The drama of Easter brings us hope in life everlastingBy: Marcellino D’Ambrosio
The serpent’s bite was a deadly one. The venom had worked its way deep into the heart of the entire human race, doing its gruesome work.
The antivenom was unavailable until he appeared. One drop was all that was needed, so potent was this antidote. Yet it was not like him to be stingy. He poured out all he had, down to the last drop. The sacrifice of his entire life, poured out at the foot of the cross. This was Jesus’ answer to the problem of sin.
On the third day came the Father’s answer to the problem of death. It was equally extravagant. For Jesus was not simply brought back to life like Lazarus. That would have been resuscitation, the mere return to a normal human life with all its limitations, including death.
Yes, Lazarus ultimately had to go through it all again … the suffering, the dying, the grieving family, the burial. Jesus did not “come back.” He passed over, passed through. The resurrection meant that he would no longer be subject to suffering, death and decay. Death, as St. Paul said, would have no more power over him.
You may say that physical death was not the worst consequence of sin, and you’d be right. Separation from God, spiritual death, is indeed much more fearsome. But enough with the talk that physical death is “beautiful” and “natural”; it is not.
Our bodies are not motor vehicles driven around by our souls. We do not junk them when they wear out and then buy another one (by the way, that’s one problem with the idea of reincarnation). Our bodies are an essential dimension of who we are.
Our bodies and immortal souls are intimately and completely intertwined, which makes us so different from both angels and animals. Therefore death separates what God has joined. It is, then, entirely natural that we rebel against it and shudder before it. Remember, even the God-man trembled in the Garden of Gethsemane.
So Jesus confronts death head on, for our sake. The Roman Easter sequence, a traditional poem/song stretching back into the days of the early Church, highlights the drama: “Mors et vitae duello, conflixere mirando. Dux vitae mortuus regnat vivus” (“Death and life dueled in a marvelous conflict; the dead ruler of life reigns alive”).
Recall that Gandalf the Grey, who sacrificed himself to take out the demonic Balrog, returns as Gandalf the White. The devout Catholic writer J.R.R. Tolkien heard the sequence sung for many Easters before he wrote The Lord of the Rings.
“He descended into hell” of the Apostles’ Creed means that Jesus endured the wrenching apart of body and soul for our sake and came out the other side endowed with a new, different, glorified humanity.
How does the Bible describe it? Well, Mary Magdalene did not recognize the risen Christ at first, until he called her by name. The disciples on the road to Emmaus didn’t recognize him either, even after walking with him for several miles. But, on the other hand, doubting Thomas shows us that his wounds were still evident. And though he could pass through locked doors, he proved he was not a ghost by asking for something to eat.
In 1 Corinthians 15, St. Paul describes Jesus’ risen body as a “spiritual body,” which sounds like an oxymoron to me. But we have to take off our shoes here, realize that we are on holy ground, and that there are no words adequate to describe the awesome reality of the new humanity he has won for us, for resurrection is not something that he intends to keep for himself.
All that Jesus has, he shares with us: his Father, his mother, his spirit, his body, his blood, his soul and his divinity, and even his risen life. And we can begin to share in this life now, experiencing its regenerating, transforming power in our souls and even in our bodies.
We have access to it in many wonderful ways, but most especially in the Eucharist, for the body of Christ that we receive is his risen, glorified body, given to us so that we too might “live forever” (Jn 6:40-65).
Each of us will have to pass through physical death, but we will not do so alone. He will be with us, just as the Father was with him as he made his perilous passage. And while we will experience indescribable joy when our souls see him face to face, this is not the end of the story.
He will return and then his resurrection will have its final and ultimate impact. Joy will be increased still further when he makes our bodies like his own, in glory. “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.”
D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. He is co-founder of Crossroads Productions, an apostolate of Catholic renewal and evangelization.
Light enters darkness
Is goodness thwarted by evil? Is light thwarted by darkness? It must have felt like it at first for the disciples of Jesus as they watched the Messiah “subjected to human malice, truth derided by falsehood, mercy abused by vengeance,” said Pope Benedict XVI in his Easter message last year.
There is a sense of desolation, abandonment in the darkest moments of life. Sometimes we experience these emotions in the wake of the death of a loved one, when we suffer or see others suffering, when a calamity happens and we can’t explain why it happened.
“In this world, hope cannot avoid confronting the harshness of evil,” Pope Benedict said. “It is not thwarted by the wall of death alone, but even more by the barbs of envy and pride, falsehood and violence. Jesus passed through this mortal mesh in order to open a path to the kingdom of life.”
The risen Lord we encounter on Easter is our hope, “frees us from evil not in a superficial and fleeting way, but sets us free radically, heals us completely and restores our dignity.”
We will experience this moment after we die, and the joy of Easter gives us a preview of what we’ll encounter when we’re free from the trials of the world.