The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the event that defines Christian faith. It is the unique event that affirms Jesus’s identity; and confirms, with power, all that Jesus taught about the love of God. It changes everything for the disciples, who must reframe all they expected through the lens that God is acting in life and even through death into new life. Without the resurrection, as St. Paul says in 1 Cor 15:13-14, 19, our faith is useless and we are to be pitied. With the resurrection we enter the lifegiving possibilities that God opens to us through Jesus Christ in every situation and moment of our lives. We share in the resurrection as the principle of God’s life in and through us.
Yet our experiences of resurrection life are only occasionally revealed quickly. We are confronted by death-dealing events, illnesses and relationships and discover that the lifegiving possibilities through and beyond them are often slow and painful. We try, like Mary Magdalene in the garden, to hang on to the past rather than let it go and enter into what is being revealed. We hang on to old habits, attitudes and behaviours, afraid to let go. That journey to new life requires us to enter the pain of death, the grief of loss and the unexpected surprising joy of new life. On some occasions we embrace that new life with joy and excitement. At other times we, like Thomas, need more than the testimony of others to that new life, and must experience and test it for ourselves.
We have lived through more than a year of the power of the pandemic to bring death into our lives. Sometimes that has been the reality of physical deaths of those we know and love. It has meant the loss of so much that was familiar: the sharing of the Eucharist, gathering for worship, family celebrations, graduations, holding a new grandchild, the comfort of friends. It has meant lost jobs and businesses; losses intimate and personal; and losses big and life-shattering. We long for the new life beyond the pandemic, and that it may come quickly. Yet it may be slow, tenuous and unpredictable in its arrival and revelation, and it may ask us to let go of the familiar. But it will come.
The gift of the resurrection of Jesus is the promise that—whether embraced slowly or quickly—the power of God’s love is stronger than the pain, sin and sorrows of what we see. Since Jesus lives, we will too, by entering into the reality that God is both with us now and waiting for us in the future, even if that future looks very different from what we have known in the past.
Although we anticipate Easter on one day of the year, the promise it holds dawns every day and is at the core of every eucharistic celebration and every Sunday. Whether or not we can yet see the shape of the new life beyond the pandemic Easter, we have the promise that it is coming—always. We are called simply to trust in its joy and hope. In sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life we can shout:
Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!