Rising, you restored our life
By Msgr. Euly B. Belizar, Jr., SThD
April 9, 2023
“I want to know Christ—yes, and the power of his resurrection.” (Phil 3:10)
“Christ’s Resurrection is the strength, the secret of Christianity. It is not a question of mythology or of mere symbolism, but of a concrete event. It is confirmed by sure and convincing proofs.” (St. John Paul II, Address, 21 Apirl 1996)
She came to the rectory, obviously distraught. She asked to see a priest. I said I was a priest. Then she asked to talk to me. After a few minutes of her outpouring I suddenly felt compelled to interrupt, “Excuse me, it just occurred to me. Would like to go to Confession?” She hesitated at first, and said yes. Her thirty something minutes of confession felt like an eternity. But right after I gave her the absolution, she became like an absolutely different person. She actually smiled a genuine smile. Yes, she seemed like she just rose from the dead. I remember reminding myself that I shouldn’t be wondering at all because, by her baptism which the sacrament of Penance renewed in her, she shares in the Resurrection of her Lord. To me she was another one of St. John Paul II’s “sure and convincing proofs” of the resurrection of the Christ.
1. God’s Love Spells Life. Easter is rooted, anchored in God’s love. That love is at the bottom of his Son’s total self-sacrificing, self-giving death on the cross. That same love empowered the Son’s rising. That love is incompatible with death. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that those who believe in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). Death could not hold him. The reason is simple. Death doesn’t have the power. It was overrun by Life.
2. Evil and Good can Infect. There is currently a war in the Ukraine that burst aflame because of one man’s decision to invade a sovereign country. One man made the choice. Yet it is his whole country and, by extension, the whole world that inevitably deal with the consequences. The evil of war has spawned the evil of countless deaths, even indirectly the rise of fuel prices and of basic commodities in both rich and poor countries, the evil of exacerbating existing divisions, mistrust and hatreds among diverse groups of peoples and nations, the evil of aggression and collective selfishness and arrogance, the evil of irrational threats of mutual nuclear annihilation between rival superpowers etc. One leader of the invaded country chose to stand up and resist. His choice has also infected other more rational leaders of nations into uniting behind him. Of course, the distinction between good and evil is not always in black and white vis-a-vis real world circumstances. There are always a lot of gray in between. Yet this same dynamic has been already at work among us since Adam. The first Adam’s poser to choose eventually led him and us to death as well as to the necessary coming of a second Adam to effect a restoration of life. And his instrument? His own resurrection. “For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man” (1 Cor 15:21). The hard lesson we learn is to value the process of coming up with the right decision.
3. Resurrection as Fulfilment of the Word. We make promises. We give our word in commitment to fulfill them. Parents do this to their children and vice versa. Friends do this to one another. So do lovers and married couples. God is no different. Through his prophets he predicted the death of his Messiah in the manner of the Passover Lamb of sacrifice (Ex 12:21-27) that Paul the Apostle acknowledged by saying, “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Cor 5:7). The book of Numbers speaks of how serpent-stricken Israelites recover by looking at the mysterious bronze serpent that Moses lifted in the desert.
“So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived” (Num 21:9). Jesus himself predicts his own risen state by this imagery.
“’Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him” (Jn 3:14). The resurrection is inseparable from God’s self-revelation as Truth. He has spoken. He has fulfilled. Jesus’ death and resurrection in response to the divine word uttered through the prophets powerfully proclaims that our God is worthy of trust. He is not only a promiser. He is, above all, a fulfiller. His believers and especially followers of his Son, both as leaders and followers, ought to sit up and take notice.
4. Jesus’ Rising Means we Must also Rise From the death of Sin. Paul the Apostle expresses it tersely.: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Cor 5:27) God had once spoken of the dying and rising of his Messiah who happens to be his Son. This is a concrete impetus to his Son’s followers, that no matter how we die because of sin, there is always hope for us to be able to rise again to new life as we share in the power of Christ’s resurrection through genuine conversion and the grace of the sacraments. To the Roman Christians Paul speaks of the resurrection as a power that enables disciples to live renewed lives. ”For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin” (Rom 6:5-6).
5. Jesus’ Rising as a Spiritual Weapon. In his general audience of 9 April 2022 Pope Francis invited Christian believers “to face death with faith in the resurrection” affirming that Christian “faith is not a way of exorcising the fear of death, but rather helps us to face it”. He spoke of this theme in relation to the promotion of the devotion to St. Joseph, the “patron saint of a good death”. There is no artificial hide-and-seek relationship between the genuine believer-disciple and death or dying. In the manner of the late Cardinal Bernardin’s pre-death insight, Jesus’ disciples have the special reason theough the power of Jesus’ resurrection to “make friends” with death and, even as St. Francis once put it, to recognize her as “Sister Death”. We are strengthened in this conviction also by the words of the Apostle Paul: “Truly God has raised up the Lord, he will also raise us up by his power” (1 Cor 6:14).
6. Wounded Risen Lord. In his general audience of 11 April 2012 Pope Benedict XVI spoke of Jn 20:20 at which the Risen Christ showed his disciples his wounded hands and side. Reflecting on this he said that “it is in this way that in the dazzling light of Easter, in the encounter with the Risen One, the disciples perceive the salvific meaning of his passion and his death. Then sorrow and fear turn into full joy. The sorrow and the wounds themselves become a source of joy.” The Risen Lord with his wounds relate us to our world and our personal and social lives. Although we do not discern much glory, it is far easier to see our deaths and wounds. Deaths and wounds through wars, hunger, the pandemic, corrupt governments, violations of human rights, injustices in almost every scale and level. Yet we are reminded: Only days before, Jesus also suffered terrible wounds and a horrible death. Look now where he is! If only through the power of his Resurrection we work together to pursue God’s ways of justice and peace, of love for the truth, the truth of love might also allow the Risen Lord to transform us into sharers of his glorious state.
In the final analysis, only the Risen Lord can make us our world’s wounded healers.
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