We have been celebrating the resurrection of Christ every Sunday for 2,000 years. Easter Sunday Mass attracts one of the largest crowds of the Church year but do we really appreciate what we are celebrating? Do we know what it all means?
That first Resurrection Sunday was filled with confusion. Even though Jesus predicted it and told His apostles what He would accomplish, there are Peter and John looking into the empty tomb and wondering what it all means. Mary thinks someone has moved or stolen the body. The disciples on the road to Emmaus are walking away from Jerusalem deflated, thinking, “We thought He was the one.” When He appears in the upper room or on the water the apostles think they are seeing a ghost. Jesus had raised others from death but, unlike those resuscitations, this is different. His body is changed; it is glorified. Everyone is confused and a bit dazed.
No one had ever risen from the dead before. Jesus had cured many and brought some back to life but no one had ever raised himself from the dead. Death was final. Except for the resurrection of all the dead at the end of time, the Jews had nothing for which to hope. This is why Saul was so vehement in his persecution of the early Church. Peter and the others were preaching blasphemy. For one person to rise from the dead defied and contradicted their teachings. This cannot be and this teaching must be snuffed out!… or, in the case of St. Stephen – “Behold, I see the Son of man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56) – buried under a pile of stones.
For forty days after His resurrection, Jesus would appear to the apostles and others. These forty days are loaded with explanations and expositions of teachings He had made before His death. We, like His first followers, need to listen intently to Him over the next six weeks as He, little by little, explains to us… what it all means.