Easter – the Death of Death

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The following is the homily of Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, delivered during a livestreamed Mass in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Fort Wayne, on Easter Sunday, April 12, 2020.

“They put him to death by hanging him on a tree.  This man God raised on the third day…”.  These words of Saint Peter from the Acts of the Apostles express the very heart of our Christian faith.  “The Christian faith stands or falls with the truth of the testimony that Christ is risen from the dead” (Pope Benedict XVI).  

If Jesus had not been raised from the dead, He would just be remembered as a great religious teacher who taught some beautiful things and performed some miracles.  If Jesus had not been raised from the dead, His disciples would have just gone back to their previous lives and professions.  They would have continued to celebrate the Jewish sabbath and not begun to celebrate Sunday as the Lord’s day.  But they didn’t.  The Resurrection of Jesus changed everything.  They went out to bear witness to the Risen Lord.  

Saint Peter and the other apostles went forth and bore witness to the Resurrection of Jesus.  They did so because they actually saw the Risen Lord.  He appeared to them, spoke to them, and ate with them.  They were able to touch Him.  They encountered a reality that no human being had ever encountered.  For these disciples, the Resurrection was just as real as the cross.  They were surely astonished and overwhelmed by this reality.  It was an utterly new experience, something we can only imagine.  We celebrate this reality today.  We do so with faith.  In next Sunday’s Gospel, we will hear Jesus’ words to Thomas: “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”  Thomas and the other apostles received tangible proof of Jesus’ resurrection.  We believe through their word.