Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Most Important Thing in the World

Today is the most important day of the year, for the central fact of human history is that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, and today we commemorate it.

God became man to make the ultimate offering of self-emptying love, for no greater love hath a man than to lay down his life for his brother (John 15:13). By becoming man in the person of Jesus, God becomes our brother; he is then able on our behalf to take onto Himself the punishment due for our sins. As man, Jesus makes this offering to God the Father on behalf of all men; as God the Son, Jesus makes this offering of infinite worth, able to cover the sins of all mankind. And by his sufferings, we were saved; by his wounds we were healed (1 Peter 2:24; cf. Isaiah 53:5). But this was not the end.

For on the third day, the stone was rolled away, the shroud was found folded and set aside; the tomb was empty. And Jesus appeared, to Mary Magdalene, to Peter and the other apostles, to the disciples on the road to Emmaus: truly alive, eating and drinking, present to the senses, real to the touch. He is risen indeed!

I would draw your attention to the present tense used in that statement: Jesus Christ IS risen from the dead. He didn't rise from the dead only to die again later, as did Lazarus or Jairus' daughter. He didn't rise from the dead in some metaphorical or mythological sense, in a story set long ago which is now ended. Jesus rose from the dead permanently and definitively. And he did not merely return to life as he lived it before; he was not resuscitated. He was resurrected. He lives never to die again. His body is glorified, in a state beyond that which our bodies are now. He is now what we will be at the end of time. He is the first fruits of the harvest to come (1 Corinthians 15:20).

With his rising, he has conquered death, and the sinfulness of the world which occasioned it. We need no longer fear suffering and death, for suffering and death and sin do not have the last say. The final word is had by the Word Incarnate. He has overcome, and we can, too, if we put our trust in him and do as he bids us: to believe in him, to love our neighbor and God whole-heartedly, to be baptized for the forgiveness of our sins, to follow his teachings and those of his Church, the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Timothy 3:15).

On this most holy day of days, let us thank God for the gift of our salvation, won through the sacrifice of love of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to whom be glory now and forever and unto the ages of ages.

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