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Our Lady of the Rosary - Marian Retreat
The Resurrection of Jesus
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
We are now beginning the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary and the first, Our Lord's Resurrection from the Dead. Seeing how much our Faith depends on Christ's Resurrection, it seems worthwhile subdividing our reflections in this fundamental mystery. Christ's Resurrection, we must say, is not only the First Glorious Mystery of the Rosary; it is the First Mystery of our Faith along with the Savior's Crucifixion on Calvary. Before we get into a more detailed reflection on Easter Sunday it might be to see how the sorrowful mysteries are related to the glorious ones, and more specifically, how Calvary is related to Easter Sunday. Man having sinned and not in the distant past, sinning now and we may be sure continuing to sin until the end of time. The first need and the first meaning of Redemption is redemption from sin. To accomplish that God had to become Man and die on the Cross. But that's only one half. We were not only to be redeemed from sin, we're also to be restored to God's friendship and this Christ did by His Resurrection. Removal from sin achieved on Calvary, restoration to God's grace achieved and begun with Christ's rising from the grave.
Christ's Resurrection Really Took Place
Our plan for this conference is to cover four aspects of this mystery of the Resurrection. First, that Christ's Resurrection really took place. It is a fact of recordable and provable history. Second, the circumstances, the events surrounding Christ's Resurrection and the events that took place between His rising from the dead on Easter Sunday and His Ascension forty days later. Third, the purpose of Christ's Resurrection; why having died, did He rise from the dead? And finally, Christ's Resurrection is the great promise of our own glorious resurrection from the grave.
Christianity is not Mythology
First then the fact of the Resurrection. Christianity is not mythology. What we believe in is not religious fantasies, no matter how pious. After thirty years of teaching the non-Christian religion the one thing I've been most impressed by and I try to insist mainly on my students is the fact that Jesus really, historically, factually, bodily, geographically rose from the dead. In other words when God became Man, He made sure that we would not only believe in what He taught us, but that we would believe that He taught us on earth as Man with a recordable history. That's the real Jesus Christ! Everything in the Gospels bears out the fact of Christ's Resurrection. Even the fact that some of Christ's closest followers were slow to accept what should have been obvious - that having died - there He was really and truly alive again. The foundation of the Apostolic teaching depends on the fact that Christ really rose from the dead, otherwise the credibility of everything which the early Church and until the present day has taught, the credibility would be unacceptable unless Jesus who had preached the most astounding doctrine ever proclaimed by man - making claims on who He was, making demands on His followers that were simply humanly impossible - would be unbelievable. We may then say that there is one fact of history which more than any other of comparable antiquity that is better attested than anything else we know from ancient history: nothing is better attested than Christ's Bodily Resurrection from the dead.
Our Lord First Appeared to His Mother
What were the event surrounding Christ's Resurrection? I would like to and briefly number them as I go along, identify the events that took place from early morning of Easter Sunday until Christ was ready to ascend to His heavenly Father. First, and before everything else, it is the fact that Our Lord first appeared to His Mother. No one surely no one who has made the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius should dare question that Our Lady was the first witness of her Son's Resurrection from the dead. There are saints who attest to the fact, I've got four Doctors of the Church who attest to the fact, St. Ignatius and now we have the present Holy Father. That's enough for me. All right, so Our Lord's Resurrection from the dead is not recorded in the Gospels as having been first revealed to Our Lady. What's the explanation? Says Ignatius; It's obvious, surely, says Ignatius, the one who gave her Son His mortal body must have been the first to have witnessed and embraced that same now glorified Body of her Son. With that as a prelude, now we start counting.
First Witnesses to the Resurrection Were Women
The first event on Easter Sunday is the empty tomb. Early in the morning Mary Magdalen and her companions came to the tomb and found it empty. Second, the women, especially Magdalen, hurried back to tell Peter and John that Jesus had indeed risen. In fact they had seen Him and heard Him speak. The Fathers of the Church make a great deal of the fact that the first ones to have witnessed the Risen Christ were women. Faith pays off. Third event, Peter and John having been duly informed, notice, none of the Apostles went to the tomb - the women did. I watch my language when I'm giving a retreat to men but I can open up all the stoppers speaking to women. Having been duly informed by Mary Magdalen, Peter and John ran no less to the tomb, found it empty. What did the men do? With masculine logic - they walked back! Who stayed on? Well Mary Magdalen. Then when with Peter and John the two Apostles left the empty tomb - Magdalen remained. Jesus appeared to her and in the famous phrase which the Church has coined, Apostola Apostolorum, Mary Magdalen the converted sinner was the one who was commissioned. Now you go back - two of them had been there and walked away, typical, bring them back. Incidentally, only John records that episode. The guards, well, they were not guarding. They go back and tell the Jews that Jesus' Body was gone. What happened? They described bright light. They were terrified and a strange being moved a huge boulder in front of the tomb.
