Sin and death! They seem so strong and so pervasive. Yet the Easter mystery asserts that the risen Christ has broken the chains of sin and conquered the mystery of death. Jesus is alive, he is risen, grace and eternal life are ours.
Peter’s transformation testifies to the power of the Resurrection. We see in him a whole new life as he, now freed from cowardice, ventures forth to proclaim the good news of Jesus and his saving works. The man who denied Christ and ran in fear to the tomb is now a man of courage and boldness. Peter’s sins were forgiven; Peter’s spiritual death is reversed and he now lives a life of grace and joy.
The same is true of Mary Magdalene. She who formerly was trapped by sensuality is now free. She becomes an evangelist and proclaims the miracle of God’s mercy and love in Jesus. The sin that bound her was broken; the deadly concupiscence —the lust of appetites — that enslaves her passions no longer dominates her heart. A whole new life was hers in Jesus.
And the Easter story goes on and on. True, sin and death continue to be strong and pervasive in every segment of the world and church and yet, because of the Easter event, they will not have the final word. The invitation and challenge of each of us is to believe in the presence of the risen Christ in our lives and to embrace the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The scholar Oscar Cullmann writes: “Resurrection is a positive assertion: the whole man, who has really died, is recalled to life by a new act of creation by God” (“Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Dead?: The Witness of the New Testament,” London: The Epworth Press, 1958, 27). This assertion has tremendous (and eternal) consequences. It challenges the conventional wisdom that we are bound by the limits of time and space; it defies the claim that death has finality. What Jesus has done through the paschal mystery has re-established meaning for the human race. Because of the gift of eternal life, everything now matters.
Cullmann makes another assertion: “Every healing is a partial resurrection, a partial victory of life over death” (29). Again we see the recurring theme: the mystery of the resurrection has conquered sin and death. Belief in the resurrection, therefore, makes a major demand on every faith person. We are to be agents of resurrection now, that is, we are to give life where there is death, we are to bring healing where there is hurt and pain. Resurrection is not just a future event. It is a “now” reality.
One last word from Professor Cullmann: “If life is to issue out of so genuine a death as this, a new divine act of creation is necessary. And this act of creation calls back to life not just a part of the man, but the whole man — all that God had created and death had annihilated” (26). No wonder Easter is such a joyful celebration.
Questions for reflection
1. In what ways are you an agent of resurrection?
2. Do you believe in the immortality of the soul or the resurrection of the dead? What is the difference?
3. How has the mystery of the resurrection transformed your life?
Bishop Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese and pastor of Resurrection Parish in Allouez.