The Mystery of Easter
Jesus Himself predicted His resurrection several times: Destroy this temple, He said, meaning His own body, and in three days I will raise it up. To the obstinate Pharisees who asked Him for a sign from heaven, He replied that He would give one, and that the sign would be His resurrection: Even as Jonas the prophet was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. He spoke most clearly to His disciples: Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and will deliver Him to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified; and on the third day He will rise again. It is impossible to speak any more clearly than this. And again He said, After I have risen, I will go before you into Galilee.
Jesus fulfilled these many prophecies, by indeed rising the third day after His death, even as He said.
Let us follow the Gospel narrative… There you will see the testimonies accumulate: testimonies of men and women, testimonies of the Apostles and even of the enemies of Jesus. You will see apparition after apparition of the Saviour, who in person provided undeniable proofs of His resurrection seen by many witnesses at once.
– These witnesses are Mary Magdalen, who, compelled by her ardent love, came to the tomb before dawn, saw the stone overturned, fled in distress to the Apostles and exclaimed, They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.
– They are the Apostles Peter and John, who ran to the sepulcher, made the same observation, and found only linen cloths and the shroud.
– They are the Angels, who attested to the triumph of their King: Do not be afraid. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, He is not here. Behold the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter that He goes before you into Galilee; there you shall see Him, as He told you.
After these testimonies, there began the apparitions that occurred one after another and unfolded clearer, more striking, more irresistible day after day.
Behold Mary Magdalen who returned to the tomb and mourned, when suddenly she saw the Divine Master who presented Himself disguised as a gardener and called her by her name: “Mary!” She fell to her knees and exclaimed, Rabonni! Good Master! Jesus said to her, Do not touch Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brothers and say to them, “I ascend to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.” And Magdalen became the first apostle of the resurrection. I have seen the Lord, she said to the Apostles.
A group of women were returning from the tomb, where they had seen the heavenly Angels and heard their testimony. Jesus went to meet them on the way, saying, Hail! They came up and embraced His feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, Do not be afraid; go, take word to My brothers that they are to set out for Galilee; there they shall see Me.
Peter, the head of the apostolic college, also saw the Lord. News of this apparition spread quickly: The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon.
At almost the same hour, a stranger joined two disciples on their way to Emmaus. At dusk they went in with Him for their evening meal. When the stranger blessed the bread that was on the table, the two disciples’ eyes were opened and they recognized the Saviour.
That same evening, the disciples were hidden in the Cenacle Room. The doors were barred for fear of the Jews. Suddenly Jesus entered the Cenacle Room through the closed door, stood in their midst and said to them, Peace to you! It is I, do not be afraid. But the Apostles were startled and thought that they were seeing a spirit… See My hands and feet, that it is I Myself. Feel Me and see; for a spirit does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have. And because they still hesitated, Jesus sat in their midst, asked them for something to eat, explained the Scriptures to them and promised them the Holy Spirit.
But Thomas the Apostle was not there. He refused to believe what his colleagues told him. So Jesus appeared again and said to Thomas, Bring your finger here, and see My hands; and bring your hand here, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving but believing.
Nevertheless, Jesus did not want to leave the earth without honoring Galilee with His presence: it was the land of His childhood, the scene of His first preachings and miracles. As the Apostles were fishing in the Sea of Galilee, Jesus suddenly appeared on the shore. Have you any fish? He asked. No, answered the Apostles. Cast the net to the right of the boat and you will find them. And they were unable to draw up the net for the great number of fish. Then John said, It is the Lord. Peter threw himself into the water to join Him on the shore. And Jesus, after asking him three times, Peter, do you love Me? established him as the Supreme Shepherd of the lambs and the sheep in His fold.
Finally, Jesus gathered together in Galilee all those who had kept His remembrance. There were more than five hundred of them. And Jesus appeared again before this gathering and gave His Apostles the mission of converting the world: All power in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world.
