To we Christians living after the resurrection of Jesus, it is easy to pass over the disorienting but definitive event that took place on Easter morn. In the Gospel of John, we see Peter and the beloved disciple run to the grave after Mary Magdalene first encounters the empty tomb. Peter does not know what to make of the scene, but the beloved disciple sees and believes. Nonetheless, they “did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead” (Jn 20:9).
On this first Easter, the disciples did not have years of poetry acclaiming the Resurrection. They knew that the world, including themselves, had rejected Jesus upon the cross. They knew that to die upon the cross, accursed by all, did not seem to resonate with Jesus’ identity as the beloved Son of God. Perhaps, they imagined Jesus’ death not as a source of salvation but evidence of God’s final rejection, leaving them alone in a cold world.
Yet, throughout the Easter season, their encounters with the risen Lord form the disciples to recognize what took place in the death and resurrection of the beloved Son. The anointed one, who died upon the cross accursed by humanity, was “raised on the third day” (Acts 10:40). The once dead but now resurrected Son has become the judge of the living and the dead. The body marked by the violence of the world has become the source of all power. “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (Ps 118:22).
The season of Easter is a time for us to encounter the risen Lord again, to move to a recognition that God’s love made manifest in the resurrected Son is the meaning of the world. The battle of sin and death that took place in Christ’s passion has come to an end. With the hymn “Victimae Paschali Laudes,” we sing: “Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining. Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning.”
Of course, the problem is that we don’t always feel like we’re dwelling in some new world where God’s life reigns. We continue to experience the bitterness of sickness and death. We know the sorrow of love lost, of friendship broken. We look at the present world and see violence reigning supreme. We see it all, and how can we not ask ourselves the very same question our beloved Jesus asked upon the cross: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Ps 22:2a).
Yet, perhaps Easter gives us some small answer to our question: “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory” (Col 3:3-4). Baptized into Christ Jesus, our very humanity is now conformed to the beloved Son’s. We are dead with him: dead to sin and dead to death. But the wounds of love inevitable to human life are still being transformed into his glorious body.
The Resurrection is not the end of sorrow, of suffering, of broken promises among a still sinful humanity. The Resurrection is the promise that all wounds of love will one day manifest the glory of God. It is not the darkness, the sorrow, the bitterness of pain that will define our lives. Rather, it is God’s love that conquered in the resurrection of the Son. A love whose glory we’re still learning to see: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad” (Ps 118:24).
Timothy P. O’Malley is the director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy.