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The Resurrection: ultimate meaning of our existence
At the heart of the Resurrection feast Christ is in our midst: he walks with us in this vale of tears he intervenes in our lives and he awaits us now with his eternal embrace. This is the mystery of Faith.
Christ's resurrection promises us that like him we are destined to rise in the flesh. In the Letter to the Romans St Paul says: "By our baptism, then, we were buried with him and shared his death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the death, by the glorious power of the Father, so also we might live a new life" (Romans: 6:3-4).
The new light of the Easter Candle is symbolic of the life that can never be extinguished. This is why the symbolism of the lighted candles used in the lit-urgy and the sacraments of the Church represent the light of Christ which guides us through the dark and often twisted paths of this world.
Every liturgical action, especially the celebration of the Eucharist and the sacraments, is an encounter with Christ our light. The Holy Spirit is sent to us in every liturgical action to bring us into communion with Christ the light of the world ( Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1097, 1108).
Because of the resurrection of Christ, peace and joy are secured for everyone who believes.
In the Catechism it is explained to us that Christ completed the task of redeeming humanity through the paschal mystery which consists of his blessed passion, resurrection and ascension.
The liturgy celebrates the paschal mystery through which Christ our Light saves us (1067). In the 'today' of its liturgy the Church re-lives the great events of salvation. The liturgy not only recalls the events that saved us but also makes them present and real today (1095, 1104).
Since Jesus lives, he provides. His parables about the lilies of the field or the birds of the air are not merely optimistic poetry for they express the reality that the Lord who lives provides for those who follow him. In the Gospel of St Luke, we are told he has put off death as easily as he discarded the wrappings in which he was buried. St Luke writes: "But Peter got up and ran to the tomb. He bent down and saw the linen wrapp-ings but nothing else. Then he went back home amazed at what had happened" (Luke 24:12).
The ceremonies of the Easter Vigil remind us that our participa-tion in the mystery of dying and ris-ing in Christ begins with our baptism. In the epistle to the Colossians, St Paul states that in baptism we were buried and raised to life with Christ because we believe in the power of God who raised him from the dead (Col. 2:12). The Sacrament of Baptism begins an ongoing lifetime process, a pilgrimage, where we affirm our faith in the Paschal mystery.
In the Easter Masses we renew our Baptismal vows. Temporal life, we believe, is a continuous conver-sion to God. The moment we are mature enough to reflect on the new birth we experience in Baptism, we begin to realise that life for us as pilgrims consists in dying to self and rising to new life in Christ. Physical death means for us the close of the earthly pilgrimage and the opening of a new and eternal birthday with and in Christ's resurrection forever.
Easter tells us that this earthly life, while ending in physical death, is a pilgrimage towards the real and eternal life in the Lord. In the words of the Angel, "you are looking for Jesus the crucified, but he is not here. He has been raised, exactly as He promised ... He has been raised from the dead and now goes ahead of you to Galilee, where you will see him" (Matt. 28:5-7).
Pope Benedict XVI, in his Lenten message for 2011, states: "In the story of the resurrection of Lazarus it is proclaimed that we are faced with the ultimate mystery of our existence: 'I am the resurrection and the life ... Do you believe this?'" (Jn. 11:25-26).
For the Christian community, it is the moment to place with sincerity - together with Martha - all of our hopes in Jesus of Nazareth: "Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world" (Jn. 11:27). Communion with Christ in this life prepares us to overcome the barrier of death, so that we may live eternally with him.
Faith in the resurrection of the dead and hope in eternal life open our eyes to the ultimate meaning of our existence: God created us for resurrection and life, and this truth gives an authentic and defin-itive meaning to human history, to the personal and social lives of men and women, to culture, politics and the economy. Without the light of faith, the entire universe finishes shut within a tomb devoid of any future, any hope.
Fr Dennis W Byrnes is a priest of the Lismore Diocese and is located in Port Macquarie, NSW.
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 24 No 4 (May 2011), p. 20
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