Alleluia! Alleluia! Lent has come to an end and we have arrived, at last, on the holiest and most joyful holiday in our Catholic Church – Easter!
What is the significance of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ to us in the here and now? When Adam and Eve were created, God did not intend suffering and death for them, or the generations of humanity that were to follow. It was the original sin of disobedience that brought about the consequences of sin, suffering, and death that we experience in our own lives today. Jesus’ resurrection is a physical sign to us that He came to conquer the death that was brought about by sin. He rose to life so that we might experience new life in Him. Mary is the new Eve – while Eve disobeyed God, Mary obeyed to bring about the one who would undo the damage. Similarly, Jesus is the new Adam – the one to restore life.
We have a prayer given to us by St. Augustine (354-430) called the “O, Felix Culpa.” This short prayer says: “O, Happy Fault that merited such and so great a Redeemer!” In its essence, this prayer expresses thanksgiving for the sin of Adam and Eve because it brought about the gift of our Redeemer, Jesus, who brought with Him access to more graces for ourselves than would have ever been possible otherwise. St. Augustine was a student of St. Ambrose (c. 340-397) who was a big proponent of this concept and wrote quite a bit about it:
“The Lord knew that Adam would fall and then be redeemed by Christ. Happy ruin, that has such a beautiful reparation!” (Commentary on Psalm 39, 20)
“We who have sinned more have gained more, because your grace makes us more blessed than our absence of fault does.” (Commentary on Psalm 37, 47)
“My fault has become for me the price of redemption, through which Christ came to me. For me Christ tasted death. Transgression is more profitable than innocence. Innocence had made me arrogant, transgression made me humble.” (De Iacob et vita beata, I, 21)
“Evil in fact has a utility within itself and evil has even insinuated itself into the saints by the providential will of the Lord.” (Apologia David, 7)
In His divinity, Jesus was without sin, of course. However, in His humanity, He certainly suffered from the effects of sin. Time and time again, throughout the gospels, He calls out sin and evil for what it is and implores people to repent and change their ways. He was even driven to action when he flipped the tables of the money-changers in the temple out of righteous anger (Matthew 21:12). And then, of course, as we just went through Lent, we have reflected on how the sins of others intensely affected Jesus and Mary in the most painful of ways through His Passion and Crucifixion. Yet, despite all of that suffering due to all of that sin, He still rose from the dead to life, so that all who have hurt Him and continue to hurt Him (which is all of us) can also have new and eternal life in Him. What a tremendous gift of love and hope!
Aside from our own sins, we sometimes suffer innocently, like Jesus, from the effects of the sins of others. Throughout our entire lives we may be the victims of things like betrayal, lies, gossip, slander, or false accusations. Like Jesus, we may have friends like Judas, or Peter, or the other Apostles, who will betray, deny, or abandon us in our time of need. However, in these painful moments of suffering at the hands of others, we must still remember that the gift of the resurrection is for them as much as it is for us.
Going back to the previously mentioned concept of the greatest evil (sin) bringing about the greatest good (Jesus), we can reflect on how the effects of sin in our own lives have very often brought about some of the greatest blessings. God can always bring about good and produce beautiful fruit from the hole that was produced by sin. Has something that has hurt you caused you to draw closer to your Lord for consolation? Have you recognized a habitual sin in your life, asked the Lord to take it away, and found that He has? Think about saints like St. Augustine. He was a terrible sinner and caused his mother so much grief, yet he still experienced a miraculous conversion that enabled him to become a great theologian, making a profound impact on our understanding of Jesus even today. Yes, the resurrection was intended to save every single sinner from an eternal death. Pray for those who do not rest in that truth and hope that they, too, may come to see the gift of the resurrection for themselves.
The other gift in Jesus’ resurrection is the example of what awaits our own bodies. The Church teaches that at the end of time, after the final judgement, our own bodies will be restored to our souls and we will live eternally with our body and soul united as Jesus’ and Mary’s are now in heaven (CCC #997-1001). Just as Jesus’ body and wounds were glorified at His resurrection, we can look forward to the time when our own bodies will be raised back to life, glorified, and made perfect to enjoy all the amazing things heaven has to offer us for eternity. However, the Catechism does also offer a warning about the resurrection of the body: “Who will rise? All the dead will rise, ‘those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment’” (CCC #998). What this tells us is that even those souls who have chosen Hell for themselves by virtue of the way they have chosen to live their lives, will also have their bodies and souls united eternally in Hell. So, the spiritual suffering they experience now, will later be joined by eternal bodily suffering at the end of time. I can’t think of anything more motivating to follow Jesus and stay on the path of growing in holiness than that very truth. I think we can all agree that we would prefer a glorified and perfect body in heaven, rather than a tortured and suffering body in hell.
So, Jesus’ resurrection offers us so much hope. We receive hope in the good that can be brought about in spite of sin because God is good. And we receive hope in the reality of our own bodily resurrection, which will come when God wills it, because He is good. Thank you, Jesus, for this beautiful gift! May we never lose sight of the hope it offers us every day.