For two thousand years, Catholics everywhere have been taught that Christ rose from the dead on the third day after He was crucified. The Resurrection has hitherto become the core of the Catholic faith. The Church has taught us that Easter should be the real cause of our joy, the fundamental source of genuine happiness.
The famous German philosopher Nietzsche (1844 – 1900), however, claimed that “God is dead.” The statement “God is dead” appeared in several of his works. In Nietzsche’s view, the rapid developments in science and the increasing secularization of European society in the late 19th century in Europe had somehow replaced God and Christianity. Nietzsche also observed that the Christians who were his contemporaries did not look redeemed.
Over a hundred years have already passed since the death of Nietzsche, many Catholics today have shown a greater level of indifference to their faith than the Catholics in Europe in the 19th century. Many people who have been baptized have yet to demonstrate that their faith has made any real difference in their daily life. Sadly speaking, a majority of Catholics today perform their religious duties perfunctorily, or do so just to fulfill some basic requirements.
There was a debate regarding the Third Commandment between two of my Catholic friends recently. One insisted that we should go to the church every Sunday. The other wondered why we can not worship God at our own home comfortably. She admitted that she goes to her church sporadically. My friend who insisted that we should go to the church every Sunday told me she was offended to see her brother-in-law, who has committed every kind of sin except murdering, was invited to become a godfather and he received the Eucharist without making a confession.
Genuine Christian joy is especially difficult these days. Among those who have been baptized, regular church-goers are in the minority. Among the regular church-goers, those whose first priority is God are in another minority. The world itself is full of wars, incredible immorality, poverty, confusion, and despair. The Church is in an unprecedented crisis as sex abuse scandals have swept the Church in Europe, following similar crises in Canada and the United States. In face of all these difficulties and trials, it is hard to remain joyful even if one still remains a loyal Catholic.
Easter is the most important feast in the Church’s year of worship, and the single most important event in human history. Jesus Christ, who on many occasions predicted that He would rise from the dead, who claimed to be God’s own Son, fulfilled that prediction to the letter.
St. Paul explained the significance of Resurrection clearly and concisely, “Because of our sins he was handed over to die, and he was raised to life in order to put us right with God.” (Romans 4:25)
By His putting us right with God, we can enjoy a renewed personal relationship with God. He rose to send the Holy Spirit to transform us from within so we are once again sons and daughters of the Father; brothers and sisters of Christ Himself; the temples of the Holy Spirit.
His death freed us from the slavery of sin, and His resurrection gave us a new life. It is a life with a new meaning. “I have come in order that you might have life – life in all its fullness.” (John 10:10)
Loyal Catholics still have a very good reason to be joyful in spite of all these trials and challenges because it is our belief that since Christ walked out of His own tomb, so will we one day walk out of ours. It is our belief that death is not the absolute end of everything. Death is the end of this earthly life, but is the beginning of a new and everlasting life. The resurrection lets us know that our suffering in this world is not meaningless. Our suffering will one day become our blessing.
With the teaching of the Church and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we know that at the end of the human history, our body and soul will vibrate with a new life. We will then be able to testify what St. Paul wrote in one of his letters, “What no one ever saw or heard, what no one ever thought could happen, is the very thing God prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
If we take up our daily crosses and follow the crucified Lord faithfully, we do not need to be afraid. We should be profoundly joyful just like the women who became the first few to hear about the resurrection, “Why are you looking among the dead for one who is alive? He is not here; he has been raised.” (Luke 24: 5 – 6)
For the majority of Catholics who do not practice their faith seriously, it is hard for them to grasp the real significance of Easter. It is equally hard for them to fathom why they should be profoundly joyful. They may not know that Jesus loves them so much that Jesus is willing to be crucified again just for them.
There is a story that when Peter was old, he heard that soldiers were going to arrest him. Not wanting to be arrested, he quickly left Rome. On his way leaving Rome, he met Jesus. He asked, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied that He was going to Rome to be crucified again. Peter was ashamed and so he returned to Rome. He was later arrested and crucified. Before he was crucified, he asked the soldiers to crucify him upside down on the cross because he felt he was not worthy to die like Jesus.
Jesus wants to be crucified again for my friend who fails to see why she should go to the Sunday Mass every week. Jesus wants to be crucified again for my friend’s brother-in-law who has committed every kind of sin except murdering and who became a godfather and received the Eucharist unworthily. I pray that God’s infinite love will soften their hearts so that one day they will join with us to sing “Alleluia!” joyfully and sincerely during the Easter season. In this season God extends His grace and love through His only Son Jesus to us. He is the source of every good and perfect gift.
Easter begins in our hearts when we receive God’s Son, Jesus Christ, by faith. May the Risen Lord Jesus be the reason for your joy and the fundamental source of your genuine happiness because “He who has the Son has life.” (1 John 5:12)