Easter's eternal surprise Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Apr. 02, 2015 -- 12:00 AM

In February 1991, during Operation Desert Storm, Ruth Dillow received the sad news from the Pentagon that her son Clayton had stepped on a mine in Kuwait and was killed.

Ruth said that the grief and shock she felt was almost unbearable. For three days she wept constantly. For three days family and friends tried to comfort her, but they could not. Her grief was too great! She felt some of the grief that Mary surely experienced when her son, Jesus, was crucified.

Surprising news

After the third day, the telephone rang. "It's just another stranger trying to comfort me," she thought. Reluctantly, she picked up the phone. The voice on the phone shouted joyfully, "Mom, it's me. I'm still alive! It's me!"

Ruth exclaimed, “I couldn't believe it at first. But gradually I recognized Clayton's voice. The earlier news of his death was a mistake." She laughed. She cried. She felt like doing cartwheels because Clayton was alive.

When Christ was crucified on Good Friday, the apostles' hopes and dreams were crucified with him.

The shock of Jesus' crucifixion was so great that Peter, the leader of the apostles, denied that he knew Christ. He and the apostles ran away and hid because they feared they might be crucified next; but then came the surprise of Easter.

In John 20: 1-2 Mary Magdalene went to the tomb on Easter morning. It was still dark, which reflected a "Good Friday world" without resurrection and hope. Mary Magdalene was the first to discover that the stone had been rolled away and the tomb was empty. She was also the first to tell others about the empty tomb.

Later the burial wrappings on the ground and the piece of cloth that had covered his head, not lying with the wrappings but rolled up in a separate place, were discovered.

Another surprise was the appearance of the Risen Lord to the apostles and other followers. According to First Corinthians 15:6, Jesus appeared to more than 500 followers at one time.

Apostles' transformation

Spiritual writers believe that another convincing sign of Jesus' resurrection is the apostles' transformation.

After they experienced the Risen Lord and received the Holy Spirit, they were changed from frightened and confused followers, who on Good Friday denied Jesus and hid, into his courageous witnesses. Every Apostle except John, who cared for Mary, died for the faith.

In the almost 2,000 years since then, the Holy Spirit has transformed many others and helped them live and die for the faith. In Romans 8:11 it says, "If the spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you."

In no. 1002 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church it says, "Christ will raise us up on the last day, but it is also true, that in a certain way, we have already risen with Christ. For by virtue of the Holy Spirit, Christian life is already a participation in the death and resurrection of Christ."

Hope flows from our faith

Pope Benedict XVI once said that the crisis of faith is really a crisis of spiritual hope. Most of us have certain earthly hopes such as financial security, health, a happy vocation, a better world for our children; but we also need to embrace the ultimate hope that gives meaning and purpose to everything we do.

This hope flows from our faith in the Risen Jesus who promises us the gift of heaven when we live our Baptism promises, which we renew at Easter!

A father revealed that the loss of his young son in a tragic accident gave Easter new meaning. He explained, "Before the accident, I always thought that Easter was a nice day with bunny rabbits and Easter eggs, but when someone precious like my son died, Easter became everything: an anchor in a fierce storm, a rock on which to stand, a hope that raised me above despair and kept me going."

During a Catholic funeral Mass, we express our hope that the person whose funeral we celebrate will rise with a new glorified body. Because of the resurrection, we believe that for believers, life is not a dead end with no exit, but the door to eternal life.

Theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg said, "The evidence for Jesus' resurrection is so strong that nobody would question it except for two things: First, it is a very unusual event. Second, if you believe it happened, you have to change the way you live!" This takes graced daily effort, but the benefits are heavenly!

In First Corinthians 2:9 it says, "Eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love him."

This passage reveals that heaven will be Easter's eternal surprise because seeing God face to face will fill us with a joy that is beyond our present finite comprehension.

Fr. Donald Lange is a pastor emeritus in the Diocese of Madison.