Only after the resurrection of Jesus can his life, preaching, suffering, crucifixion, and death be finally understood. Faith does not leave him dead and buried, but relates to him as the Risen One, “the resurrection and the life” (Jn 11:25). To read the Gospels, to meditate on his words and deeds as he proclaimed the Reign of God, is to encounter Christ as a living presence, the source and form of life to the full.
In the Light of the Resurrection…
In the radiance of the resurrection, everything that Jesus said and did is interpreted in a new light. Unless he rose from the dead, the Gospels would be merely vaguely historical records of one more good man finally destroyed by the powers of evil and violence that he had opposed. Unless he rose, there would be no New Testament, no Church, no Eucharist, no meaning in the Beatitudes and the parables he taught—and no Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer.
To downplay the resurrection would mean preaching a defeat rather than the transforming power of God’s love triumphing over evil, death, and violence. Unless he rose, that day of his terrible death would never have been known as “Good Friday”, just as the long Sabbath of grief and failure would never have been called “Holy Saturday”.
For St Paul himself (writing about 54 AD to the Corinthians), and for missionaries of every age, it is a continuing challenge to keep the significance of the resurrection of Christ clearly in view. It was “of first importance” (1 Cor 15:3) in the Gospel that Paul proclaimed. A world-transforming event has occurred. Paul witnesses to it out of the transformation he himself experienced in his encounter with the risen Christ. He is acutely aware of what is at stake (1 Cor 15:12-19).
To deny the resurrection of the crucified Jesus would undermine faith itself, and leave us without hope of forgiveness, and with no hope for the dead. It would be to misrepresent God, and leave us all in pitiable state of illusion or despair.
Christ is the one who, above all, is made in God’s image
Hence, Paul stresses the historic significance of Christ’s resurrection. It is an event that has already taken place and changed forever the meaning of life. A new age has begun, and the reign of sin and death has been terminated. In raising the Crucified from the dead, God is revealed as the creator and giver of life, leading creation to its fulfilment in Christ. In him, God’s design for humanity is already realized. Christ is the one who, above all, is made in God’s image, for in him the final destiny of all creation is anticipated (cf. Gen 1:26-28; 3:17-19; also Ps 8 and 110). There is no room for doubt: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died” (1 Cor 15:20). His victory over death and evil looks forward to the point at which “God will be all in all” (v. 28).
The Reality of the Resurrection
The Resurrection of Christ is a real event. What has taken place makes all the difference in our understanding of God and the power of God’s love to transform the world. The inexhaustible creativity of love has not been defeated by the forces of evil. God has not answered evil for evil, but has revealed himself as an ever greater love by raising his Son from the dead. The empty tomb points to a reality that escapes all worldly calculation and control.
The Resurrection of Christ transforms Christian consciousness. It brings a new sense of identity to those who accept it in faith: “So if anyone is in Christ there is a new creation: everything old had passed away; see everything has been made new!” (2 Cor 5:17). We are now members of his body, temples of his Spirit, and share in his relationship to the Father.
Faith in the risen Christ inspires solidarity with the poor
His resurrection brings a new community into existence. In the light of the Resurrection, the Church, in its mission to the world, is the sign and witness of Christ’s victory over death and evil. In the power of the resurrection, Christians are energized to act against all forms of despair, oppression and inhumanity. The inexhaustible power of God has already been displayed in raising Christ from the dead: “Nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:39). Faith in the risen Christ inspires solidarity with the poor and down-trodden, for God has acted, and will continue to act, to lead all to the fullness of life.
In the Hope of the Resurrection
Drawing on the energy of the resurrection, all the pastoral activity of the Church is a ministry of hope. The risen Christ first appeared to his early disciples as sending them on a mission to the whole world (Mat 28:16-18; Jn 20:21). Rising from the tomb, he is no longer contained in any one place or time, but is now present to all time and space, and to all nations and cultures. The resurrection is then the heart of all evangelization. As the bearer of this Good News, the Church stands with the poor and the hopeless, and engages in dialogue with all who seek the truth that will set us free.