Today we celebrate the central fact of history, namely, the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Easter is the greatest feast of the Christian year. There is none like it. The birth of Jesus at Christmas is incredibly magnificent. But Christmas is only “mission begun”, while Easter is “mission accomplished.” “Faith in God the Father Almighty can be put to the test by the experience of evil and suffering. God can sometimes seem to be absent and incapable of stopping evil. But in the most mysterious way God the Father has revealed his almighty power in the voluntary humiliation and Resurrection of his Son, by which he conquered evil. Christ crucified is thus ‘the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men’ (1 Cor.1:25). It is Christ’s Resurrection and exaltation that the Father has shown forth ‘the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe’ (Eph.1:19)” (CCC 272).
“Therefore Easter is not only one feast among others, but the “feast of feasts,” the “Solemnity of solemnities,” just as the Eucharist is the “Sacrament of sacraments” (The Great Sacrament). St. Athanasius calls Easter “the Great Sunday” and the Eastern Churches call Holy Week “the Great Week.” The mystery of the Resurrection, in which Christ crush death, permeates with its powerful energy our old time, until all is subjected to him” (CCC 1169). As Jesus emerges from the tomb, victorious, he seems to cry out: “This is what my life was meant to say.” Easter tells us that after darkness comes light, after the heartbreak, the daybreak; after the struggle, the victory. Everyday the sun goes down in the evening, but the next day it rises again. In every cold climate, nature lies for many months under the spell of winter. But the spring comes once again and the birds begin to sing and nature puts forth its garment of greenery and the flowers appear in the land.
The passage from the Acts of the Apostles has been selected for our first reading not only because the Resurrection is mentioned in it, but especially because St. Peter in his discourse to the Gentiles make the Resurrection the basic doctrine and the crowning proof of the truth of the Christian faith. As St. Paul says: “If Christ has not risen, vain is our preaching, vain too is your faith” (1 Cor.15:14). And like St. Paul, St. Peter stresses the truth of the Resurrection by citing witnesses, including himself, who had not only seen Christ but had spoken to him and actually eaten with him. St. Paul tells in the second reading that we must “set our minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col.3:2). We must never let the “things of the earth,” the pleasures, the power, the possessions which we could have in this life, block our journey to heaven.
Does it mean we must do away with earthly things? No, we are not forbidden to have the lawful pleasures of life. All we are forbidden is the unlawful use of the things of this world. In today’s Gospel, we are told that Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early on Sunday morning to anoint the dead body of Jesus with spices to preserve it. This anointing has been done hastily on the Friday because of the Sabbath which began at 18th hour of the day. The tomb was found open and empty. The first thought of Mary Magdalene was that somebody had stolen the corpse. This shows how far the Resurrection was far from their minds. She went in haste to tell the disciples. Peter and John ran to the tomb. Later that day Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, to ten of his Apostles, to Peter separately (1 Cor.15:5), to two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13) and later on, he appeared often to the Apostles and disciples in Galilee for a period of days.
This day is a day made by the Lord. This day, this time, better still, this fullness of time which has come from God, has manifested itself in the Resurrection of Christ. It is clear that this event, this Resurrection could not come from man. It could not come from what is created. We see that created things tend towards death, and man also is destined to die on this earth since he is subject to the laws of the universe. Only God could overturn these laws and cause life after death. It is indeed the day made by the Lord as we heard in the Responsorial Psalm: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice in it and be glad” (Psalm 118:24). Never before had anyone Risen from dead especially in the case of our Lord Jesus Christ who predicted it before his death, that he will suffer and die and after three days he will rise again. This is one of the greatest evidence of his divinity.
For Jesus, the tomb cannot hold him captive. He arose, and the empty tomb is one of the proofs of the resurrection. In Dark Night, St. John of the Cross narrates how the soul, fired by love’s urgent longing, goes out of herself at night in search of her Beloved. This was what brought Mary Magdalene to the tomb in the wee hours, when everything was calm and quiet, to be with the one she loved so much. She became the first to witness the resurrection. Nevertheless, such discovery must be shared. She went to tell the Apostles. We as Christians, we have the same mission to share the joy of the resurrection with others even in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic that has placed the world in a standstill. The Resurrection of our Lord brings us hope.
Black as the situation may be with the sad situation in which the Coronavirus pandemic has placed our world today, immersed as we be in the ocean of darkness, we can always look forward to the light for victory. By the Resurrection, Jesus sanctified suffering. Without the Resurrection, suffering has no meaning. Jesus gave suffering a positive value. He gave it an ability to contribute to the growth and progress of mankind. Like the poor, suffering is always with us. Christ tells us today that we shall live eternally if only we accept our suffering lovingly. The Resurrection is so indispensable to the Christian faith that from the earliest times the Church chose to commemorate it every Sunday. The Resurrection celebrates the victory over death.
It proclaims the paradox of life, namely, that by losing our life we find it, by dying we rise again, and through apparent failures, we achieve eternal success. Easter teaches us that there is no life without death, no gain without losing, no receiving without giving, no Easter, without Good Friday. The Resurrection assures us the ultimate good will surely come from the present predicament of our world being ravaged with the Coronavirus pandemic. May God grant all of us celebrating this Easter the joy to live to enjoy our own resurrection at the end of time. May the Resurrection of Christ bring healing to those who are down with the Coronavirus pandemic, protect and safeguard the medical practitioners taking care of them and raise to the glory of the Resurrection those who have died through this pandemic through Christ our Lord. Amen. Wishing our elder brothers in the Catholic priesthood, Very Rev. Frs. Gabriel Amolegbe and Raphael Adebayo a happy 40th priestly ordination anniversary today and more fruitful years in the Lord’s vineyard in good health of mind and body. I wish you all a happy Easter celebration in our catacombs.