Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Some Easter Meditations

Father John J. Lombardi

Christ's Victory over the "Three Enemies": Sin, Hell and Death. These are the worst things in life. They corrupt us, make us inhuman. Actually, they are the opposite of life! Sin is the grip of Adam and Eve upon us, evil, wrongdoing-we are all sinners falling short of the Lord's Glory (Rm 3:23). With Christ's Resurrection, sin no longer has absolute power over us although we may choose to sin. Jesus' Resurrection Glory and Grace give us freedom to want, choose and know goodness, and avoid evil and darkness of sin. Hell is everlasting separation from God. Heaven's gates were closed up until the Resurrection but now, with His New Life, Bliss, Paradise is possible-victory over Satan's Kingdom.

Death is a punishment for, and result of, sin. Though we still die, it is only temporal; Eternal Life in the Blessed Trinity and Mystical Body is our calling! Do not look at the Tomb but at the Glory of Divine Union! Sensual Spirituality: At His Resurrection Jesus Christ breathed on the Apostles and said: "Receive the Holy Spirit" (Jn. 20:22). Make every breath count: breathe in His Love, His Glory, His forgiveness, His Life, His Light. We humans are body (sensual) and soul (spirit)-so He, the Lord, meets and inspires us in our most important "place": no breath, no life, Know Jesus, Know Peace. The miracle of Christ's Resurrection--Out of the grave and into my heart." - David Netz . Think about it. Let it come to be. Make it happen: Open your heart to the Risen Jesus. Allow Him into your heart. Let His Glory fill you and flow thru your body. Let His mind be in you (Phil. 2:5), to transform and change you. "If anyone is in Jesus Christ he is a new creation, the old has passed the new has come" (II Cor 5:17). Mystery of the Resurrection: Although no one actually saw Jesus rise from the dead, many witnessed His resurrection Body (see below).

Beware of some today who imply that Jesus did not rise from the dead physically, but, rather, that the disciples subjectively experienced a kinda' resurrection of His Spirit in their lives and thereby formed the Church and continued as His disciples despite not witnessing a resurrected body. This is wrong and harmful. Christ Himself prophesied He would rise from the dead (Mt.12:40; 16:21; 17:22; 20:19Jn 2:19); and His Resurrection is proved by His disciples' actual encounter with Him bodily (Mt 28; Mk 16; Lk24; Jn 20-21). No other great teacher ever rose from the dead and so the Resurrection is Christ's Greatest Miracle and proof of His Godliness and love! Beware: "The DaVinci Code" is a best-selling book and (probably) soon-to-be blockbuster movie- with a lot of errors! Namely: That Jesus never died on the Cross; that He married Mary Magdalene; that this alleged union and bloodline produced offspring that continued secretly; that in Leonardo DaVinci's masterpiece "The Last Supper" Mary Magdalene is depicted at table with the Lord; etc. All errors! The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that the twin fonts of the Paschal Mystery (which we've celebrated these sacred days) consist of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In this book and movie these divine realties are attacked, make no mistake about it-and souls are misled enormously. Jesus Christ definitely died (so: don't forget His Most Precious Blood, even on Easter!) and Jesus Christ overcame death and rose from the dead-bodily (tap into His power which is real!). St Paul said that if we do not believe these all-important realities and doctrines, then our faith is in vain. So, believe, act, and live anew! The Resurrection Body: Theologians have ascribed the following attributes to Jesus Christ's Resurrected Body and, possibly to ours if we are faithful. Ponder these descriptions and look forward to them: "Subtilitas=the spiritualized nature of the body, which emerged from the tomb and penetrated closed doors (Jn 20:19, 26), entailing the complete dominion of the body by the transfigured soul. Claritas = being free from everything deformed and being filled with radiance and beauty.

