Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Easter Sunday—8 April A.D. 2012

[Ordinary of the Mass]
[ Mass Text-Latin]
[Mass Text-English]

“A far greater thing was it to overcome death by rising from the sepulchre,
than to preserve life by descending from the Cross.”[1]

    Pope Saint Gregory the Great wrote these words around the beginning of the seventh century.  If you have attended the ceremonies of Holy Week you know that one of the ways in which the crowd mocked our Lord was to suggest that if He were truly the Son of God, He would just come down from the Cross, rather than die its excruciating death:  “He saved others, Himself He cannot save! If He is the King of Israel, let Him come down now from the cross, and we will believe Him....”[2]  But, of course, the mocking crowds of the Jews did not understand that the redemption of the human race was at stake, and that coming down from the Cross would have been a terrible dis-service to humanity.  Pope Gregory further explains that “The Mediator between God and man [Jesus Christ] took [mortality] upon Himself and revealed [immortality] to us.”  Had He simply “come down for the Cross,” we would never have known that immortality.

    It is worth noting that the people of the Old Testament did not all share the concepts Christians hold about immortality, or life after death.  In the early books of the Bible, the favor of God is reckoned in material terms:  long life, the blessing of many children and a long line of descendants, the abundance of grain, wine and oil, and a large number of lambs, goats, and sheep in one’s fields.  The conception of death is of a dreary existence, variously named “sheol” (שְׁאוֹל), “the netherworld,” “the abode of the dead,” and even something as inglorious as “the pit,” as though the dead were consigned to a dumping ground.  Both the good and the bad were thought of as “shades” who were cut off from God and man and their environment and from each other.  The only form of immortality was thought to be being remembered by future generations of family and friends.  This is the understanding the one gets from reading, for example, from the Psalms.

    But, perhaps five or six hundred years before Christ we encounter the righteous man, Job, in the midst of terrible physical suffering, expressing his hope in God:

    I know that my Redeemer lives, and in the last day I shall rise out of the earth.  And I shall be clothed again with my skin, and in my flesh I will see my God.  Whom I myself shall see, and my eyes shall behold, and not another:[3]

    This is a significant piece of knowledge for the Jewish world—there will be a “last day,” and on that day there will be a resurrection—my body will feel and my eyes will see—not someone else, and not just my ghost.

    But, not surprisingly, this belief of Job in the resurrection of the body was not unanimous among the Jews.  The Sadducees, mentioned in the Gospels, were of the influential priestly tribe, and they denied any sort of afterlife.  You may recall them trying to trip up our Lord with a hypothetical case about a woman who married seven times after the death of six husbands, as though these marriages would cause some sort of trouble if there were a resurrection—whose wife would she be?[4]

    On the other hand, we see in Martha, the sister of Lazarus, the belief of the common people:  “I know that [Lazarus] shall rise again, in the resurrection at the last day.”[5]  To which “Jesus said to her: I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, although he be dead, shall live....”[6]

    It is Jesus Christ who fulfills the prophecy of Job.  “My Redeemer lives,” and during His public life He was known to bring several people back to life—Lazarus, the son of the widow of Naim, the daughter of Jairus, and perhaps others who have gone unrecorded.  Of course, nothing is a demonstration of His mastery over life and death, than the working of His own resurrection, which we celebrate today.

    One must recall that all of the people who Jesus brought back to life eventually died their natural death—Lazarus is no longer among us, nor the daughter of Jairus.  The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, on the other hand, was the first resurrection to eternal life, for on Thursday, forty days later, our Lord was taken up into heaven, where “He sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.”

    Saint Paul tells us that we will share in this eternal life:  “Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall live also together with Christ:  Knowing that Christ rising again from the dead, dieth now no more, death shall no more have dominion over him.”[7]  “For we are buried together with him by baptism into death; that as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life.”[8]

    So far, we have seen two essentials for eternal life—belief in Jesus Christ, and Baptism.  Our Lord has told us as much, quite directly:  “He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned.”[9]  There is, yet, another essential.  And to know that essential, we look to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the only other person currently known to have been resurrected to eternal life.  It is unquestionable that Mary believed in her Son and in His teaching.  Her Immaculate Conception made Baptism unnecessary for her.  Yet, as unthinkable as it might be, Mary was capable of sin!—she had free will.  She could have sinned, but she did not.  She used her free will only in accordance with God’s law, only in accordance with God’s will.  Scripture records her free acceptance of God’s request that she cooperate in the Incarnation.  Tradition records that her life culminated in that same spirit of cooperation, for “having completed the course of her earthly life, [she] was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”[10]

    As Pope Gregory told us, immortality has been revealed to us in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Not one of us was conceived without sin—but we all believe, we have all been baptized, we have the grace of Confession and Communion, and we have the perfect example of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  We are capable of sin, but if we elect not to do so, we will share that immortality with her and her divine Son.

    Christ is Risen!  Happy Easter!


[1]   Pope Saint Gregory the Great, Sermon on the Mystery of the Resurrection, #7


Dei via est íntegra
Our Lady of the Rosary, 144 North Federal Highway (US#1), Deerfield Beach, Florida 33441  954+428-2428
Authentic  Catholic Mass, Doctrine, and Moral Teaching -- Don't do without them -- 
Don't accept one without the others!