A reading from the First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, chapter 15; 12 Now if Christ be preached, that he arose again from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen again. 14 And if Christ be not risen again, then is our preaching vain: and your faith is also vain. 15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God: because we have given testimony against God, that he hath raised up Christ, whom he hath not raised up, if the dead rise not again. 16 For if the dead rise not again, neither is Christ risen again. 17 And if Christ be not risen again, your faith is vain: for you are yet in your sins. 18 Then they also that are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. 20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, the firstfruits of them that sleep: 21 For by a man came death: and by a man the resurrection of the dead. 22 And as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But every one in his own order: the firstfruits, Christ: then they that are of Christ, who have believed in his coming. 24 Afterwards the end: when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God and the Father: when he shall have brought to nought all principality and power and virtue. 25 For he must reign, until he hath put all his enemies under his feet. 26 And the enemy, death, shall be destroyed last: For he hath put all things under his feet. (Douay-Rheims Bible)
A Reading from the Holy Gospel According to St. Matthew, chapter 28: 1 And in the end of the sabbath, when it began to dawn towards the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalen and the other Mary, to see the sepulchre. 2 And behold there was a great earthquake. For an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and coming rolled back the stone and sat upon it. 3 And his countenance was as lightning and his raiment as snow. 4 And for fear of him, the guards were struck with terror and became as dead men. 5 And the angel answering, said to the women: Fear not you: for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here. For he is risen, as he said. Come, and see the place where the Lord was laid. 7 And going quickly, tell ye his disciples that he is risen. And behold he will go before you into Galilee. There you shall see him. Lo, I have foretold it to you. 8 And they went out quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy, running to tell his disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them, saying: All hail. But they came up and took hold of his feet and adored him. (Douay-Rheims Bible)
How often have we heard about “The sweet by and by?” How often have we heard the expression, “When I get to heaven, I want to…”? We, in America, so often find ourselves saying things like these. We participate in Pew Research polls about our religious life and they tell us that we have fallen into a trap that a Sunday School teacher I admired around 21 years ago warned me about. He said, “Never get so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good.”
That’s a powerful statement. We are so sure, as Christians, that we have all the answers, that we have a sure thing and … And what? For some of us it is a ticket to escapism. We separate from the world and retreat into the promises of the world to come. For others, we have to rescue this present world from the evil forces of [insert: Satan, Hell, Liberals, Conservatives, Communists, Fascists and racists, or your favorite present-day evil]. This political season has seen the most vicious politicking in a long time. Many think this is the least humane election season since Andrew Jackson was elected in the early Nineteenth Century. There are Christians from all over the political map who are sparring with one another over issues of public morality, social justice, and a pantheon of other sacred cows.
So what does any of this have to do with Easter and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ? I would say this: Jesus Christ is the very God we claim, come in the flesh of humanity. He is the Lord “through Whom all things were made,” according to the Nicene Creed. The Resurrection is not about rescuing us from this world, it is about restoring this world and our place in it. Look at who Jesus had following Him: sailors, insurgents, tax-farmers, prostitutes, widows, lepers, and, on occasion wealthy folks. The so-called 1% and the so-called 99%. Rulers, workers, and the dregs of society. Young and old. He came and told us what we should do: “As I have loved you, love one another.” He lived out the ultimate example of what that means. Then he said, “No greater love hath any man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Then He did just that. But it was not just to save us from our sins, though it was most assuredly that. It was the sign, the seal, that proved He was Who He said He was and that His word was true.
If Jesus is not risen, St. Paul tells us, then we really are the most wretched of all folks. If, on the other hand, He really is Risen, we are the most blessed of all people. And if He really is risen, then we have an obligation one to another to serve our fellow man as He served us. And we have an obligation to share this Good News with our fellow man. We have to make the blessings we have thus gained available to every human. And we have an obligation to show that there really is truth to the old song, “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love. And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”