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The Resurrection Is Not a Myth (Easter Sunday 2023)

Fr. Mikael Schink S.J.
Easter Sunday, Year A (2023-05-09)
St. Eugenia Catholic Church

+ Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Today, we celebrate the greatest feast of the Liturgical year, the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. This historical event, which took place more than two thousand years ago, changed the course of human history forever. The Resurrection is the cornerstone of our faith as Catholics, for it is through this event that we have been saved and redeemed.

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We must remind ourselves, that the resurrection is a historical event that actually took place, for as the Apostle Paul says, if the resurrection did not take place, we are the most lamentable of all people (1 Cor. 15:19). From the very start, the reality of the resurrection was questioned, both from the opponents of the Church and from within the Church itself. This is the reason why saint Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians corrects Christians who do not believe in the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:12–13).

Saint Paul is also our earliest witness to the resurrection. Only some twenty years after the resurrection of Christ, saint Paul writes that Christ ‘appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.’ The most remarkable element in this testimony is that saint Paul writes that Christ appeared to some 500 believers, most of whom are still alive. The Christians of Paul’s time could therefore easily have verified his account by asking for confirmation from fellow Christians, who had also seen the risen Christ.

This testimony of saint Paul has proven exceedingly difficult to disprove for sceptics. The text is generally accepted to be from AD 53 or 54, and the author is Paul. The genre of the passage I just quoted is clearly that of a historical report. Paul is not telling a mythological tale to the Corinthians. No, he is explicitly giving a testimony of the actual resurrection of Christ. Further, it is improbable that he is mistaken, or that he is making this up, because he is referring to some 500 witnesses who have not only seen Jesus, but who saw him at the same time, most of whom were still alive when he wrote the letter.

The sceptic is therefore in a difficult situation. I am not saying that these kinds of arguments are a deductive proof for the resurrection, i.e. that we by natural reason know with certainty that the resurrection took place. No, in historical matters, there can never be absolute certainty. I am just saying that there are good reasons to believe, and that we do not need to fear the arguments of the sceptics.

The resurrection is therefore the sign and confirmation of our faith. It is the sign that the Jews were asking Jesus for. But he told them that he would only give them the sign of Jonah, or that he would tear down the temple and rebuild it in three days. By such sayings, Jesus referred to his resurrection. It is the confirmation so to speak, that Jesus is the Christ, that he is not just a prophet, but that his message is true, namely that he is the Saviour and that his teaching is true.

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But we cannot stop there. Although the resurrection is a historical fact, one of the most important events in human history, an event without which the Christian religion would not have existed – it is above all a mystery.

A mystery is not just something that we cannot understand. It is a symbol of a supernatural reality that transcends human reason, indeed that transcends any created intellect. For no created intellect can see God by its own power. The resurrection is therefore a mystery in that it reveals the truth about eternal life. It reveals that eternal life is not just a revivification of Christ’s body. No, Christ has risen to a new life. That is why the apostles do not recognize him immediately. The resurrection is a resurrection to a life with God the Father. It manifests the life for which we are destined, namely the spiritual life in Christ with the Father.

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But the resurrection is not only a confirmation of our faith and a manifestation of eternal life, it is also the cause of eternal life in us. If this were not the case, the resurrection would at most be a historical curiosity. Once we had learnt of the truth of the Christian faith and of the resurrection, we could forget all about it, because the resurrection would only be used to confirm and manifest the truth of the Christian faith.

Yet, if we look at the history of the Church and the lives of the saints, they have spent and dedicated their lives to the meditation on the mysteries of Christ’s life, and among them on his  resurrection. The reason for this is that the resurrection is not only the confirmation and manifestation of the Christian faith, but also the cause of our own resurrection. It causes the eternal life that begins already here on earth.

By uniting ourselves with Christ’s resurrection in prayer, we become participants of his resurrection. We are drawn into the mystery of Christ’s resurrection. When we for instance meditate on the mystery of the resurrection while praying the rosary, we are not only thinking about an event that took place some 2000 years ago, but we are also becoming part of that event through grace, faith, and charity.

The time of Easter is a special time during which we should meditate especially on the resurrection of Christ, as I am sure that God grants special graces during the time of Easter. An especially good way of doing this is by praying the glorious mysteries of the rosary, by following and meditating the liturgical readings during the time of Easter, or by participating in mass also during the week, as the mass is always a celebration of the paschal mystery and hence of the resurrection of Christ.

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As we celebrate the Resurrection today, let us renew our commitment to living our lives as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. Let us firmly believe in the fact that Christ has risen from the dead. Let us hope to one day join him in the heavenly kingdom of God to which he was resurrected, where we will see God face to face. And let us already now unite ourselves with the rising Christ in love, let us cling to his resurrection in the fellowship of supernatural charity, so that we may already here in this world get a taste of the life that awaits us in the kingdom of God in heaven. +Amen

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