Jesus assures us: 'The just shall shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father' (Mt. 13:41). Agilitas=the capability of the body to obey the soul with greatest ease and speed of movement. It forms a contrast with the heaviness of the earthly which is conditioned by the Law of Gravity. The agility of the Lord's Resurrected Body was evident when He manifested to the disciples and then disappeared just as quickly (Jn. 20:19; Lk 24:31). Impassibilitas=the body is no longer capable of suffering and physical evils of any kind, and impossibility to die any more (Rev. 21:4): 'And God shall wipe away tears from their eyes and death shall be no more'." (Source: "Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma": Dr Ludwig Ott, Tan Press). Springing Life: I was visiting my aunt recently and she ecstatically showed me some azalea branches my dad just gave her, displayed on her dresser. They were planted in water and were "singing" there. Though a couple days old they still radiated fresh yellow brightness. She said: "Look, there's still life coming out from them." Yes, think about it: life was emerging out of them though seemingly dead. From the inner core of the branches came forth new life, brightness, fragrance, delight.

Though Christ seemed dead New Life manifested from His Body. Though you may seem dead in sin or depression or sickness, allow New Life to come forth from your body and mind and soul. It is there: allow God to unlock it like that apparition I had from the azalea branches. Likewise, I am always amazed at how tulips pop through mud and soil to bloom forth; how the sun peeps through clouds, how pear tree buds emerge to blossom forth and bring joy. Signs of the Resurrection are all around us. Jesus Himself says: "Consider the flowers of the field…" (Mt. ). New Life may be underneath, within, covered over, en-tombed: let Jesus' Resurrection power overcome this "cover-up" and you, yourself, resurrect! Resurrection Freedom: What does the Risen Jesus call you to break out of? He came out of the tomb, and so what tomb does Jesus help you to break out of? Fear: The Angel Gabriel said to the Virgin Mary "Be not afraid" (Lk. 1: ).

Fear is power over us and our Faith by some unknown, unproven thing, to the point of paralysis. I recently spoke to a pilgrim who is adopting a baby from Africa. It's a daunting task for anyone, let alone for a family of eight children and parents (and a dog!). She said, "I can let fear overpower me, my family, or go on." Adopting a different colored and culturally-affected baby certainly can cause trepidation, but no, not for this family. The pilgrim said: "Somehow, I feel it's right. I'm not even defensive in answering anymore, because God will give us the grace, and, besides, He's probably calling us to sacrifice in ways we would never do otherwise." That's a Resurrection perspective- a release from the tomb of fear and comfort zones and ever-strangulating "paralysis of analysis." How about you? Christ triumphed over all and nothing could keep Him down.

As Fr Field, pastor of St Joseph Church in Taneytown, reminded us at Mass recently, "In all your troubles, in the back of your mind recall that Easter is near: Jesus' Triumph." Let that Divine and dynamic reality pull you thru. Remember: thoughts (sometimes) control your reality, what you will think and act upon. Remember "nothing can separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus (Rm. 8:28). Earth and Heaven coalescing: I wandered thru the Grotto one sunny afternoon and met a pilgrim from New York. The sun shone in St Joseph's Valley below the Grotto Mountain bathing it in radiating light. Spring was springing with apple trees dressed in virginal white flowers, a pink magnolia tree held up its cups of deep pink toward the skies, swirls of wind encompassed us, we seemed half in the sky, the height of our situation was incredible, Mother Seton would have said. Everything was illuminated.

The pilgrim and I encountered one another and He said to me immediately, not knowing who I exactly was: "You don't know where earth ends and Heaven begins." I was astounded-both by his beautiful statement and that he said it so spontaneously. We peacefully walked around the Grotto and he said that it was now time for him to slow down, to get away from harried life, a past, broken relationship, and to begin again and be still and enjoy the simple things of life. He said he was happy to live around the Grotto and enjoy the natural, beautiful setting of Mary's Mountain and all the treasures that are provided around here. He was experiencing a resurrection…Let us never take this area, a "Cradle of Catholicism in America," for granted, but, rather, allow the "little vestiges" of the Resurrection of Mary's Mountain awaken us to the Beautiful Resurrection of the Lord to help us make new beginnings.

