Dearly beloved in Christ,
The Resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the greatest and most glorious feast of the entire ecclesiastical year, just as the Passover was the greatest feast for the Israelites in the Old Testament.
The reason for this is quite simple: the Resurrection of Our Lord is the very foundation of Christianity. For if, after His death, Jesus had not risen, who would have had faith in Him as the promised Messias, the Redeemer, the Son of God? If Jesus had not risen, there would be no Christianity today. If Jesus Christ had not risen, His Apostles and disciples would not have gone forth to preach about His life, death and Resurrection, sealing the truth of their testimony with their very blood. As St. Paul tells us in his Epistle to the Corinthians:
“And if Christ be not risen again, your Faith is in vain, for you are yet in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17).
Nevertheless, the Apostles and disciples of Christ did testify, even to the point of the supreme sacrifice of their lives, that they indeed witnessed Jesus Christ risen from the dead. Humanly speaking, Our Lord’s Apostles and disciples had absolutely nothing to gain and everything to lose by preaching Christ and His Resurrection. So why did they? They did so for the simple reason that they had witnessed His Resurrection.
The secondary reason that the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the greatest feast of the Church is that it was the most stupendous of all His miracles. When we read in the Gospels of the miracles of Our Lord, we can see that they were worked in a manner so public, so manifest and so obvious that there was no room for doubt or suspicion. Many of these miracles were witnessed by large numbers of people, even by the scribes and Pharisees, Our Lord’s most bitter enemies. And when the Apostles and disciples went out “to teach all nations,” they addressed a people who were contemporary with the events that had taken place. The life, teachings and miralces of Jesus Christ were well known to the people of Palestine. The supernatural events recorded in the Gospels are so numerous and so spectacular that there can be no room for fraud or deceit. It would have been utterly impossible for the Apostles and disciples of Jesus Christ to successfully preach the wonderful miracles of Christ unless they actually took place.
One powerful example of the many miracles wrought by Jesus in such a manner as to be beyond question is the cure of the man born blind, which we read of in the Gospel of St. John, Chapter 11, verses 1-45. He was a man who was born blind from birth and who lived in a particular village his entire life. The entire population of the village knew him well. Jesus came upon this man and gave him his sight. Such an event was utterly impossible to question. The Pharisees unsuccessfully attempted to discredit this miracle even to the point of harassment of the cured man and his expulsion from the synagogue. This man, cured of his blindness, never wavered in his testimony that Jesus had truly cured him. As great as this miracle was, the Resurrection of Our Lord was far greater.
When we examine the manner in which Jesus rose from the dead, we can only marvel at the infinite wisdom of God in all of the circumstances that surrounded His Resurrection, and which have provided and will provide to all men for all times the clear and undeniable evidence that Jesus Christ truly is the Son of God, the promised Messias, the Redeemer of the world.
First of all, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ prophesied many times that He would endure a most cruel Passion and ignominious Death on the Cross, but on the third day rise again.
“As Jonas was in the whale’s belly three days and three nights, so shall the Son of man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights” (Matt. 12:40).
“They shall deliver Him to the Gentiles to be mocked, and scourged, and crucified, and the third day He shall rise again” (Matt. 20:19).
“Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up. But He spoke of the Temple of His Body” (John 2:19-20).
“After I shall be risen again I will go before you into Galilee” (Mark 14:28).
“He charged them not to tell any man what things they had seen till the Son of man shall be risen again from the dead. And they kept the word to themselves, questioning togethered what that should mean: When He shall be risen from the dead” (Mark 9:8-9).
These prophecies served as a remote prelude to His glorious Resurrection, but the proximate prelude was His Crucifixion. Our Divine Savior sacrificed Himself on the altar of the Cross and became “the Lamb of God” Who would take away the sins of the world. When we consider the manner in which Christ suffered and died, we can see how this served to make His Resurrection all the more glorious. His Passion and Death were most cruel, humiliating and ignominous. He died between two thieves, with His hands and feet nailed to the Cross, with His Sacred Head crowned with thorns, and with the mocking inscription, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” And to add insult to injury, the Pharisees and passers-by taunted Our Lord as He hung on the Cross:
“Now the passers-by were jeering at Him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘Thou who destroyest the temple, and in three days buildest it up again, save Thyself! If Thou art the Son of God, come down from the cross!” (Matt. 27:29-40).
In like manner, the chief priests with the Scribes and the elders, mocking, said, ‘He saved others, Himself He cannot save! If He is the King of Israel, let Him come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now, if He wants Him; for He said, “‘I am the Son of God”’” (Matt. 27:41-44).
“Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe” (Mark 15:31).
When Jesus died on the Cross, to all outward appearances, it seemed as if the Scribes and Pharisees had finally succeeded in His destruction. Little did they know that this was not the end of Christ and His teachings. For on the third day, as He had foretold, Jesus rose from the dead. He appeared to His beloved Mother, the ever-Virgin Mary, to the holy women, who had remained faithful to Him, even to the foot of the Cross, and finally, to His Apostles. During the forty days that followed, Jesus frequently appeared to His Apostles and disciples to confirm their faith. Thus it is that we have the greatest certitude that indeed Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
On this feast of Our Lord’s Resurrection, as we renew the promises we made at our Baptism to renounce Satan, his pomps and his works, and to be faithful to our Divine Savior Jesus Christ, let us be resolved, as St. Paul exhorts us, to be spiritually risen to a new life in Christ, “free from sin” and “pursuing good works.”
In Christo Jesu et Maria Immaculata,
Most Rev. Mark A. Pivarunas, CMRI