Easter is the greatest feast of the Christian year. Our readings begin with one of the powerful speeches found in Acts and this one is on the lips of Peter. One can imagine these speeches being used as a type of creed or catechism for an early convert to the faith. It traces the early life of our Lord, through his ministry and miracles and concludes with his Passion, death and resurrection. Its closing makes clear what the gift of Christ was all for: “He is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead … everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”
When the truth of a greater life beyond our earthly life is accepted, it can be quite intoxicating. It awakens a joy that can permeate even the most bitter of sorrows and sufferings and it brings a peace of knowing that God will make all things well. It is also true that for those baptized into the risen Christ there is possible a new inner life in union with the Holy Spirit. It is a new way of being alive. St. Paul writes, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God …your life is now hidden with Christ in God”. Paul ties this new life to our Passover Eucharist by speaking of us as no longer feasting with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
For all of us then, there is a beginning to this new life in Christ. Baptism is the sacramental beginning of our union with God but it is not the endpoint. There is a transformation that is to take place in every Christian over their lifetime from glory to even greater glory. We are to grow in holiness and become saints. There are only saints in heaven; we will have to be saints eventually. The transformation grows in union with our own personal encounter with the empty tomb and our searching for the risen Christ. The racing to the tomb by Peter and the beloved disciple images all of us. We want to believe the facts and even more, we really want to meet Christ. There is no one alive who would not want to believe the Christian message and meet the risen Christ. The reality of the resurrection is liberating.
Where is our relationship with Christ? Is he alive? Do we converse or pray with him? Do we know him as near? Our relationship is unique to each of us in that it is filtered through the originality of our own minds and the words we place on his lips. The Gospels are helpful in putting the right words on the lips of Jesus. The church too is essential to make sure that the words of Jesus are received and understood with their true intent and application. We seem to have an infinite capacity to create a Jesus of our own making. If we are really going to live the resurrected life then we need the real Jesus, and he is only found in union with his risen voice proclaimed through his church.
Questions for reflection
1. What words of Jesus are comforting and which are still difficult?
2. What is my next step closer to him?
Fr. Vander Steeg is pastor of St. Mary Parish, Greenville, and St. Edward Parish, Mackville.