The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead changed everything.
We see it clearly in His disciples. After the trauma of seeing Jesus brutally tortured and killed, they feared for their own lives. They had left everything to follow Him, and now they were unsure what to do. They felt abandoned, disappointed and scared.
Then the women discover that His tomb is empty. What could have happened? Could it be true that He was raised from the dead as He said He would be? The doubt, the fear and the disappointment melt away at first with their confusion over just what happened and then when He appears to them. The Risen Jesus revealed to them that all He had suffered was part of God’s plan to conquer death and bring salvation to the world.
Everything changed also for the Roman authorities and religious leaders in Jerusalem. They had hoped that by putting Jesus to death, the people’s hopes for liberation would be crushed and His disciples would be scattered. However, it turned out that nothing could be farther from the truth. With Jesus’ resurrection, even more people were converted to the gospel message and were baptized. Belief in Jesus spread throughout the Roman empire. And with time, even the Emperor would profess faith in the gospel and establish Christianity throughout the empire. The resurrection of Jesus Christ changed everything not only for His disciples but it changed the course of world history.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ has changed everything for us as well who gather here today some two thousand years later with candles, incense, songs and stories to celebrate His victory over the grave. With a lively faith, we join in the song of joy because the cross was not the last chapter of the Jesus story. Though we have not seen Him, we profess our faith that He is truly risen and still alive among us. We proclaim that He is in our midst even now.
As Christian believers, the resurrection is not just a story about a past event. It is a reality that is still present to us. It is not just a story about something that happened to somebody else. It is a story that we are involved in. It is a force which is at work with the potential of changing our hearts, bringing people together and transforming society through faith and hope.
It is at work among us when we experience the forgiveness of our sins through the Sacrament of Confession. It is present to us when we find the courage within ourselves to stand up for the truth or to defend the weak. We experience Jesus alive among us when we face the hardships of life with patience knowing that God can make good come from any circumstances no matter how desperate. It is at work when enemies become friends, when the hardest heart learns compassion and when peace takes root where there had been conflict. All this is made possible by the continuing presence of our Risen Lord within us and within our world. It changes everything.
We gather here today not only because we believe it but because we want to share it with others. Just as at the beginning of our liturgy today, the darkened church was flooded with light when each of us lit his or her candle from the fire of the Easter candle, so we must bring that light out from this place into a world that is still ruled by darkness, sin and death. We must bring it to the young person who sees no purpose in her life. We must bring it to the addict who yearns for freedom from the slavery of addiction. We must bring it to the intellectuals who are so full of pride because of their learning that they cannot acknowledge the God who is the source of all truth. We must bring it to the sick and suffering so that they can know that they are not alone and so that they can unite their suffering to Jesus on the cross and know its transforming power. It is now up to us, as it was up to the women who found the empty tomb and the apostles who witnessed the Risen Lord, to go out into the world and proclaim that He is alive!