Some Implications of the Resurrection
Easter Sunday. Acts 10:34a.37-43; Ps 118:1-2,16-17,22-23; 1 Cor 5:6b-8; Jn 20:1-9
Today the Church celebrates the Resurrection of Christ, when he broke the chains of death and rose triumphant from the grave. Christ's perishable body has put on imperishability; what is mortal has put on immortality. But what is the Resurrection, and what are the implications and benefits of Christ's Resurrection for us?
Well first of all it is important to state what the Resurrection does not mean. In today's First Reading, when St Peter is speaking to the Jewish people gathered in Jerusalem, he says that, “We ate and drank with him after he [Jesus] rose from the dead.” (Ac 10:41) By affirming that they ate and drank with the risen Christ, St Peter is confirming that the Resurrection is real and physical, not just a spiritual continuation of Christ's soul or Christ's message, as some people claim today. St Luke makes the same point in his Gospel. When Jesus appears and the disciples are still disbelieving and shocked, he says to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They give him a piece of fish which he takes and eats in front of them. Clearly a ghost or a spiritual message does not eat a piece of fish. St John makes the same point in his Gospel. When St Thomas doubts that the other apostles have met with the risen Christ, Jesus appears and says, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.” And St Thomas answers him, “My Lord and my God,” affirming in that one sentence both the truth of the Incarnation and the truth of the Resurrection.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is, therefore, a physical resurrection but not a mere resuscitation. Jesus does not simply take up again the same life he had before. He has a glorified body, not merely a repaired body like that of Lazarus. This glorified body was foreshadowed in the event of the transfiguration, when the face of Jesus shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light (Matt 17:2). After the Resurrection, Jesus appears, for example, at different times and place at will, including inside a locked room: his present body transcends space and time. Perhaps surprisingly, his body, though glorified and transformed in appearance, also bears the wounds of the crucifixion. In a normal human body that we are familiar with, these wounds would be defects. For his glorified body, by contrast, these wounds are not defects but rather trophies of his victory over sin and death, as well as evidence that this is the true Christ. Finally, this glorified body is incorruptible: Jesus’ resurrected body will never again be subject to death.
What. then, does the Resurrection imply for us? First of all, St Paul confirms that, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Cor 15:14 14). On the cross, Christ took the burden of our sin on himself; the Resurrection shows us that he has triumphed over our sin and death and that our sins can be forgiven through faith in Christ. Second, the Resurrection is a confirmation that death is not the termination of our existence. The Resurrection confirms the answer to a question long debated in philosophy, does the soul survive death? Many philosophers have thought that there must be some immortal element in human beings, basing their arguments on the unusual power of the human mind to grasp timeless realities. The Resurrection shows us that the sacred human soul of Jesus Christ, the soul that had known and loved Simon Peter and John and Mary in his public ministry, this soul survived death. So the Resurrection confirms what the philosophers had suspected, that the human soul lives on, given that Jesus Christ was a man like us in things but sin. Therefore, although the life of our bodies will cease with death, the life of our souls will continue. Third, the Resurrection holds out the hope to us of our own resurrection. God made us body and soul and want us to be perfect body and soul united one day in the Kingdom of Heaven. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is, therefore, the foretaste of what we shall be at the end of time if we are faithful, a glorified life that is already, by a special grace, enjoyed by Mary, the Mother of Jesus. At the end of time, the bodies of all the saints will no longer be subject to decay, age, infirmity and death, but glorified and immortal, freed of the corruption of sin and death. As St Paul tells us, “As in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Co 15:22).
So the Resurrection validates the forgiveness of our sins, confirms that death is not the end for us, and holds out the promise of a risen and glorified humanity at the end of time. Thanks be to God for what he has done for us in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Father Andrew Pinsent, Saint Ambrose Church, Saint Louis, 12th April 2009
© Fr Andrew Pinsent. Academic Web Site.