The Lord is Risen! Alleluia! Let us give thanks and praise him! Alleluia!
Today, Christians throughout the world announce, sing, and shout that the Lord Jesus has risen from the dead. It is the mystery at the heart of the Christian faith, the hinge upon which all other beliefs depend. And yet, is it?
Is the hope and joy of the Lord’s Resurrection the foundation of Christian discipleship today? Or have we lost something along the way?
The early Christians sang as they were about to be eaten by lions. They selflessly sought out and served the most marginalized and forgotten. They forgave their persecutors, and didn’t use the sins of others to justify their own sins. The early followers of Christ held to their beliefs, but never weaponized them. They sought to overcome differences and dissension with kindness and greater acts of selfless service. All of these actions – this entire way of life – flowed from the utter confidence that the Lord Jesus had risen from the dead.
The Resurrection of the Lord Jesus gave Christian believers a broader perspective, an infinite horizon. Sufferings could be endured, mercy could be generous, service could be offered with no thought of themselves, and kindness could rule because they never had the last word. The state of affairs of this world were not the final story. Everything pointed to a share in the Lord’s Resurrection. Everything was oriented to being with Jesus in eternity.
The fruits of the tree said it all: the early Christians truly believed in everlasting life. They staked their life, health, and well-being on it. They were truly “an Easter people and Alleluia was their song.”
The proclamation of the Lord’s Resurrection has been passed down through the ages, accompanied by the Christian way of life. The two are inseparable. The Resurrection gives meaning to the way of life, while the way of life embodies and gives credibility to the Resurrection.
And so, we find ourselves in our world today. What are the fruits of the tree telling us?
As unbelievers make a sidewalk observation of the disciples of the Lord in our world today, what do they see? Are we living up to the inheritance passed on to us?
The Christian way of life has never been easy. It has always relied on a sure conviction of the Lord’s Resurrection. It depends on an eternal perspective. If such belief wanes, then so does the radicality of the Christian witness. As spiritual wisdom teaches us, we struggle with faith when heaven has been forgotten.
Pope Francis has regularly observed and bemoaned the loss of a true Christian identity within the Church. He has recognized that there are some who are “Christians in name only, without witness, who do not bear the witness of Christians,” and continues, “they are Christians in name, showroom Christians, reception Christians, but their inner life is not Christian, it’s worldly.”
There is work to be done. The witness of the Lord’s followers is in need of renewed vigor and zeal.
While secularism knows no bounds, and the loss of a robust Christian witness has come about by many causes, there is none more damaging or destructive than a denial, explicit or implicit, of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The entire Christian way of life rises or falls on the Resurrection.
Saint Paul teaches us: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
And so, what are we to do?
As the Church festively celebrates the Resurrection of her Lord, an invitation is given to every believer. An interior summons is offered to all the baptized. A call is made. The Risen Christ, Wounded Savior, beckons his followers to come to him, to see his scars, to know his victory, and to recommit themselves to him and his way of life.
It will be the response, or lack thereof, to such a glorious call of the Risen Christ that will be the cause of either a new explosion of Christian witness or its regrettable, and continual, decline.
Follow Father Jeffrey Kirby on Twitter: @fatherkirby