Jesus Institutes the Sacrament of Penance
Then Jesus walked with the disciples on the road to Emmaus and there we believe for the first time celebrated the Holy Eucharist after His Resurrection, except and this is Luke's version, as He said, This is My Body - it is now the Risen Body of Christ, because at the Last Supper it was still the mortal Body of Jesus. Christ then appears on Easter Sunday night to His Apostles in the Upper Room in Jerusalem. Only John records the fact that on that occasion Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Penance. Remember this was some seventy years after the event. In the meantime the other Gospels had been written. The Sacrament of Penance already by the end of the first century came under fire. The Apostles were demanding that those who have sinned confess their sins. Under divine inspiration John made sure that he related what Christ did on Easter Sunday night. Whose sins, He told the Apostles, you forgive, they are forgiven them; whose sins you do not forgive, you do not forgive, they are not forgiven them. Then to make sure on that same occasion that they could have no longer any doubt it was He, Jesus asked for some food. We are sure they ate too. The important thing is that He ate. I'm sure as He was eating they stared.
The Eucharist is the Risen Jesus
A week later Christ appears to the doubting Thomas. Again it's John alone who records the episode. I notice you have a picture of Christ's showing His open side and Thomas on his knees. "My Lord and My God!" If there is one thing I wish to bring out in this very important meditation, it is that the Risen Christ is the Holy Eucharist. Reverse the sentence. The Eucharist is the Risen Jesus. That is why over the centuries the Church has told the faithful to pronounce the words that Thomas said to the Risen Christ, "My Lord and My God."
Jesus Tells His Apostles to Baptize and Evangelize
Then the closing verses of Matthew's Gospel, when Jesus tells His Disciples to baptize and evangelize; "Baptize in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." They heard those words with human ears spoken by glorified human lips. And whom were they to evangelize? Jesus Christ who had died but rose from the dead.
He Left Authority to His Vicar on Earth, Bishop of Rome
But the longest single, sustained verses of narrative about the Risen Christ is once more in St. John. In fact the evidence is clear. He first thought (this is John) that by the time he finished what he called the Twentieth Chapter of the Fourth Gospel, he was finished. But the Holy Spirit told him, John, not quite, there's one more chapter to write. He did and it's in that chapter (again let's keep this in focus) John wrote his Gospel mainly either/or to meet the challenges, the doubts and the denials that had arisen between Christ's death and resurrection and the end of the first century. And if there is one Truth of Our Faith that Christ wanted to make sure that His followers believed, it is that He left on earth the Authority to teach and explain and preserve and interpret and apply to the daily lives of Christians what He came in the world to proclaim, namely His Vicar on earth, Peter among the Apostles and the successors of Peter, the Bishops of Rome. It was the Risen Christ, and again, how Jesus favored proclaiming His deepest message of salvation while eating and those with whom He spoke also nourishing their body. Get the connection - it is intimate between two kinds of feeding; feeding of the body and feeding of the soul. Unless our bodies are constantly fed with material food, the body dies. Unless the soul is constantly fed with spiritual food, it dies. And what is the only food that will nourish the spirit of man? It is the Truth! It is not only not coincidental, it is profoundly providential that Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist, that He taught the humanly impossible command to observe, utterly, utterly selfless charity; that He proclaimed chapter after chapter, at the (hear it) the Last Supper His own perfect identity with the Father and Divine Indwelling of the Holy Trinity. All of these momentous Truths on which our soul must be constantly fed, Christ taught. He revealed them, shall we say, in the context of He and His Disciples eating bodily food. It is impossible to exaggerate the indispensability of revealed Truth to keep the soul alive spiritually and to cement the relationship between nourishment and life for the soul in being fed revealed Truth. Christ made sure that the most foundational Truths He revealed would be revealed in the context of the body being nourished with material food. I hope I'm clear.
Jesus Provided for the Continuation of the Removal of Sin
Then Easter Sunday night again, the momentous Truth of His being the Real, Historical, Physical Bodily Jesus who bled to death on Calvary, that we might believe the Truth that He, the Jesus (which means the Savior), Who came to redeem man from sin, provided for the continuation of that removal of sin. What good would it be for us to read the beautiful story of the paralytic dropped from the roof for the obvious reason to be healed of his paralysis, being told "Your sins are forgiven". We all know the story. The doubting Pharisees, "Doesn't he know that only God can forgive sins?" Of course, of course Christ knew! The only problem was- that He was God! A slight omission in the minds of the Pharisees. But notice what He said, That you might believe that the Son of Man, Man, Man has power on earth, on earth to forgive sins. Then He told the paralytic, Now that your sins are forgiven, get up and walk.
