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by Thomas A. Droleskey
April 14, 2001 (Holy Saturday)

The Resurrection of our Blessed Lord and Savior Jesus Christ from the dead on the morning of Easter Sunday is the central tenet of our Catholic Faith. Saint Paul wrote: “Now if Christ be preached, that he arose again from the dead, how do some among you say, that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen again. And if Christ be not risen again, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God: because we have given testimony against God, that he hath raised up Christ; whom he hath not raised up, if the dead rise not again. For if the dead rise not again, neither is Christ risen again. And if Christ be not risen again, your faith is vain, for you are yet in your sins. Then they also that are fallen asleep in Christ, are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” (1 Cor. 15:12-19)

Our Lord manifested His Easter victory over sin and death, effected by His own death on the wood of the Holy Cross on Good Friday, and that is the source of our hope beyond this vale of tears in which we live. The Cross reminds us that we must bear our share of the hardship that the Gospel entails, believing with all of our hearts and minds that there is nothing we can endure in this life that is the equal of what just one of our venial sins did to our Lord in His Sacred Humanity during His Passion and Death. As essential as the Cross is in our daily lives, however, it is the means by which each of us may walk out of our own grave on the Last Day and have our glorified body reunited with our soul for all eternity in Heaven. Our Lord’s Cross was His passageway to give us eternal life — and give it to the full. Thus, the eyes of our soul must be fixed at all times not only on the Cross but also on the fact that the Cross leads to eternal life, that death is not the end, only the beginning of the fullness of eternal life (the enjoyment of which may be delayed if a soul has died in a state of grace but has not satisfied the debt it owes because of its forgiven mortal sins and its general attachment to venial sin).

The fact of our Lord’s Resurrection from the dead is meant to influence every aspect of our lives without exception. This secular world in which we find ourselves tends to frequently drag down even the believing, praying Catholic to the depths of despair. People find themselves thinking and acting in purely earthbound terms, going about life as though nothing makes sense, as though nothing they do really matters. Even the events of the Easter Triduum can become secondary to the perceived anxieties about daily living. There are many devout Catholics who have to “find time” to get to the Mass of the Lord’s Supper or to the Liturgy of the Passion or to the Easter Vigil Mass. The world in which we live has quite a pull on us — and most of it is meant to draw our attention away from the hope that lies beyond death, the hope that lies beyond this passing life and the grave.

On the contrary, the Resurrection shows us that everything matters. Each of us matters in the eyes of the Blessed Trinity. Each one of our actions matters. Each thought we have matters. Every moment of our lives has a transcendent significance. God means to use every moment of our lives to help us know Him more fully, love Him more completely, and serve Him more generously through His true Church. He wants us to realize that we are creatures whose redemption has been wrought by the terrible price of the shedding of every single drop of His own Most Precious Blood. He wants, therefore, to keep our hands on our plow as we traverse the field of life, always keeping the eyes of our soul focused on the fact that what we do in this life will determine where we spend the next.

Vivified by the descent of the Holy Spirit upon them on Pentecost Sunday, the Apostles preached the facts about the Crucified and Resurrected Savior, Jesus of Nazareth. Indeed, the Resurrection was the central theme of their preaching, precisely to teach men that this mortal life — wherein we encounter pain and suffering and difficulty — does make sense. We are not to view our lives in earthbound terms. Our Lord has risen from death. He has conquered the power of sin and death for all eternity. It is up to each one of us to interiorize the transcendent significance of the Resurrection for us so that we can exude authentic Christian joy (as opposed to maudlin giddiness) in the midst of the world in which we live. We are meant to live in glory forever. That is our destiny. Imagine what our own lives would look like if we really kept our attention focused on the fact that the travails of this passing world are merely steppingstones to a glory that “eye has not seen and ear has not heard.”