That is a summary of the Gospel narrative of the Saviour’s apparitions. Let us admire the wisdom and goodness of Jesus, who wanted to multiply the proofs of His resurrection. The Apostles were decisively converted and transformed. Previously fearful and hesitant, they now braved torture and death to declare the resurrection of the Master. Crowds were converted thousands at a time. Martyrs began to shed their blood. Witnesses of the resurrection did not retreat in the face of scourgings, the teeth of ferocious beasts, fire and sword. Christ had indeed risen: they would proclaim it even at the cost of their life; they would give unto the last drop of their blood to attest to this truth.
May this reminder serve to revive our faith in the divinity of Jesus Christ, and may the example of the Apostles and the first witnesses of the resurrection help us also to show in our own daily lives that we are the disciples of the Risen Christ, and that we want to bear witness to Him by a behavior that is worthy of Him.
“If You Have Risen with Christ”
How can we imitate Jesus Christ in His resurrected life? The condition of the Risen Christ comprises two things: detachment and removal from all earthly things, and union and constant application to God. How, then, can we who live on earth and are caught up in so many things aspire to imitate this condition of the Risen Christ? And yet, Saint Paul is certainly speaking to all the baptized when he says, If you have risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Mind the things that are above, not the things that are on earth.
This does not mean that Christians living in the world are being asked to leave their jobs and daily occupations, nor to flee the task that God has entrusted to them; no, they are asked to adjust their mentality, adjust their interior dispositions.
To imitate our risen Lord, we must detach our heart from all things here below and have no esteem, enthusiasm or liking for the things of the earth: riches, honor, human glory, the pleasures of the flesh; and regard all of these as something vain, of little value, put here by God for us to use, but not to make of them the end or the purpose of our life. If you really live of faith, it will make you see the essence of all things and rapidly reveal to you the vanity and nothingness of passing things; the deceit and the false mirage of the world. By cultivating these dispositions little by little, especially in the case of trials that God sends you, you will acquire this first disposition, this mentality of the Risen Christ.
What is more, after having risen, Our Lord henceforth concentrates on God alone. He lives only to give constant adoration and praise to His Father. His Father’s glory, His interests, His good pleasure: these are His constant occupation. It is possible for a Christian who is truly risen with Christ to imitate this other disposition of his Master by making God’s will and good pleasure the rule of his life. To do this, we must cleave to our duty of state, whatever it may be, seeing our daily duty as the clearest expression of God’s will for us. We must listen carefully to the voice of our conscience, which is simply the voice of God speaking in our heart and prompting us to do good and avoid evil. We must also heed the inspirations of grace which ceaselessly invite us to do better. We must pray often and practice living with God present in our soul.
Finally, to imitate the Risen Christ, we must apply ourselves to making His virtues grow in us. We will be the new man we are supposed to be, to the degree that we reproduce Our Lord’s virtues within us, especially His boundless humility, His inexhaustible meekness and patience, and His incommensurable charity for others.
Thus the new man will be formed and grow in us upon the ruins of the old man. Thus the virtues, dispositions and Spirit of Our Lord will become as an interior garment that penetrates and covers our soul and makes us pleasing in the Father’s sight. May we understand the greatness of our Christian vocation and work generously each day at becoming this new man, in the image of Jesus Crucified.
Extracts from: Abbé Anselme Longpré, Instructions pour les Dimanches et Fêtes de l’Année liturgique (Apostolicum: Laprairie, 1954), pp. 232-238 and 246-248.
This article was published in the Magnificat Magazine, April 1998, available from Editions Magnificat, Mont-Tremblant, Québec, Canada
. St. Matthew 28:6.
. St. John 2:19.
. St. Matthew 12:40.
. St. Matthew 20:18-19.
. St. Matthew 26:32.
. St. John 20:1-2.
. Cf. St. John 20:3-8.
. St. Mark 16:6-7.
. Cf. St. John 20:14-18.
. St. Matthew 28:9-10.
. St. Luke 24:34.
. Cf. St. Luke 24:13-15.
. Cf. St. Luke 24:36-49.
. Cf. St. John 20:24-29.
. Cf. St. John 21:1-12.
. St. Matthew 28:16-20; I Corinthians 15:6.
. Colossians 3:1-2.