Our Lord Jesus Christ has risen just as he said! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
He is risen! Christ has triumphed over satan, sin and death. He has left us the means of salvation, the Church. He remains for a short while and then returns to Heaven, His mission in this world having been accomplished through His Passion, Death and Resurrection. Our Redemption has been accomplished.
Indeed, He is risen as he said! Alleluia! Come, Lord Jesus, renew the earth and restore Your Holy Catholic Church and make her triumphant over her enemies.
A Blessed, Holy and Happy Easter to all of my readers and followers!
A traditional sermon by Fr. Thomas F. Burke, C.S.P.
I. No other fact has been such a power in the world as that which we commemorate today, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. In the annals of religion and its progress, in the records of faith and its victories, in the history of morality and its advancement, in the story of charity and its achievements, there has been no factor so influential. It is bound up most intimately and closely with human life. Even those who deny it as a myth are living today under conditions which would not exist had not centuries of Christian people believed in this great fact.
The Resurrection of Christ is the foundation of the Christian faith, because it is the proof supreme of His Divinity. Throughout His whole life, indeed, Christ was the revelation of God unto man.” God, who, at sundry times and in divers manners, spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, last of all, in these days hath spoken to us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the world.” The greatness, the beauty, the holiness, the majesty, the love, the mercy, the justice of God were manifested in the human life and actions of our Divine Lord upon earth. When an afflicted woman touched the hem of His garment and He cured her of her sickness; when the blind man cried out to Him, “Lord, that I may see,” and He gave him sight; when a ruler begged that his child might not die, and Jesus infused new vigor and health; when a sister and again a mother were in grief over the loss of a loved one, and He called the dead back to life; when a thief dying on a cross sought for pardon, and Jesus washed away the guilt of sin– in these and in many other instances He gave proof that He was divine.
All these, however, are subordinate to the one grand, triumphal fact which is the corner-stone of Christianity, and upon which all the rest of the structure depends–the Resurrection of Christ from the dead. So could the Apostle say: “If Christ be not risen from the dead, vain is our preaching, vain is your faith.”
He who admits the Resurrection must hold to Christ’s Divinity, and consequently to His divine right to be the Guide and Teacher of man. On the other hand, he who denies the Resurrection will not hesitate to sacrifice altogether belief in the divine prerogatives and the divine mission of Jesus Christ.
II. Relying upon the Gospel narrative, my dear brethren, and upon the innumerable references throughout the New Testament, we must conclude that no fact in the world’s history is more incontestably established than the Resurrection of Christ; and yet we are brought face to face with the denial of this, by some at least.
The New Testament gives us evidence after evidence of the Truth, God Himself foretold His resurrection. The spirit of prophecy rested upon Him, and at times, for the sake of His followers, He lifted the veil that hangs beyond and revealed the vision, dimly it may have been, of future triumph and glory. When some would ask Him for a sign. He spoke of the sign of Jonas the prophet: ” For as Jonas was in the whale’s belly three days and three nights: so shall the Son of man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights” (Matt. xii. 40).
When about to go up to Jerusalem for the last time. He foretold what would happen to the Son of man: “The scribes and Pharisees . . . shall deliver him to the Gentiles to be mocked, and scourged, and crucified, and the third day he shall rise again” (Matt. xx. 18, 19).
At the time of His glorious transfiguration, when His favored Apostles would have rushed through the world proclaiming the miracle, “he charged them not to tell any man what things they had seen, till the Son of man shall be risen again from the dead” (Mark ix. 8).
Again, “Destroy,” said He, “this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. But he spoke of the temple of His body” (John ii. 19, 21).
These are but examples of His declarations to the effect that His suffering would be followed by joy, His night by day, His death by victory. His words were so understood and acted upon by the rulers of the Jews. “Sir,” they said to Pilate “we have remembered, that that seducer said, while he was yet alive: After three days I will rise again. Command therefore the sepulchre to be guarded until the third day: lest perhaps his disciples come and steal him away, and say to the people: He is risen from the dead” (Matt. xxvii. 63, 64). The Jews therefore were prepared for any trickery.
The lifeless body was placed in the tomb; a special detachment of Roman soldiers, with instructions to more than ordinary watchfulness, was placed on guard and the tomb itself was officially sealed. Despite these measures, defying the seal of Rome and its Roman guardians, Christ rose triumphantly from the dead. On the very day of His resurrection He appeared unto the repentant and the rejoicing Mary Magdalen. Then to Peter, His chosen vicar, and to John, His especially beloved. In the evening of the same day He walked with two of His followers to the town of Emmaus, and later appeared unto His assembled Apostles.
