He Is Risen!

"Alleluia! He is risen!" The cry of the Christian on Easter Sunday celebrates the triumph of Jesus Christ over sin and death. His victory opens wide the gates of heaven to all those who trust in the power of His merciful love. In faith, we accept the resurrection, the greatest of all the Christian mysteries, as a cornerstone of our faith. "If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain." (1 Corinthians 15.14) Our understanding of the resurrection rests on the testimony of the first witnesses and their experiences that first Easter.

At the empty tomb, the angels said to the women who had come to the tomb to embalm the body of Jesus: "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen." (Luke 24.5b) The women went to the apostles and told them about their experience. On hearing the news of the empty tomb, the Apostles remained in disbelief, "But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen clothes by themselves; and he went home wondering at what had happened." (Luke 24.12) The empty tomb, the first sign given to them, could not penetrate the wonderment and disbelief of the apostles.

In the raising of Lazarus, the apostles had witnessed the resurrection of a dead person back to an earthly life. The resurrection of Jesus was very different to anything they had experienced before. In their encounter with the risen Lord, "they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit." (Luke 24.37) Jesus demonstrated the nature of His glorified body to them: "See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have." (Luke 24.39)

The risen Lord appeared to other disciples in the days leading up to Pentecost, including one event where "He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time." (1 Corinthians 15.6) We have the testimony of His witnesses, handed down to our present day through the Scriptures and the tradition of the Church. While we do not have the benefit of encountering the risen Christ directly as His apostles did, we nonetheless experience the blessing He pronounced to the apostle Thomas: "Jesus said to him, 'Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.'" (John 20.29)

The experience of the empty tomb and the witness accounts of the apostles provide our understanding of His resurrection; yet, the nature of the transformation of His being - the reunion of His soul with His flesh into the glorified state, remains very much a mystery. St. Paul testifies that: "Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father." (Romans 6.4) Jesus proclaimed that He shares in this power of the Father: "For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever He wishes." (John 5.21) We keep our hope fixed on Him, in light of the final resurrection at the end of time, when we believe that "He will change our lowly body to conform with His glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to Himself." (Philippians 3.21)

This poem celebrates the triumph of the Risen Lord.


He Is Risen!

Not held by confines of the grave,
The Lord rose on that Easter morn;
Triumphant in His pow'r to save --
Eternally, He's the Firstborn.

The glory of the Father's love
Surpassed all guilt of humankind;
His mercy draws all from above -
To awaken the deaf and blind.

Our faith, anchored on Christ risen,
Girds hope in heaven that awaits,
The return of sinners fallen -
Divine Mercy never abates!

Through Him, our faith finds sure footing;
With Him, our hope is held secure;
In Him, love yields life unending -
Over our death, His vict'ry's sure!

We cry, with hearts frozen in awe:
"He is risen! Alleluia!"


Holy Spirit, lift up my heart and rejoice in me, that hope in eternal life may empower Your love in my heart for my Sisters and Brothers in the risen Lord. Amen.



References:

New American Bible - Catholic Edition

Catechism of the Catholic Church,
Paragraphs 638 - 658

Pope Benedict XVI, Introduction to Christianity,
2004 Ignatius Press, San Francisco, p. 301 - 310


prepared by:

Paul Buis


(c) Paul Buis, 2007