Fr. Ver Bust's Column:|
"Explaining the Gospel"
|Fr. Richard Ver Bust
United with Christ in the resurrection
The resurrection is a celebration of the new creation and of a new age
April 23, Easter Sunday
By Fr. Richard Ver Bust
The presence of the Risen Lord is central to our celebration of Easter. Notice the verb "is"
stresses the fact of a continued presence of the Lord even today. While our readings will reveal
the early Christian communities' experiences of the Risen Lord, we believe that Jesus Christ is
present to us today as well. So we celebrate that fact and recognize the impact of the Resurrection
on our faith.
The gospel reading, taken from John, tells us about Mary Magdalene's visit to the tomb. We are
not told why she went there, whether to weep or anoint the body. It was still dark. John may be
using a frequent theme in his gospel of light and darkness. He opened the gospel in the Prologue
speaking of a light shining in the darkness and that the darkness was not able to overcome the
light. This idea certainly can be applied to this event. Breaking into the darkness, Christ rises to a
new life and he never again would have to face death.
We are also told that it was the first day of the week. This will be important in the life of the
Christian community. They soon will begin to gather on the first day of the week and celebrate
the resurrection. If the old Sabbath celebrated the first creation then the resurrection is a
celebration of the new creation. It is the dawn of a new age. Peter, in the different speeches in the
Acts of the Apostles, will preach about this fact. On Pentecost, Peter recalled the words of the
prophet Joel and emphasized that Christ's glorification begins a new age.
The story of Mary and Peter and the other disciples reveal to us that they were not expecting the
resurrection. They seemed to be surprised. Even though the gospels tell us that Jesus had
emphasized that he would die, even that event distressed them. Now, even though as Jews, they
believed in the resurrection from the dead, they were not expecting it until the end time. So when
they find the tomb empty they do not know what is happening. Peter especially doesn't seem to
know what to think. The "other disciple" is said to have seen and believed. It perhaps was the
fact of the burial clothes remained. If the body had been moved then these clothes would have
still been needed. So we must be reminded that even Peter and Mary who knew Jesus well in life
did not immediately accept the fact of the resurrection.
Our other readings stress the impact of the event. Peter tells Cornelius that the resurrection was
the work of God. He emphasizes that the resurrection was a genuine experience that had changed
the disciples. All of Jesus' ministry led to this event and now his disciples were witnesses to
what had happened. The responsorial psalm praises God's power. The theme of the psalm is
thanksgiving and, therefore, expresses a feeling that should be ours even today.
The Letter to the Colossians expresses as a credal belief that Jesus has risen. It tells the readers
that this is central to their faith. They should understand that by faith they have been united to
Christ both in life and in death. They should expect that they would be also united to him in the
We begin today to reflect on what Jesus' resurrection has meant to our own life. It has brought us here that we might be a community that celebrates what God has done for and to us. The lasting impact reaches down through history to each person and each Christian community. We, along with Christians throughout the world, sing "Hallelujah! The Lord has truly risen!"
(Fr. Ver Bust is professor emeritus in religious studies at St. Norbert College, De Pere.)