After the first day, at least six separate appearances are recorded. As before His death, now after His resurrection, He conversed with His Apostles, spoke to His disciples, ate and drank with them. He brought certainty to the doubting Thomas, the sceptic apostle whose fault begot those consoling words, “Blessed are they who have not seen and have believed.” Upon a mountain in Galilee, in the midst of five hundred people, beside the sacred shores of the Lake of Tiberias, He appeared and spoke the words of light before which all lingering shadows of doubt were dispelled, and the flower of hope was newborn.
In reality, my dear brethren, if there be one fact in history which is better entitled to credit than any other, I do not hesitate to say that that fact is the glorious resurrection of Jesus from the tomb. Never, no, never, within the memory of man was any transaction transmitted through every successive generation, from the period of its occurrence to the present day, amid such a blaze of evidence. It is attested by the positive and unexceptionable testimony of persons of the highest integrity, who were themselves eyewitnesses of it, who saw Jesus dead, and who afterward beheld Him alive; who beheld Him not once or twice only, but frequently; not transiently, but for a considerable time; who not only beheld Him but who heard Him, conversed with Him, touched Him, ate and drank with Him, and had every imaginable certainty, both of the reality and identity of His person which it was possible for the evidence of the senses to convey, and who proved, moreover, their honesty and sincerity by that best of arguments, the shedding of their blood.
Had Christ not risen from the dead, there would be no Christianity. Had not Christ risen from the dead, the preaching of the Apostles would have been vain, and the people’s faith would ‘have been vain. A vain preaching and a vain faith would have failed long since. Nineteen centuries would not have passed to find that preaching and hope as strong as ever. Had it been a vain preaching, it would have been annihilated in the ten great persecutions which the power of mighty Rome concocted for its destruction. Had it been a vain preaching, it would have succumbed to the efforts of him who when dying was forced to cry out: ” Galilean, Thou has conquered.” Had it been a vain preaching, it would have been swept from the face of the earth in the avalanche of paganism that from the north broke through the gates of the empire. Had it been a vain preaching, the third, second, yes, the first century would have stood beside its grave.
III. Yet in the light of these evidences, there are those today who deny the Resurrection. Upon theoretical grounds they declare its impossibility, because they hold that miracles in general are impossible. It is a question of fact more than theory. They would say: ” God cannot interfere with the established laws of the universe and the decrees of nature.”
God cannot interfere? What kind of a God? An impotent abstraction of the mind? But God is more than this. He is a reality, a personality. We are free agents. Our freedom is a perfection. If there be a God, He too must be free, and this implies the right and the power to make exceptions to His own laws.
IV. We can see that loss of faith in the Resurrection has brought with it the loss of belief in Jesus Christ, God and man, and is leading to the entire giving up of faith in God and the life to come. What is the cause of this ? One cause is disbelief in the records of the Resurrection, disbelief in the Scriptural account. Now, I maintain that the only place where belief in the Scriptures is securely retained, and the only place therefore where the fact of the Resurrection is safely guarded, is within the Catholic Church. She is the bulwark of the Resurrection. She is the one living witness of the fact that Christ rose from the dead.
Look about the world Today and you will find no body of people among whom there is the same respect, the same reverence, for the Scriptures as among the members of the Catholic Church. You will find no other church that holds with the same steadfastness to the sacredness of their character.
While among Christians outside the Catholic Church the principle of private interpretation of the Scriptures has led men to believe what they like, and has opened the way not only to difficulty but no doubt, she has stood in calm serenity and has held to her position as the teacher of men, the authoritative interpreter of Scriptures, appointed by Jesus Christ. While outside of her fold men are gradually coming to look upon the Scriptures as any other literature, she has unflinchingly declared them to be supreme over all other writings, to be the inspired truth of God. While at the best many will accord them only the credence given to human history, with its liability to prejudice and error, she proclaims them to be without error, because they are a Divine record of facts, stamped with the seal of heaven itself. While among skeptics the Scriptures are considered to be only a legendary legacy of bygone days, she, filled with the consciousness of her identity through the ages, can tell the world Today, as she has told it through nineteen centuries, “I know that these things are true.” And when, as the time goes on, amid those who have sacrificed belief in the Divine character of the Scriptures, they shall lose for them even the regard that is paid to human documents, she will stand, as heretofore, their staunchest defender.
