Christ Is Risen! He Has Risen Indeed!
Fr. Miguel Marie Soeherman, MFVA
04/08/2007 - Easter Sunday
(7am Mass - PCPA Hanceville)
Nikolai Ivanovich Bukharin was one of the most powerful men on earth. He was a Russian Communist leader. And he took part in the Bolshevik Revolution the same year Our Lady appeared in Fatima in 1917. There is a story told about a journey he took. He went from Moscow to Kiev in 1930 to address a huge crowd. The subject was, of course, atheism. He attacked Christianity! He said some insulting words about Christianity. And he argued against it as well. It took him a long time to convince the crowd. At the end of his talk, he was confident that he had convinced the crowd that they should reject Christ and embrace atheism. So he turned the meeting to the parish priest. The priest complimented him on his eloquence. Then turning to the crowd, he dismissed them by saying: “CHRIST IS RISEN!” And the people passionately exclaimed as with one thundering voice: “HE IS RISEN INDEED!” (cf. Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India). No matter what had been said to those people, they knew in their hearts the essential Gospel message that Christ had indeed risen.
In the past, communism frequently attacked Christianity. Today, there is not much communism as there was in the past. But Christianity is frequently still being attacked. Just recently, an effort was made to prove that Jesus did not rise from the dead. They found the tomb of Jesus and His family. But that “finding” is a “nonsense finding” for us who knew in our hearts that Christ had risen indeed!
Before the Gospel was sung, we heard one of my favorite sequences, Victimae Paschali Laudes. Some of the lines we heard from the sequence were:
“Dic nobis, Maria, quid vidísti in via?”
Tell us, Mary, what did you see on the way?
And she answered:
“Sepúlcrum Christi viventis, gloriam vidi resurgéntis”
I have seen the tomb of the living Christ and the glory of the risen One.
And she also answered:
“Angélicos testes, sudárium, et vestes.”
She also saw angelic witnesses, the funeral veil, and the shroud.
This is one of the reasons the “finding” of the tomb of Jesus and His family according to a modern producer is false! We heard one of the main reasons from the Gospel today. We heard the “burial clothes” mentioned three times. John wrote that he bent down but did not go in when he reached the tomb. He saw the “burial clothes.” Peter went into the tomb and he also saw the “burial clothes” there. Peter also saw the cloth that had covered His head not with the “burial clothes” but rolled up in a separate place.
At first, we may have heard this passage or read this passage but it did not really impress us or strike our hearts about the significance of the “burial clothes.” And that is because the English words do not really describe what they saw especially this translation from the lectionary! Other translation said that they “saw the linen cloths lying there”
The Greek participle translated “lying there” indicates that the clothes were flattened, deflated, as if they were emptied when the body of Jesus rose. Jesus came out of the burial clothes and bandages without their being unrolled. He passed right through them. Most of you have seen the movie the Passion of the Christ produced by Mel Gibson. He showed his audience on that last scene of the Resurrection where the burial clothes were flattened. They were deflated when Jesus rose from the dead. This is what John saw! This is what Peter saw! This is what amazed them! How unforgettable the scene must have been (cf. The Navarre Bible St. John)!
Also, John describes about the cloth that had covered Our Lord’s head. It was not on top of the burial clothes, but placed on one side. What happened was like the burial clothes, it was still rolled up but, unlike the clothes, it still had a certain volume, like a container, possibly due to the stiffness given it by the ointments. This is what the Greek participle “rolled” indicates. Again, this is what they saw! This is what amazed them in that empty tomb.
Recently, I read an article on 10 reasons that Jesus truly indeed died and truly indeed rose again from the dead. And I would like to share it with you this morning. I don’t have time to read it in it’s entirety but I will just give the highlights of each point (cf. http://www.holyspiritinteractive.net/questions/didchristreallyrise.asp):
1. A Public Execution Assured His Death
Jesus was condemned publicly. So everyone knows about it. And He truly died on the cross. The soldiers had to break the legs of the two criminals who were crucified with Him in order to speed their deaths. Our Lord had died already by this time. But as a final precaution, they thrust a spear into His side to make sure that he really died. So it would take more than resuscitation for Him to ever trouble them again.
2. A High Official Secured the Gravesite
The next day (Holy Saturday), religious leaders met again with Pontius Pilate. They reminded him about what Jesus was prophesying that He would rise in three days. So to make sure that no one steals His body to create a “fake resurrection”, they asked Pilate to guard the tomb. And Pilate agreed to send soldiers to guard the tomb.
3. In Spite of Guards, the Grave Was Found Empty
And I’ve mentioned already what they saw in that empty tomb on Easter Sunday.
4. Many People Claimed to Have Seen Him Alive
Around 55 AD, St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians (1 Cor 15:5-8) and told them about Our Risen Lord had been seen by the Apostles, by him, and by more than 500 people at the same time. At the time of his writing, many of those people were still alive.
5. His Apostles Were Dramatically Changed
Not only Judas betrayed Our Lord, but the rest of the Apostles did not do too well either. They ran away! Peter denied Him three times after thinking that he would lay down his life for his Lord! But later on, these Apostles could care less what happen to their own lives (i.e. being put into prison, beaten, or something worse). They were so bold that they courageously said: “It is better for us to obey God than men!” Even after being beaten, they continue to tell the people about Jesus and His way.
6. Witnesses Were Willing to Die for Their Claims
There are many martyrs in the history of the Church who gave their lives for Christ and for His Church. The reason why they would go that far is because they know the truth that death is not the end. There shall be resurrection of the body. Jesus is the first and His disciples shall follow.
7. Jewish Believers Changed Their Day of Worship
“The Sabbath day of rest and worship was basic to the Jewish way of life. Any Jew who did not honor the Sabbath was guilty of breaking the law of Moses. Yet Jewish followers of Christ began worshiping with Gentile believers on a new day. The first day of the week... replaced the Sabbath. For a Jew, it reflected a major change of life.
8. Although it Was Unexpected, it Was Clearly Predicted
Isaiah predicted about the Suffering Servant how He would suffer intensely and would be led like a lamb to the slaughter. But then God “prolonged His days” (53:10).
9. It Was a Fitting Climax to a Miraculous Life
During His public life, Jesus performed numerous miracles before many people. How fitting for the climax to perform the greatest miracle of the resurrection of His own dead body to life again.
And the last reason,
10. It Fits the Experience of Those Who Trust Him
St. Paul wrote to the Romans: “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you (8:11).” St. Paul experienced this! Many people all over the world experienced this as well particularly those who have “died” to their old ways so that Christ can live His life through them. This mystery of the resurrection is the call for all of us to “die” to our old way of life and to “rise” with Him in His way of life.
Finally, we don’t have communists who come to us and try to destroy Christianity and our faith. But we do have “modern communists” today who constantly attempt to attack Christianity and to destroy our rich faith! However, no matter what they are saying to us, we know in our hearts the Good News that CHRIST IS RISEN! AND HE HAS RISEN INDEED!”