Christ is risen! Death is conquered! As Christians, when Easter Sunday arrives, we finally understand just what makes Good Friday “good.” After a long Lent of self-denial, sacrifice, and hearing and reflecting on the sins of our fathers, we have come to the crux of the whole matter.
One important aspect of Christ’s Passion is emphasized by the manner in which the Passion narrative is proclaimed on Palm Sunday and Good Friday. Uniquely, the narrative is read in parts, with the congregation taking on the role of the crowd. As a result, we are obliged to chant “Crucify him! Crucify him!” In so doing, we bring to bear the fact that it is our sins – each of us – that led Christ to the cross.
Our sins sent him to his death – and thus, it was our sins that he took on himself, and us that he brought to redemption.
Jesus Christ died. He truly died, and it was a most painful and ignominious death. And yet – miraculously, unimaginably – three days later, he rose.
He did not merely come back to life. When Jesus raised Lazarus, that was a mere resuscitation. Lazarus’ dead body was reanimated. What happened three days after Jesus’ death was so much more. And therein lies the heart of Christian faith.
Jesus was resurrected. Glorified. It was certainly the same body, which he illustrated by displaying his wounds and eating with his disciples. But he was transformed. In conquering death, he showed us in stark relief what is in store for all of us at the resurrection of the body, which we declare our belief in every time we recite the creed.
The celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ cannot be contained to a single day. Easter is not only a Sunday; it is a liturgical season lasting all the way until Pentecost. It is made present again every Sunday as we commemorate the Lord’s Day, the day of his Resurrection. Every time Holy Mass is celebrated, we partake in the body, blood, soul, and divinity of him who died and was resurrected.
We should be positively overcome with Paschal joy! As St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “If Christ has not been raised, then empty is our preaching; empty, too, your faith. […] [A]nd if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17)
We need not worry ourselves with the “what if” question any longer. St. Paul told the Corinthians that if Christ has not been raised, their faith was in vain; but we know and believe, with deep and abiding faith, that Jesus Christ is risen. And we know that, in dying and rising, an unblemished and pure sacrifice, he has overcome the wages of sin. As St. Paul said, quoting the prophet Hosea, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55) This is almost a taunt, brazenly flaunting Christ’s victory over death.
We certainly have the right to brag about the victory Christ has won. In fact, it is this victory that we are called to preach to all nations. That good news is this: we have been freed from death. Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again!