God Communicated His Divine Power to Men
Back to Easter Sunday night. Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Penance or as I keep telling people, the Holy Father prefers being called the Sacrament of Confession. Thanks! That's a stupendous, to put it mildly, Truth that we're called upon to believe, that He, the God who became Man communicated His Divine Power to men. And all about, I know about priests, I know a lot about them. One thing I'm infallibly sure, they're very, pathetically human. To believe that those pathetically human beings have received Divine Power from Jesus- we've got to believe- this is one reason why Jesus Christ rose from the dead to confirm our Faith and that we need to be fed with this Truth of our Faith. And so remember on Easter Sunday night, Christ told the disciples, in effect, let's eat. Again the correlation between the nourishment of the body without which the body dies and the nourishment of the soul on Divine Truth- here the Truth that God became Man to continue remitting sin through human beings until the end of time. Now we're back where we started with this episode.
Jesus Remains on Earth in the Holy Eucharist
The third big Truth that Jesus wants to make sure that His followers believed. No less than He would remain on earth, the Risen Savior in the Holy Eucharist, instituted at the Last Supper, supper, food for the body that providing indispensable food for the mind believing in the Truth of the Real Presence. The institution of the Sacrament of Confession in context of Body being fed, that the mind is being nourished on that Truth.
Our Failures are Part of God's Providence
And finally I would say and most summarily and this time as John describes it in his Twenty-First Chapter - it goes on verse after verse remember? The Apostles fishing all night. Christ made sure they didn't catch a thing. Listen! Our failures are part of God's Providence - that's why we fail, there's a purpose. Pardon the expression, let's not be dumb. They were embarrassed, exhausted and hungry. What does Jesus do? And John, remember, is the one who identifies Who that figure on the shore is, remember? Tells them to drop their net. They might have said, Look, we've been dropping our nets all night, same nets, same water, no fish. But they dropped the net. I keep asking people, how many fish did they catch, who remembers? Who knows exactly? One hundred and fifty-three, did you say one fifty-three? Then they ate, they're bodies were nourished. As a prelude to their minds being fed on the single Truth of Our Catholic Faith that has been more challenged, more questioned, more opposed and in the world today, is the single Truth that is rocking the Church of God to Her Foundations. What's the Truth? That there is one man on earth who is invested by the living, glorified Christ with the power to teach the whole human race to command and govern, and that everyone including episcopal conferences, are obliged to bow and obey. Twenty-one years in working for the Holy See has taught me, O how much, most of which I don't even talk about, let alone publish. But the one thing I can tell you, this is the Truth of Our Faith which is most challenged in the world today. Is it any wonder then that the Risen Jesus, first making sure that the Apostles were comfortably seated after having eaten a hearty meal - not only did Jesus prepare the cooking; He provided the food! Then He called Peter aside and told him, "Feed my lambs." All of this is locked up in the history of those forty days while the Risen Jesus walked, talked and, we've got to keep adding, ate to prove that it was He and not some specter or ghost.
Christ Rose to Make Our Faith Credible
What was the purpose of Christ's Resurrection from the Dead? In a sense, you've already seen implicitly why Jesus rose from the dead, but I would like to identify especially three reasons. Christ rose from the dead working the astounding miracle from raising Himself from the grave in order to make Our Faith credible, rational and rationally believable. All through His public ministry, Christ combined (this is the regular logic you might say of Jesus on earth) - He would either preach first, then work a miracle or work a miracle and then preach. In teaching what we call Fundamental Theology to my Jesuit students and I told them, get this straight, what we're called upon to believe are mysteries and a strict mystery is something which until it is revealed is rationally inconceivable by the human mind. O we can conceive all kinds of crazy things, but no mystery could be rationally conceived even as being even possible until it's revealed. And then after it's revealed (and how this needs to be said today) a mystery of our Faith is incomprehensible - notice and we keep repeating, it is not unintelligible, but it is not fully intelligible. In other words, it remains incomprehensible! Given that fact of what a mystery is that we're told to believe. Believe what? Believe that God became Man, that the Infinite Almighty God became a speechless Child at Bethlehem. You want me to believe that? Yes! That the Son of God become Man is present on earth, alive, the same One before whom Thomas knelt and pronounced, "My Lord and My God" is here on earth.
We Better Have Some Grounds for Our Faith
Sometimes when I speak, I've got to remind myself, "Where am I? I'm in Jemez Springs, New Mexico. Jesus Christ, the living, glorified Christ is in Jemez Springs. Are you telling me to believe that? You'd better believe it! Go down the list of truths we are to believe and what is more difficult, the list of Truths we are to obey. Like what? Like one of my Jewish students at the State University where I taught, after one of my classes, Doctor Hardon (that was my alias) I must have misunderstood you. You mean when I, I see a beautiful woman that I shouldnt think of, well, having sex relations with her? Not even think about it? Yes! But that's impossible! Said, look, come to my office. For the next two years (he didn't become a Christian before graduation) but I made sure that he practiced, according to his likes, the virtue of chastity. We repeat the question. You want me to believe that? Yes, my friends. Christ having revealed humanly incomprehensible Truths, having commanded humanly impossible precepts to observe, if we're going to believe as rational human beings we better have some grounds, solid, flat rock on which our Faith is based. There are rocks - those are the miracles that Christ worked. There's a rock and that is His Resurrection.
Faith in His Divinity
We're asking the question of why? And we're saying Christ wanted to give us the strongest possible grounds for the rationality of our Faith. Faith in what? Faith in His Divinity - that the Man who told us what to believe and especially what to obey was a Man indeed, but that Man was God who raised Himself by His own Divine Power from the grave.
We Were Redeemed
We're asking why did Jesus rise from the dead. To deliver us from sin, from the power of the Devil and from that eternal death which we as sinners were destined to experience. Suppose Christ had, shall I say, merely died on Good Friday and had not risen on Easter Sunday. We could still believe that we were redeemed, but then we would not have (and I'll go back to what we've been saying) the grounds, the solid proof that by His death on the Cross, He did indeed conquer sin and the powers of darkness and that eternal death that we had deserved for our sins.
God Became Man to Remain Man for All Eternity
Finally and briefly, why did Jesus rise from the dead? To thus complete the purpose of God's becoming Man. God did not become Man just to suffer and die and thus redeem us. God did not become Man just to leave us the cherished memory of His thirty some years in our midst. God became Man in order to remain Man for all eternity. Memorize that! Christ, then, having been conceived in Mary's womb, having been born, having lived, having suffered, died and being buried-God not only became Man (past tense), God now is Man, meaning that God became Incarnate as Jesus Christ who died as all of us must die, but He rose glorious from the grave that He might remain, for the endless reaches of eternity, the God-Man, the Heaven to which we are all looking forward. That Heaven is indeed is the abode of God but is also the home of Jesus Christ, God made Man.
The First Glorious Mystery is a Promise
One final reflection. Christ's Resurrection from the dead and therefore the First Glorious Mystery of the Rosary is a promise. Jesus suffered and died. We must suffer and die. I'm afraid most people will have no trouble admitting they must die. They're not so ready to admit they must suffer. If you wonder why we come back to this theme, O Father you might object - Look let's remind you, we are now on the glorious mysteries. We finished the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary. All right, all right, I know but I come back to reminding you.
We Must Suffer as Christ Suffered
We begin, Christ suffered and died. We too, must suffer and die. But watch it! Christ rose from the dead. Glorious, we too (now we've got that famous triad) He suffered; we must suffer. He died; we must die. He rose from the dead and we change the verb - we hope to rise glorious from the grave. Ah, but the third part of that triad is conditioned on the first. We must suffer as Christ suffered. How is that? Willingly! Resignedly! Patiently! But we need a motive - Lovingly. And then the guarantee if Christ's promise, that like Him we too will rise glorious from the grave is provided we like Him had suffered and I repeat the adverbs - willingly, patiently, resignedly and lovingly. He suffered out of love for us. And we in this life are to suffer lovingly out of love for Him. Consequently, the promise is infallibly sure to be fulfilled. Christ had His conception, we had ours. Christ had His day of death, we will have ours. Christ had His day of Resurrection from the dead, so will we! All we need to do and we must do it - we must first believe.
Protect Your Minds Against Error
And I'm speaking the right time of history and in the right country. We are the most educated nation in human history. Millions of words are published in our country everyday. Protect your minds against error. Shield them. Guard them. Do not allow untruth to enter your mind and if it does, in spite of yourselves, be able immediately to recognize the difference between truth and error. And out with the error! And you're not stultifying your mind by rejecting the libraries of error; sadly so much being published, may God forgive them, under nominally Catholic names. We must believe like children, though our minds may be those of a genius, but we believe with the faith of a child. If this promise of our resurrection is to be fulfilled, we must use the means Christ gave us to remain faithful to Him in this valley of tears. And that means especially using His Sacraments and among them most especially, the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
All We Have to Do Is Trust Him
Finally, if we are to rise glorious from the grave we must trust that the Jesus who died on the Cross for our salvation there remain true to His word, all we have to do is trust Him.
Lord Jesus, we believe you are our God who became Man to save us from sin and everlasting death. Strengthen our Faith in Your Divinity. Deepen our Faith in Your Real Presence so that receiving You, Our Risen Jesus in Holy Communion everyday and adoring You in the Real Presence, Our Risen Savior everyday, we might with the help of Your grace rise as You Rose from the dead never to die again. Amen. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Copyright © 1998 by Inter Mirifica
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