Christ is risen! Truly He is risen! How joyful these words, how joyful this day when liturgically, we reach the accomplishment of God the Father’s great mercy and power, and Jesus’ great fidelity and love.
In order to get here, in order to be able to rejoice, we have walked the path of Lent, when we have in our little ways taken part in Christ Jesus’ great sacrifice: His rejection, His suffering, and His death.
Christ is risen! Truly He is risen! These words of joy would mean nothing without what Christ suffered; similarly, they would mean nothing to us if, by some weird miracle or quirk of fate, we did not suffer. Not only the sufferings that we embrace for the forty days of Lent, but the sufferings that are the defining characteristic of human existence.
Things break. Plans fail. We get sick. Good intentions lead to not-so-good results. Traffic happens. We forget. Nobody understands. People of goodwill disagree – strongly. It hurts.
Christ is risen! Truly He is risen! Be assured, my brothers and sisters, that this did happen. One day, long ago, Jesus was dead; the next morning, he was alive. Saint Paul explains, For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. (1 Cor 15:3-5)
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a historical reality, a true event that we know to be true because this good news lovingly has been passed down to us through the generations with more care and precision than the most closely guarded family secret or recipe.
Christ is risen! Truly He is risen! This is not only something that happened long ago. This reality, this truth is with us today, here, now. Christ is raised from the dead today as really and amazingly as if we were standing with Mary Magdalene or the disciples, peering fearfully into the empty tomb. Christ came to join us in the pain and sorrow that is part of every day of ours, so that His resurrection could transform every day of ours.
Christ is here, Christ is in our midst, Christ comes to us and looks at us with love and says to us, Peace be with you. (John 20:19) Christ feeds us, not fish on the seashore, but His own body and blood, the body and blood that was raised from the dead and is immune to death. The body and blood that was glorified by the Father and will never lose that glory. This is what He offers us.
Last week, our Holy Father spoke about this goal of glory, this reality of resurrection. He spoke of it, though, from his own path into Jerusalem, his own road to Calvary. He spoke of it from under the burden of blows from a hostile and hateful crowd who reject him and would see him humiliated and destroyed.
When we journey along the way of the Cross we do not know what that way will entail and how long our journey will take. The challenge is not to follow the short-cuts of the disciples who found that fleeing was the quick and easy answer; the challenge is not to follow the hypocrisy of Pilate who places his own position ahead of his responsibility towards an innocent man; our challenge is not to get trapped in irrelevant questions of prestige and status as did some disciples at the Last Supper. Our challenge is to be like Jesus who, with all the anguish and fear it entails, does not flinch or waver in remaining faithful to the will of his Father, even at the price of enduring the ignominious death on a criminal’s cross. (Pope Benedict XVI, Palm Sunday homily, 2010)
It sounds nearly impossible to imagine, much less to accomplish. It sounds like something we would never wish on anyone. But it does happen, in one way or another, in every human life, including, and most especially, our own. And we can respond, we can continue, and in fact, we can rejoice.
Because Christ is risen! Truly He is risen! It is because we have pain, because we have failed, because we have known sorrow and rejection, that we need someone to save us from it. This Christ Jesus does, is now doing, and will do. He is our Savior. He is our Redeemer. He is our deliverer. And for all of us, who realize how desperately we need to be saved, how desperately we need to be redeemed, how desperately we need to be delivered, that is the best news imaginable.
That news is never more true, never more real, than it is this holy and beautiful day. May God bless you with all the joy that the news of Christ’s resurrection brought to those who heard it first, and to your families, your friends, and all whose lives you touch. Christ is risen! Truly He is risen! Alleluia.