V. Church of Christ, Thou art the one witness upon earth Today of the Resurrection. Thou alone hast breasted the storms of the centuries. Thou canst thus speak to the world: “Before Rationalism was, I am; before the Unitarian and the Socinian, I am; before Renan and Strauss, I am. Nations have lived and died; people have risen and fallen: ages have come and gone, I have witnessed their coming and their going. I have stood firm and unshaken amidst the storms of persecution, the assaults of infidelity, the ravages of licentiousness. I can carry the mind back to the time when the ‘smoke of sacrifice rose from the Pantheon and camelopards and tigers bounded in the Flavian Amphitheater.’ I have witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem, the downfall of Constantinople, the conquest of Rome. I have witnessed the formation of the Christian nations of Europe; I have seen the savage civilized, the barbarian educated, the wild warrior subdued. I can link the twentieth century with the first. I have witnessed many of the events recorded in the New Testament. I am the living witness of all Christian ages, and I bear my testimony unto this day that Christ has risen.”
VI. Today, then, is the day of Christ’s triumph, the day of the Church’s rejoicing, that Church to which has been committed the preaching of the faith founded on His Resurrection. On the day of His death the world triumphed. Beside the cross the voice went up: “Vah, thou that destroyest the temple of God, and in three days buildest it up again: save thyself, come down from the cross.” Even then a word would have brought an army of smiling angels bearing fiery swords; even then a word would have struck down His persecutors; even then, did He desire it, that scene of death and defeat could have been changed into a heavenly victory. He could, but He would not, for then He was suffering for a guilt that was not His own. On the morn of the Resurrection another voice spoke. When the holy woman arrived at the tomb, an angel clothed in white stood before them and cried out, ” He is risen, he is not here.”
“Vah, . . . save thyself, come down from the cross.”
And the triumphant answer rolls on through the centuries: “He is risen, He is not here.”
Through the world it echoes: “He is risen, as He said.” It is the foundation of Christianity. The Apostles preached it and they knew whereof they spoke.
He is risen! It is confusion to the deniers of Christ’s Divinity, for, well founded as it is, it cannot be reasonably denied.
He is risen! It is the sign of Faith, inspiring that belief without which there is no salvation.
He is risen’ It is the promise and the hope of our resurrection upon the last day.
As we take a broad general view of the centuries, we seem to be standing in the nave of some vast cathedral. Over the distant altar we can see the inscription, ” He is risen, as he said.” From within this cathedral there issues forth the Christian song of triumph. Within its confines are gathered the hosts of witnesses from all times. We hear again the Evangelists chanting solemnly the simple story of Easter morn. We hear the whole body of the Apostles taking up the refrain and sounding it into all their followers. We hear St. Paul reiterating the sacred words and proclaiming that there is no Christianity without faith in the Resurrection. We hear the witnesses of the first centuries, the martyrs, clothed in blood-red garments, telling how with their life they bore testimony to the Resurrection of Christ. We hear Athanasius, the Saint of the Divinity, using the fact of the Resurrection against his adversaries; we hear his followers, the defenders of Christianity, smiling in their turn with the unanswerable argument of the Resurrection. From each century a song, and all unite in one grand symphony. The mighty anthem goes up; the song of triumph cleaves the sky: Resurrexit sicut dixit, “He has risen, as he said.”
And if by some miraculous power it were given us to look into the court of heaven; if for a moment, on this day, the eternal gates were lifted, we could hear issuing forth the song of the myriad angels, companions of those who stood within the tomb, the song of heaven’s triumph: Resurrexit sicut dixit, “He has risen, as he said.”
Right, then, is it that the Church on earth should on this day, above all others, rejoice. She sings today the triumph of her Founder. She chants today the glory of the Son of God. Our hearts, our wills, our minds, our souls are with her. The faith which springs up lively within our souls, the fountain of justification; the hope that inspires us in consequence of the great fact we commemorate; the charity towards God and man which is to be found only in the Christian heart; the joy that is the fruit of all these; the joy of sympathy with Jesus Christ the Victor, the Conqueror–all these are summed up in that cry which our beloved Church in her raptures of love repeats again and again: Resurrexit sicut dixit,” He said he would arise, and he has risen.”