The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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April 21, 2000 Issue
Fr. Ver Bust's Column:
"Explaining the Gospel"

Fr. Richard Ver Bust
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 resurrection.

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.)

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