The Easter Sunday readings open with Peter’s speech summarizing the events that had unfolded all over Judea, culminating in the resurrection and the sending forth of the apostles.
They have been commissioned by God to declare that Jesus is the one appointed by God as the judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name. In this short summary of belief is the core Christian message that Christ is the plan of God for our salvation and that we are to look for no other. The Acts of the Apostles record a number of such speeches which summarize the facts as the church had interpreted them.
Each of us has heard the data presented in such an orderly fashion. We have perhaps memorized it and can recite the Creed of the ancient church. The question remains however whether we, like the apostles, believe that we have ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead? The apostles shed their blood in testifying to the fact that Jesus was alive, that he was God the Son, and that he was the way for all persons through death to the Father. They knew him and sealed their witness in their own blood. We too have ate and drank with him in the living Eucharist, regardless of whether we believe it or not. He knows each of us very well. Do we know him?
One of the most experiential means of meeting Christ is through the forgiveness of sins in his name and in living the new risen life he makes possible. The Letters of St. Paul teach that our risen life, free from the slavery to sin, begins in baptism through the gift of the Holy Spirit as Christ promised, and that it grows through our willing cooperation. Christ set us free so that we should remain free. Stand firm, then, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1). St. Paul in the optional second reading calls our past sin old yeast and speaks of the new life in grace as the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth’ (1 Corinthians 5:8).
This risen life is an active engaging of Jesus, asking him for his power and strength. It is a willing allowance of the God of freedom to animate our spirit in union with his own. Through this animation we more perfectly mirror God’s image and likeness and begin to live our own personal eternal life right now. Our own resurrection has already begun in this hidden life with Christ in God’ (Colossians 3:3). We, like Christ, will die in the body, but we are not afraid because we have already passed from death to life (1 John 3:14). Mary of Magdala and the apostles were frightened that the dead body of the Lord was gone for they did not understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead. What they would come to know is the unbelievable truth that the risen Lord would now be with them always and even lead them through death.
Questions for Reflection
1. How can my personal prayer with Jesus be more connected to meeting him in holy Communion?
2. Can I point to evidence in my life that Christ is alive?
3. Would I testify like the apostles that Jesus is the only way through death to eternal life?
Fr. Vander Steeg is pastor of St. Mary Parish, Greenville, and St. Edward Parish, Mackville.