On one occasion I had the opportunity to talk to a group of young people about the resurrection. I told them that as a Christian I believe in the physical and real resurrection. I was surprise to see the disbelief in their faces. Perhaps they still believe in heaven and the life after death, but they think that physical resurrection is impossibility. But our Christian creed affirms the physical resurrection. That is why St. Paul in His apostolic labour said that the resurrection is a stumbling block among the Jews and was considered foolishness by the Greeks. Even in Jesus’ time, Our Lord rebuked and corrected the errors of the Sadducees, the Jewish sect of which most of the Priestly class belong. The Sadducees do not believe in the resurrection of the body. But Jesus rebukes their unbelief and told them that God is addressed as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In the light of the resurrection of the dead Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are not dead but they are alive in a futuristic sense.
The resurrection of Our Lord also calls for faith. The Scriptures tell us that Christ manifested Himself only to His disciples and to a few women who were witnesses of the resurrection. What the others have seen was an empty tomb. The missing body of Jesus made commotions in Jerusalem in so much so that the leaders of the Jews were alarmed and instructed the soldiers who saw how the angels ministered to our Lord by rolling the stone, “... Say you, His disciples came by night, and stole him away when we were asleep.” (Matthew 28:13 Douay-Rheims). I would opine that the reason why only the disciples and a few women have witnessed to the resurrection of our Lord was that to make us believe – to make us accept the Will of God in faith. For by faith we are saved. Jesus said, blessed are they who have not seen but have believed. This was how our Lord rebuked St. Thomas for his unbelief... “Put in thy finger hither, and see my hands; and bring hither thy hand, and put it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing.” (John 20:27 Douay-Rheims)
The importance of the Resurrection of the Body as lived by Our Lord and as affirmed by our creed is that, this event demonstrates to us the completion of the redemptive act. Of all the sting of sin, the last that must be defeated is death. Because death is the payment and the consequence of sin. Sin has many side effects, it can cause sickness, it makes our lives miserable, it puts enmity between us and God, it leads us to do awful things, and ultimately it results in physical death. “For the wages of sin is death. But the grace of God is life everlasting, in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 Douay-Rheims). Christ once and for all has demonstrated that death can be defeated. And if Christ has defeated death, we too who believe will in the last day rise again. This is our Christian hope, a blessed hope. This hope is reinforced many times in our traditions. This is the reason why we have cemeteries consecrated, this is also the reason why we do not believe in cremation of the dead because even in our burial practices we want to express that faith and hope in the resurrection of the body. If our bodies die in such humiliation Christ will give us a glorious body.
Our faith in the resurrection completes the theology of suffering. We do penance and we endure all sorts of voluntary poverty, persecutions and all sorts of self-denying activity not for its own sake but because we believe that this will make us worthy for the resurrection of the dead. St. Paul said: “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” (1 Corinthians 15:19 Douay-Rheims.) That is why the resurrection of the Body is a cornerstone of our faith. Without it there is no rational justification for our Christian belief. If the dead do not rise again on the last day then our religion is a miserable religion. But this hope of the resurrection impels us to persevere to the end. For death is our last enemy and Christ gives us hope of final victory which He has won.
Today as we celebrate this feast of all feasts, perhaps some us are like Thomas, or the apostles, or perhaps we are like Mary Magdalene and the holy women who went to the sepulchre. Christ invites us to have an encounter with Him. Are we like Thomas who doubts? Let us put our fingers on the hands of our Lord and see by faith the cost that it took Him to win back paradise for us. Are we like the disciples full of fear...let us put our trust in the victorious Lord, are we like the women full of devotion and trust? Let us persevere in that attitude of service, for the reward is at hand.
Let this encounter with the Lord moved us to be the salt and light of the earth. To be an Easter people means that we permeate with hope, love and forgiveness this temporal world corrupted by sin and decay. In our service to others we will only be able to express our love for God. May this Easter also help us gain a deeper appreciation of the Eucharist, the summit of our Christian life and the pledge of immortality. Jesus said: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread that I will give, is my flesh, for the life of the world.” (John 6:51 Douay-Rheims)