Article 58 – Catechism of the Catholic Church Series
The History Channel takes us on many interesting adventures. One recent show documented the horrors of World War II. Like the present-day devastation perpetrated by ISIS in Syria and elsewhere, the targets of the Nazis included the cruel bombing of cities, as well as the killing and disfigurement of innocent men, women and children. The constant bombing of London from 1940-1941, also known as the Battle of Britain, leveled entire blocks of buildings to the ground. Houses crumbled as if made of matchsticks. In many places nothing was left but piles of rubble and debris heaped up beside hellish holes gashed into the earth. When the smoke and dust finally cleared the people noticed unrecognizable flowers growing on the sides of collapsed buildings. Horticulturists finally identified the blossoms by searching rare manuscripts in the British Museum. The seeds of these flowers had been buried for hundreds of years under the streets and buildings of London. The German bombs stirred them up and the nitrates in the bombs helped produce the strange, unexpected plants.
In a similar but much more profound way, the death and resurrection of Jesus produced many unexpected fruits which would not have occurred but for the violent and horrifying events of Good Friday. The earth shook at the death of Christ, and later shook at the resurrection of Christ.
Among the blessings and benefits of those earthquakes was Christ rising from the dead. God the Father had allowed the enemies of Christ to do their worst. He permitted the powers of evil to go to the very threshold of injustice. But with Easter came the hour for justice when the humble Christ was exalted above His enemies. With joy and confidence we recall the words of the angel to the holy women at the tomb of Jesus, “Do not be terrified. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here” (Mark 16:6). The empty tomb and the linen cloths left lying there “prepared the disciples to encounter the Risen Lord” (ccc 657).
Another fruit of Easter includes the perfecting of our faith. Without the resurrection our faith would lack foundation. Everything Christ did throughout His life demanded the resurrection as the final, conclusive proof that He was God, and that He worked rare wonders as God: “Jesus is conclusively revealed as Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his Resurrection from the dead” (ccc 648). In telling the world about Christ the apostles repeatedly referred to His resurrection.
The Catechism reminds us that “Christ’s Resurrection – refreshes our faith – it is the fulfillment of the promises both of the Old Testament and of Jesus himself during his earthly life. The phrase ‘in accordance with the Scriptures’ indicates that Christ’s Resurrection fulfilled these predictions” (ccc 652).
Christ’s Resurrection also refreshes our hope, reminding us “of our own resurrection” or, as Saint Paul puts it, “If we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection” (Romans, 6:5). The same sentiment is repeated by the Prince of the Apostles: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy has regenerated us with a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3-4). The Catechism further affirms: “by his Resurrection, he opens for us the way to a new life” (ccc 654). What is this new life? “This new life is above all justification that reinstates us in God’s grace” (ccc 654).
Christ delayed His rising for three days to make the proof of resurrection all the more powerful. His rising was not delayed too long, however, as He wanted it to be the crowning proof of His divinity since “the truth of Jesus’ divinity is confirmed by his Resurrection” (ccc 653). Jesus, by His absolute power, could have remained in the grave a year or a thousand years. He could have postponed His resurrection until 2017. But the Christians of the last twenty centuries would have been denied this evidence of His divinity. The Son of God rose from the dead; he came forth from the tomb alive, radiant, glorious, the most beautiful of all humanity. In fact, Christ “effects his own Resurrection by virtue of his divine power” (ccc 649).
Finally, “Christ’s Resurrection – and the risen Christ himself is the principle and source of our future resurrection” (ccc 655). As Saint Paul put it, “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep … For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:20-22). The risen Christ lives in the hearts of his faithful while they await that fulfillment. In Christ, Christians “have tasted … the powers of the age to come”(Hebrews 6:5) and their lives are swept up by Christ into the heart of divine life, so that they may “live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:15).
As such, our every thought and action ought to be motivated by our desire to live Christ’s life through ours and to see Christ in every person we encounter. Why? Because through the first
sacrament of the Church – baptism – we died to sin and rose again from the water to new life in Christ. We were born again in Christ so that we may live with Him forever in heaven. Meanwhile, we do our best to live no longer for ourselves but for Christ who lives in us.