Meditate upon: "Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture-St Mark" (ed.'s Oden and Hall: Intervarsity Press)…

"To behold the resurrection, the stone must be rolled away from our own hearts. The women at the tomb were the first to honor the Risen Christ. The Apostles were the first to suffer for Him (Peter Chrysologus). The daily transformation of the early morning from darkness to dawn is forever hallowed by the Resurrection (Augustine). The Resurrection was revealed gradually, respecting the frailty of beholders to grasp its significance (Bede). The apex moment of the diffusion of darkness is the time of the Resurrection (Bede). The holy Sabbath gleams even brighter under the new covenant as the weekly celebration of the Resurrection (Athanasius). As the Virgin's womb had been sealed and yet He entered life, so also the sepulcher was firmly sealed and yet He was raised to new life (Purdentius, Bede). The Resurrection is announced by a youth as an allusion that the resurrected body would be developed in full strength (Isidore of Seville). Christ is present where the sign of the cross is rightly exalted---not the material cross itself as a piece of wood but the crucified one who now lives (John of Damascus). Between Jesus' resurrection and the general resurrection, death is, for those who have faith, in effect dead and lacking in power, as a lion slain (Augustine). God does not lack power to raise us also (Constitutions of the Holy Apostles). Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem in antiquity wrote specifically and in detail of what they thought was the sepulcher reported in Mark (Bede)."

"The quickening power of His Resurrection. Constitutions of the Holy Apostles: The Resurrection in which we believe is that which has already been demonstrated in the Resurrection of Our Lord. For it is He that raised Lazarus after he had been in the grave four days, and Jairus' daughter, and the widow's son. It is He that raised Himself by the command of the Father in the space of three days, who is the pledge of our resurrection. For He says: "I am the resurrection and the life." Now the very One who brought Jonah alive and unhurt out of the belly of the whale in the space of three days, and who brought the three children out of the furnace of Babylon and Daniel out of the mouth of the lions, does not lack power to raise us up also, Constitutions of the Holy Apostles 5.I."

"On Keeping Easter. Unknown Greek author of the fifth century: This is the day which the Lord has made: let us keep it with gladness and rejoicing. Why should we do so? Because the sun is no longer darkened; instead everything is bathed in light. Because the veil of the temple is no longer rent; instead the Church is recognized. Because we no longer hold palm branches; instead we carry the newly enlightened… This is the day in the truest sense; the day of triumph, the day custom consecrates to the resurrection, the day on which we adorn ourselves with grace, the day on which we partake of the spiritual lamb. This is the day on which milk is given to those born again, and on which God's plan for the poor is realized. Let us keep it with gladness and rejoicing, not by running off to the taverns, but by hastening to the martyrs' shrines; not by esteeming drunkenness, but by loving temperance; not by dancing in the marketplace, but by singing psalms at home…

This is the day on which Adam was set free and Eve delivered from her affliction. It is the day on which cruel death shuddered, the strength of hard stones was shattered and destroyed, the bars of tombs were broken and set aside. It is the day on which the bodies of people long dead were restored to their former life and the laws of the underworld, hitherto ever powerful and immutable, were repealed. It is the day on which the heavens were opened at the rising of Christ the Lord, and on which for the good of the human race, the flourishing and fruitful tree of the resurrection sent forth branches all over the world, as if the world were a garden. It is the day on which the lilies of the newly enlightened sprang up, the streams that sustained sinners ran dry, the strength of the devil drained away and demonic armies were scattered. Easter Homilies 51.1-3."

The truth of Jesus' divinity is confirmed by His Resurrection. He had said: "When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am His." The Resurrection of the crucified One shows that He was truly "I Am," the Son of God and God Himself. So St. Paul could declare to the Jews: "What God promised to the fathers, this He has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus; as also it is written in the second Psalm, 'You are my Son, today I have begotten You.'" Christ's Resurrection is closely linked to the Incarnation of God's Son and is its fulfillment in accordance with God's eternal plan. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 653).

Happy and Blessed Easter-and remember-it's a Season and Way of Life!

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi