Unclouded Hope in the Risen Lord Jesus

04-21-2019Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian F. Manning

If you look about, you will see that there are fresh signs of resurrection and new life all around us. The time and work of Lent are complete. Christ has risen! New spiritual life abounds!

The readings on Easter Sunday are much less dramatic than those of the Easter Vigil. They are similar to the quiet as the sun at dawn starts to rise to a glorious new day. Today, we find the sunburst of newness especially in our responsorial psalm, for indeed “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad” (Psalm 118:24).

Note how in the first reading of Easter Day that Peter is preaching the fundamentals of our faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus to the Roman centurion Cornelius and to his Gentile family and friends. Peter lays it all out clearly to this Roman soldier in telling him about Jesus who “went about doing good and healing,” was crucified, whom “God raised on the third day,” and who was seen by “witnesses … who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead” (Acts 10:38, 40–41). It is so striking that so much of the mercy and kindness of God is expressed in these quotes and indeed that these so very few words are a brief formula of our faith.

Bear in mind that Paul tells us that each one of us has a part in the Resurrection for indeed we have all died and risen with Christ. This is the reason why the Resurrection makes an impact on our lives here and now. We are called to be people who live in Christ and are people bound for glory together with him.

John’s account of the Resurrection is full of detail that is much like a spotlight shining on a scene on a stage. The whole story of Mary — expecting to prepare the body of Jesus for permanent burial, finding an empty tomb and not understanding and then hurrying to Peter and John with the shocking news — highlights many of the important details. The story also continues with the two apostles coming to the burial site. John offers the details of how the garments of death have fallen and how one is carefully rolled up. The men do not know what to make of this at all. Experience and faith will have to struggle together to come to understanding and meaning.

We come to learn that Resurrection means a breakthrough to the extraordinary life Jesus promised when he said, “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Jesus rose from the dead to make that statement of purpose absolutely clear. He ascended to “God’s right hand” to show us that heaven is our destiny. We look forward to this end and recognize that Jesus himself will be our ultimate “judge.” We anticipate that judgment, believing that Jesus knows first-hand our condition — our sufferings, temptations, joys, desires, and trials. Jesus, who refused to cast the first stone, as we read in a most recent Sunday Gospel, and also declined to condemn, will be there to welcome us with open arms. We do indeed look forward to that day as one of hope and ultimate joy, a victorious day of grace.

Are we able to put aside anxious and tentative living and embrace life with confidence and strength? The resurrection of Jesus tells us that we can indeed, for we recall that Jesus died and rose not for himself, but for us. Easter proclaims to us that now is the time for living. Now is the time for embracing one another and the future with renewed humanity and unclouded hope in the Risen Lord Jesus.

Blessed and Holy Easter: To all of you and those whom you hold close in your hearts, I wish you a most holy and blessed Easter. May the Risen Christ give grace, peace and strength each to your hearts and lives!