My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
A film was recently made by National Geographic, which obtained the rights to film the reconstruction of the Tomb of Jesus Christ. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, built over 1000 years ago, contains the Edicule, as it is called, for the small cupola built over the Sepulchre of Jesus Christ. As it is seen today, we do not see a tomb hone in rock as it is described in the Bible. For the first time in 300 years, however, a careful archeological investigation was conducted to see if, in fact, the tomb underneath the marble slab that now covers it was truly something that dated back to the first century.
Many doubted that this site was indeed that old. To the surprise of many scientists, however, after digging down they found the bedrock which was clearly in place at least from the Year 325 A.D. when the Emperor Constantine sent his mother, St. Helena, to construct churches on the sites important to the life and death of Jesus. The lowest slab they found was marked with a characteristic cross from the earliest days of Christianity. From this investigation, it is archeologically possible to say that the Tomb complex discovered in the time of Constantine, the first Christian Emperor of Rome, was the burial place of Jesus in the First Century.
Scripture tells us that it is not the empty Tomb that proves the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. In fact, listen to the words in Luke’s Gospel, words spoken by an Angel to Mary Magdalene, saying “Why do you seek the living among the dead. He is not here, but He has been raised up.”
Certainly, it is a matter of faith that we believers in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ come to celebrate this Easter. Easter is a day when we reaffirm our faith that Jesus, who is God and man, was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit.
We attest to our faith each time we recite the Creed because we believe in the bodily Resurrection of Jesus, not in some spiritual resurrection, nor in the resuscitation of a dead corpse. It is true that Jesus lived a completely new life after His Resurrection. The post-Resurrection accounts remind us that Jesus was truly alive. He ate with His disciples, even preparing breakfast for them one day. The fact of the matter is, Christ is alive!
Last week, our Holy Father issued a post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation entitled, “Christus Vivat – Christ is Alive.” Pope Francis begins by saying, “Christ is alive! He is our hope, and in a wonderful way he brings youth to our world, and everything he touches becomes young, new, full of life. The very first words, then, that I would like to say to every young Christian are these: Christ is alive and he wants you to be alive!”
These words come from the 2018 Synod on “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.” The fact of the matter is that we are all young in our faith. Our Holy Father reminds us that, indeed, Christ is alive in the world and we must make that testimony to all by our way of life.
Pope Francis goes on to say in a very special way that “Friendship is so important that Jesus calls himself a friend: “I do not call you servants any longer, but I call you friends.” (John 15:15)
Yes, friendship with Jesus Christ is what Pope Francis calls the youth of our world and all of us to cultivate. But you cannot be a friend with a dead person. We can remember them fondly. We can pray for them and with them. But our friendship is not one which is normal and human where we may converse and be with them.
It is different with Jesus Christ, however, because He is alive in the world through the power of the Holy Spirit. We can cultivate His friendship, as we receive the sacraments He left us, especially the Eucharist where the most intimate friendship with Jesus can be had.
In our world today, Easter can be celebrated as the beginning of spring, as a time for Easter bunnies and Easter eggs and chocolate baskets of every kind. Each one of these has some symbolism that derives from the true meaning of Easter. But we must be bold witnesses to Jesus Christ in the world. There is no substitute for our bold proclamation that we believe that Jesus is truly risen from the dead. This fact makes all the difference in the world to us.
The Resurrection becomes for us the promise of our own eventual resurrection from the dead. The meaning of life that continues into eternal life can only be understood as we look to the life and death of Jesus Christ who was the first to lead us on the path to eternal glory. This realization comes not only for us once a year, but this also must be for us our daily remembrance that Christ is risen from the dead and that He is alive.
All believers must put out into the deep mystery of the Resurrected Jesus, who offers to us His friendship, who guides us eventually on the path to eternal life. We have no more secure guarantee that we are destined for eternal glory than when we witness to the life of Jesus who lived once in this world, but whose life continues in a real sense to be lived in the life of every Christian. We say with St. Paul, “I know longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians – 2:20)