It is always appropriate to celebrate life, but more so today, Easter Sunday, when we celebrate Life himself. Jesus said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” He “came so that we might have life and have it more abundantly.” This year’s Easter cannot but have a special meaning for us as we have seen and continue seeing that life is not always valued the way God wants us to value it.
Jesus’ New Life
In order to better understand the saving meaning of the Resurrection, it is necessary to consider what happened to Jesus. John Paul II in a catechesis on the Resurrection says it simply but densely: “Christ’s resurrection was an event consisting essentially in a passage from death to life” (General Audience, March 1, 1989).
What is important is to understand what kind of life, for it is not just a matter of coming back to the same biological life he had before, but rather the Resurrection is the irruption of new life, divine life, in Jesus’ human reality. It is life in God. Number 646 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us:
“Christ’s Resurrection was not a return to earthly life…Christ’s Resurrection is essentially different. In his risen body he passes from the state of death to another life beyond time and space. At Jesus’ Resurrection his body is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit: he shares the divine life in his glorious state, so that St. Paul can say that Christ is ‘the man of heaven.’”
That is why when he appeared to his disciples:
“He invited them to verify that the risen body in which he came to them was the very same that was tortured and crucified. At the same time, however, that body possessed new properties. It had “become spiritual” and “glorified,” and therefore no longer subject to the usual limitations of material beings and of a human body. Jesus entered the upper room despite the fact that the doors were shut; he appeared and disappeared, etc. At the same time, however, that body was authentic and real. The proof of Christ’s resurrection is in his material identity” (John Paul II, General Audience, January 25, 1989).
The saving meaning of the Resurrection: Jesus gives us new life
You cannot give what you do not have. It is exactly because Jesus has a new life and is permeated by the divine in his bodily dimension that he can promise the resurrection of our bodies.
The catechism explains the new life Jesus Christ leads us to:
“By his Resurrection, he opens for us the way to a new life. This new life is above all justification that reinstates us in God’s grace, ‘so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life’(cf. Rom 6:4). Justification consists in both victory over the death caused by sin and a new participation in grace. It brings about filial adoption so that men become Christ’s brethren, as Jesus himself called his disciples after his Resurrection: ‘Go and tell my brethren.’ We are brethren not by nature, but by the gift of grace, because that adoptive filiation gains us a real share in the life of the only Son, which was fully revealed in his Resurrection” (n. 654).
By offering himself at Calvary, and by the Resurrection which confirms that offering and makes it efficacious, Jesus becomes the source of new life for everyone. He is not just alive, but life-giving (cf. 1 Cor 15:45), a source of life for others.
“Finally, Christ’s Resurrection –and the risen Christ himself–is the source of our future resurrection: ‘Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. …For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive’ (cf. 1 Cor 15:20). The risen Christ lives in the hearts of his faithful while they await that fulfillment. In Christ, Christians ‘have tasted…the powers of the age to come’ and their lives are swept up by Christ into the heart of divine life, so that they may ‘live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 655).
Christian life in the light of the Resurrection
St. Paul reminds us that it is thanks to baptism that we participate in the death and resurrection of Christ. Christian life demands that we shun sin, since it is the only way to acknowledge the power of Christ’s death on the cross, and that we dedicate our life to God:
“As to his death, he died to sin once and for all; as to his life, he lives for God. Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as being dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus” (Rom 6:10).
Perhaps those who combat life do not understand that God gives us biological life and human life in order to transform it into eternal life. Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae clearly affirms:
“The life which Jesus gives in no way lessens the value of our existence in time; it takes it and directs it to its final destiny: ‘I am the resurrection and the life… whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (Jn 11: 25-26).