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the Gospel

 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinApril 18, 2003 Issue 

Christ rises with those who believe

Baptism calls us to participate with Christ in his death and resurrection

April 20, 2003 -- Easter Sunday

By Fr. Richard Ver Bust

Fr. Richard Ver Bust
Fr. Richard Ver Bust

We come today, Easter Sunday, to the climax of Holy Week and actually the whole liturgical year. This feast gives us an opportunity to reflect on what God's act of raising Jesus from the dead means to us as a Christian people. We are confronted and challenged by what occurred. In another sense we are asked to participate in these events for by faith we become part of God's salvific acts.

 • Easter-related articles

Of all of God's actions, the resurrection of Jesus is the most important. The very word, resurrection, tells us in a metaphor that Jesus exists beyond death. We must realize that it does not mean the resuscitation of a corpse but that Jesus now lives in a new extraordinary way. Christians following this event had to find language to express this. This is what our readings tell us. It was not easy to talk about something that has never happened before.

The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles presents Peter's speech to the Roman Centurion Cornelius along with his household. It is the first preaching of the gospel to a Gentile. Luke gives us a brief summary of the whole Christian message. It includes Jesus' ministry in which he taught and healed. Put to death, Luke says, that God raised Jesus from the dead as a sign of what he taught was true. The apostles and all those who believed have become witnesses. Now Peter invites Cornelius and his household to believe and, thus, be forgiven their sins. They would partake of the salvation Jesus had gained.

Paul, in the Letter to the Colossians urges the members of that church to realize that by baptism they have been joined to Christ in his death and resurrection. By baptism they too, like Christ, have entered into a new kind of life. This life in the spirit is not something one should just hope for but know that it is a present reality. By baptism they have become one with Christ, a union that is more intimate and profound than imaginable.

John, in his gospel, our reading for today, attempts to make a connection between the resurrection event and the story of creation. The early Christians believed the resurrection was the beginning of a new creation. So we hear that Mary Magdalene made her visit to Jesus' tomb in the early morning darkness of the first day of the week. Just as the creation story begins on the first day of the week in darkness, so we find the allusions clearly made. It is interesting also to note the importance of the role of women in the revelation of Jesus' resurrection. Mary becomes the apostle to the apostles. We also can note that the funeral cloths left in the tomb emphasize the fact that they are no longer needed. The Beloved Disciple almost immediately recognizes God's work and believes.

The reality of the resurrection is beyond our comprehension yet we need words to describe our beliefs. It takes faith to accept. By our baptism we became participants in the events of that time. We confess that "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again." Christ rises with us in baptism and life takes on a whole new meaning. The new creation, that we celebrate, is not a single event, but one that happens again and again in the life of the Christian community. We celebrate Easter as the event which changed human history and opened for all, who believe, the embracing love of God.

(Fr. Ver Bust holds the title of professor emeritus in religious studies at St. Norbert College, De Pere.)

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