We can imagine the confusion of the early disciples of Jesus after His death. Jesus was a great teacher, down to earth and able to relate to the aspirations of the people. He was also a miracle worker and a healer. They saw the many miracles He worked in their lives. Above all, they saw in Jesus the Messiah of the people of Israel and the deliverer from their principal enemy, the Romans. However, it all ended in a tragic death so suddenly that they were caught off guard. More perplexing still was that the people welcomed Him as king and then demanded His crucifixion a few days later. The death of Jesus was mystifying for His disciples as they tried to make sense of this inexplicable event.
But that was not all. Later on, they heard of stories where the Lord was sighted. It was too difficult to believe because they saw Him crucified and pierced by the lance of a soldier. Could a dead man, badly bruised, mangled and crushed be brought back to life? Furthermore, it is important to take note that the Risen Body of the Lord was not a mere resuscitation of the earthly body as in the case of Lazarus. This explains why the sighting of the Risen Lord took different forms. The disciples at Emmaus could not recognize Him initially. And when they did, He vanished from their sight. (cf Lk 24:30f) So too did Mary Magdalene, thinking that He was a gardener. (cf Jn 20:15) The Risen Lord could also walk through locked doors. (cf Jn 20:19) At times, the Lord showed Himself to have a real body when He showed His hands and feet, and even ate with them. (cf Jn 20:20; 27; 21:12)
We too have our own mystifying events in life. We cannot understand why certain things are happening to us. Why did God take my loved ones away? Why did my boyfriend break up with me when the relationship was apparently going on well? Why am I struck down with cancer, Parkinson disease or loss of hearing and sight? Why did I meet this accident through no fault of mine, leaving me crippled? Why did the Lord take away my job, leaving me in the lurch without a source of income? Indeed, we have a thousand and one questions about our life, our struggles and our pains.
The answer to the mystery of life is found precisely in the resurrection of our Lord. That is why faith in the resurrection of Christ is central to the Christian Faith. Only with His resurrection, can we explain all the mysteries of life. The resurrection shows us that the final answer to life is not suffering and death but liberation and a transfigured life. The resurrection of our Lord shows that suffering and death have been overcome and the resurrection gives meaning to all our struggles in this world. Christian life is orientated towards the resurrection. The basis of Christian faith is that all sufferings and pain prepare us for the fullness of life.
Only with the resurrection, is death overcome. And of course, we know that the misery of this world is caused by the fear of death. Those without faith in Christ fear death because they think that death is the end of everything we stand for or live for. They think that with death, their life is ended. So because the world fears death, we sin against each other as we seek to perpetuate our earthly life for fear of death. We grab, we fight, we seek for more because we are afraid that we might not have enough or that we might have to suffer. We are all afraid of suffering and pain. St Paul says, “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23 cf 1 Cor 15:54-56) So sin leads to death and the fear of death is the cause of sin.
Indeed, that was how the disciples of Jesus came to terms with the death of Jesus. They began to see the greater plan of God at work in our lives. The reason why suffering and death makes no sense in our life is that we see them as isolated events. When we see the events of our life as unrelated events, they do not make sense. Life is a package and an integral process from suffering to freedom, death to life. This was the case of Jesus. When the disciples encountered the Risen Lord, they began to understand the plan of God for humanity. They entered into the mystery of God’s plan for our salvation. They came to realize that Jesus was the One that God had prepared for humanity since time began. He said, “It was you who accused the Holy One, the Just One, you who demanded the reprieve of a murderer while you killed the prince of life. God, however, raised him from the dead, and to that fact, we are the witnesses.”
They saw it as a fulfillment of the scriptures. God planned it that way and it was not a plan that went awry. God’s wisdom is beyond man’s wisdom. Jesus explained to the disciples how He was the fulfilment of the scriptures so that their faith is well grounded on truth. “This is what I mean when I said, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms, has to be fulfilled. He then opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘So you see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning with Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.’” St Paul, upon meditating on the mystery of God’s plan exclaimed, “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!” (cf Rom 11:33)
Peter excused the people for their ignorance. He was not angry with them or sought to take revenge on them. “Now I know, brothers, that neither you nor your leaders had any idea what you were really doing; this was the way God carried out what he had foretold, when he said through all his prophets that his Christ would suffer.” Although they killed their master, thinking that He was a deviant and a troublemaker of society, the resurrection of Christ shows that God was with Him and had endorsed all that He said and did. Indeed, we too when we realize that our sufferings from the injustice of others, or because of our sins and negligence, have made us a better person today, stronger, more independent, more sensitive, forgiving and compassionate and more aware of others’ sufferings, we can thank God. Then we too can praise God for allowing such apparent negative events to happen in our lives because they have made us better and more loving and grateful people.
With the resurrection of Jesus, we can now confidently proclaim Him as Lord and God. No one ever claimed to rise from the dead. What more when it was a criminal that was put to death. The resurrection of Christ is the seal of the Father on all that Jesus said and did. It was the vindication of all the claims of Jesus, implicit and explicit. With His resurrection, we believe in His Word, all that He has taught us about God, eternal life and forgiveness of sins. With His resurrection, we believe in the Church and the Sacraments based on His assurance.
Released from fear of death and the unknown, we can now live loving lives as St John asks of us. He said, “We can be sure that we know God only by keeping his commandments. Anyone who says, ‘I know him’, and does not keep his commandments, is a liar, refusing to admit the truth. But when anyone does obey what he has said, God’s love comes to perfection in him.” Christian love for all and Christian service is the indicator that we are saved and are converted. Only those who have faith in the resurrection can live their lives for others and not for themselves because they know that the fullness of life is the resurrected life of which we now have a foretaste. The resurrection is the answer to what life is all about, our calling and our final vocation, which is to be with God living a transfigured life.
There are so many who are lost and in their own prison as they cannot find happiness and meaning in life. They have no joy and hope for life. They have lost the meaning, purpose and direction in life. They are living on the brink of despair. Many do not know who they are. They cannot tell the difference between man and woman. They do not know what marriage and family is. They do not know their origin and end. How can one live without knowing such basic questions of life? Many live under the bondage of sin. Instead of living for others they live for self. The worship of self leads to selfishness and self-centeredness. In worshiping self, they fall into the sin of pride and lose respect for God. They end up supplanting the place of God. This is the sin of secularism and atheism.
We too now are called to be witnesses to this life. Before we can be truly witnesses to the Lord, we must first encounter Him in our own lives. The Lord continues to appear to us in different ways as He did with His disciples. We need to be open to His presence in our lives through faith. Only in faith, can we see the Risen Lord in our midst as the disciples did. Only in faith, can we see the wonders of God at work in our daily life. Only in faith, can we continue to give ourselves in love and humble service. Through our faith, our experiences of His love, our ability to connect our life with the fuller plan of God for us, we too will lead others to encounter the Risen Lord and find fullness of life even in our sufferings.