a people to be pitied” (15:12-19).
Easter is that season of supreme hope, a new brilliant light to expel the darkness surrounding us. And where do we find the greatest irrefutable proof that there was a bodily resurrection? We are that proof!
The early Christian Church of the first century lived and grew heroically on that sublime truth, and thousands died for it. Even today Christian martyrs give witness to this fact.
Death has been conquered. We walk daily in the light of the resurrection. We walk towards the sunlight, the shadows are behind us.
“Thomas, you believe because you can see me (and touch me). Blessed are those who have not seen me and yet do believe” (Jn 20:29).
We have good reason to rejoice in the light of a glorious Easter.