The days immediately preceding and following the resurrection must have been days of turmoil for the first followers of Jesus. I'm sure they went through the whole gamut of emotions: fear and uncertainty, devastation and utter despair, loneliness and separation - only to be brought back to hope and joy with news of "resurrection sightings."
But it was still difficult for them to truly believe the stories they were hearing. It was still hard to bring themselves - as much as they wanted to - to believe that the Lord had truly risen as He said He would. Even when they saw Him they weren't sure. The Gospel tells us that they were "startled and terrified. They thought they were seeing a ghost." Jesus greets them and bids them to be at peace. He tells them to relax. "Look at me, touch me; see for yourselves…"
Easter faith is not based on ghosts or spirits. It is not focused on stories or hearsay. The faith borne of resurrection is one of tangible and physical reality. The disciples touched Him, they ate with Him and they became His witnesses for generations to come.
But it is still difficult to believe without fear and trepidation. The reality of the world today sometimes makes it impossible to sift through the suffering, devastation and death which surrounds us. It is difficult enough for those who believe. And for those without faith this reality is proof that surely God doesn't exist, that all our talk about the Risen Christ is just that - talk.
The very heart of the "good news" that Jesus had come to announce was THE RESURRECTION. And He wanted all of His followers to understand this ultimate expression of His Father's love, a love that would overcome death itself.
The first disciples believed because they experienced the Risen Christ. They saw him and touched him. They walked with Him again as they once did and they again broke bread together. That was proof for them.
Our belief in the Risen Christ is very different. Our proof lies within those who give of themselves in the service of others as He commanded. Our proof is seen in the lives of those men and women who quietly and continuously work for human justice and peace, who are willing to lay down their lives for their brothers and sisters, who live their lives to the full, and who embrace death with open arms, not as a final statement of courage, but as one of total self-giving into the new life of Christ.
Our Easter faith in the resurrection should do two things for us: it should assure us of the Lord's continuing, abiding presence with us, day by day, hour by hour. And it should help us to cope very positively with the reality and finality of death - our own, of those around us and of those dear to us.
The Easter victory of Jesus Christ continues to send shock-waves down through the centuries, calling people of every age - especially our own - to be survivors with Him in the ongoing battle between good and evil. Proof of the Risen Christ lies with us. We are the proof that Christ is alive and lives with us still. Like the first disciples, we are His witnesses to all the nations.
It is the Risen Christ who assures us of survival and victory. In Baptism, we go down into the tomb with Him and emerge endowed with newness of Life. We join the Survivors in the Community of Faith that is the Church. We make our journey in this company of believers, fortified by prayer, worship and sacramental encounters. And we remember - especially on this day of Resurrection - we remember that in and through Jesus we have confronted evil, sin, disaster and death and we have overcome.
In Him, we will continue to survive until He ushers us into the fullness of perfect life, where Easter is forever!
A Blessed and Joyous Easter!