While we are creatures who have the possibility of sharing in the glory of an unending Easter Sunday in Heaven, the path to Paradise is fraught with potholes. That is what the Church’s liturgy directs our attention to during the time after the commemoration of our Lord’s Passion on Good Friday, when we meditate on the forty hours between our Lord’s death on the Cross and His Resurrection from the dead on Easter Sunday. Those forty hours — a time during which our Blessed Mother waited patiently and the Apostles hid in fright — are yet another simile for life itself. For is it not the case that it is when we are waiting for some anticipated event that the passing hours can seem endless, can seem almost like an eternity to us?

Much happened during those forty hours between the time our Lord breathed His last on the Cross and the time He rose from the dead in glory. Our Lord Himself, as the Creed teaches us, went to the precincts of the dead to lead out from there all of the souls of the just who had waited for the Redemption from the beginning of time. The Gates of Heaven, tied shut and closed by the Fall from Grace in the Garden of Eden, were reopened. Indeed, at the very moment that Blood and water (the sacramental elements of the Church) poured forth from our Lord’s wounded side, countless souls of the just were flooding into Heaven, led by their Victor and King. There was rejoicing by the angels in Heaven as the zenith of God’s creative work — human beings — were finally brought to gaze upon the glory of the Beatific Vision of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for all eternity.

Much was happening also here on Earth. Our Lady prayed as she waited. The Apostles themselves, not really knowing what to expect, also waited, although in fright. Would they be arrested and crucified themselves? Where were they going to live? What were they going to do? What did the Master mean when He said that He would rise from the dead?

Isn’t it that way with us sometimes? Those of us who profess belief in our Lord’s Easter victory over sin and death frequently act as though we do not believe in the Resurrection. We complain about our crosses, not seeing in them the means to our own empty tombs. We wonder why bad things happen to ourselves and our family members and friends, forgetting the horror that our own sins imposed upon the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity made Man. We think that our Lord has abandoned us in our moments of need, failing to realize that He is with us all times, that He beckons us to adore Him in His Real Presence so that we can gain the strength and the courage we need to live as true believers in His Resurrection. Our waiting seems like an eternity.

When we think about it, though, life is relatively short. Even a person who lives a hundred years has lived only a small fraction of the history of the Church, approximately 5 percent. We must always be aware of the fact that the same Blessed Mother who prayed while she waited for her Son to visit her on the first Easter Sunday morning prays for us and with us as we wait to be sharers in the glory of her Son’s Resurrection.

In 1995, in his homily at a Mass in Oriole Park, Baltimore, Pope John Paul II said:
Our waiting for God is never in vain. Every moment is our opportunity to model ourselves on Jesus Christ — to allow the power of the Gospel to transform our personal lives and our service to others, according to the spirit of the Beatitudes. “Bear your share of the hardship which the gospel entails,” writes Saint Paul to Saint Timothy in today’s second reading. This is no idle exhortation to endurance. No, it is an invitation to enter more deeply into the Christian vocation which belongs to us all by Baptism. There is no evil to be faced that Christ does not face with us. There is no enemy that Christ has not already conquered. There is no cross to bear that Christ has not already borne for us and does not now bear with us. And on the far side of every cross we find the newness of life in the Holy Spirit, that new life which will reach its fulfillment in the resurrection. This is our faith. This is our witness before the world.
No, our waiting for God is never in vain. Our waiting out the pains and anxieties of this passing world is meant to teach us that our “forty hours” (or forty days or forty years) is a relatively short period of time. We must therefore meditate on the fact that, just as we go to sleep each night and enter a world of dreams, the day will come soon enough when we sleep the sleep of bodily death and awaken to the reality of the world that will never end. We will see ourselves as we truly are in the sight of the Blessed Trinity — and those who have remained faithful to the point of their dying breath will have a loving Mother of Mercy pleading for them with her divine Son. We must be ever conscious of what is real and is what is not, what lasts and what does not.

At the end of every long night of waiting there is the break of the first light. The Easter Vigil Mass, which begins with the Service of the Light and the Readings before Midnight in the Traditional Latin Mass — the Mass itself starts at just about Midnight — is the break of the first light in the life of the Church during the Easter Triduum. The Light of the World has burst forth from the darkness of death. He wants us, whose Godparents received a lit candle at our baptism to signify the Light of Christ burning in our souls for the first time, to light up the world with the flame of His bright, burning love. He wants His light to dispel our attachment to sin and to the pleasures of this passing world. He wants His light to shine forth in every aspect of our lives, both individually and socially. Just as the Sun shines forth light into the world every daybreak, so is it the case that the Son desires us to shine forth His light wherever we go, helping to start those yet in darkness on the path that will lead them from the point of despair and misery to a loving embrace of the Cross and to their own empty tomb.

As dawn is eclipsed by the brightness of the full strength of the Sun during the daylight hours on Easter Sunday morning, we are reminded that the full strength of the Son shines forth at every hour through Holy Mother Church. A red vigil lamp signifies His Real Presence in a tabernacle. Votive candles signify our remembrance of the intention of another, living or deceased, whose light we keep alive in our heart and in our soul. The tall Easter Candle burns in full force, reminding us by its melted wax that the One Whose light is thus symbolized wants to burn away all residue of sin and selfishness and self-absorption from every aspect of our lives.

The Apostles were slow to believe that the Son had risen on Easter Sunday. Our Lord had to personally instruct two men on the road to Emmaus about the meaning of the events of His Passion and Death, which they were trying to explain to Him, Whom they presumed to be some passerby unfamiliar with all that had happened. “O foolish, and slow of heart to believe in all things which the prophets have spoken. Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and so to enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:25-26) Saint Thomas did not believe the stories of our Lord’s Resurrection until he had put his fingers in the nail prints on our Lord’s hands and placed his hand in our Lord’s wounded side. “Jesus saith to him: Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed.” (John 20:29)

We are those who are blessed because we have not seen and have believed. We believe in the Resurrection on the authority of the Church founded by our Lord upon the Apostles, who were the actual eyewitnesses to His rising bodily from the dead. We know that, with respect to the received teaching of Christ, Holy Mother Church is guided infallibly by the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Holy Spirit. God, who can neither deceive nor be deceived, has so willed it that those of us who are nearly two millennia distant from the events of Passiontide and the first Easter Sunday will believe with the fervor and the joy possessed by the Eleven in the aftermath of the Resurrection. And we thus have the same obligation they did to proclaim the Good News to everyone we know, never shirking from the responsibility of inviting people into the true Church so they can be fed by the Eucharist, know the sacramental forgiveness of their sins, and thus be ready to meet God in the face at any moment He chooses to end their waiting for life everlasting.

The Easter season lasts fifty days, beginning on Easter Sunday and ending seven weeks later on Pentecost Sunday. The Easter season is ten days longer than Lent. Eternity is longer than the life we spend in our mortal body in this passing world. The legitimate joy we experience in thanking our Lord for bearing His Cross and conquering the power of sin and death over us is meant to be expressed in a special way during the fifty days of Easter. And that joy is meant to be conveyed to a world that is seeking joy so desperately in all of the wrong places.

Asking our Lady, to whom our Lord first appeared on Easter Sunday, to pray for us, may we use the Easter season to radiate the Light of Christ, shouting out to the world that each of us is meant to rise from our own tomb on the Last Day and know nothing but eternal bliss.

Saint Paul wrote: “Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall all indeed rise again: but we shall not all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall rise again incorruptible: and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption; and this mortal must put on immortality. And when this mortal hath put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? Now the sting of death is sin: and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who hath given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast and unmoveable; always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 15:51-58)

May we be always engaged in the work of the Lord, proclaiming to one and all the good news: Alleluia!

This column is distributed by the Griffin Internet Syndicate.
Copyright © Griffin Communications, 2001. All rights reserved.

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