Alleluia! Christ is Risen! With these words we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and his victory over our sins. We also affirm that Jesus’ death and resurrection are firmly rooted in actual historical events that continue to change history today.
Josephus Flavius, a Jewish historian who published an account of Jesus in his work “Jewish Antiquities” in 93 A.D., offers non-Christian proof of the historic events that gave birth to our faith.
He writes: “About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the gentiles.”
The ancient historian also recalls the death and resurrection of Jesus.
“And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease. He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life, for the prophets of God had foretold these things and a thousand other marvels about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared” (“Jewish Antiquities,” 18.3.3 §63).
Although some might like to convince us otherwise, Jesus really did die, truly rose from the dead and ascended to the Father. And the tribe of Christians—the Church—is still here today.
In John’s Gospel we hear about how Jesus came and stood among the disciples in a locked room and said to them, “Peace be with you.” Then, “he showed them his hands and his side” (John 20:20).
The beautiful truth about our faith is that it has not become dormant or disappeared with the passage of time. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit remain active in the world through the Church, in the sacraments and through moments of grace given to those near or far from God.
The power of the resurrection is realized every time forgiveness occurs in sacramental confession and every time we are transformed by receiving Jesus’ body and blood in the Eucharist.
Indeed, Jesus sent the Apostles into the world by breathing on them and saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:23).
In a few short days, Pope Francis will canonize his predecessors John XXIII and John Paul II in Rome. These two successors of St. Peter are excellent examples of the living, ongoing nature of Jesus’ victory over sin and death. They are two men who were born in obscure places, whose lives were changed forever by meeting and falling in love with Jesus and his Church, where they grew in faith, hope and charity.
Through these two great and holy men, God changed the course of history and brought many people into the Church. Through these two popes, God led his Church through stormy times and blessed her abundantly.
I encourage all of you to spend this Easter season developing a deeper awareness of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit’s daily acts of love for you. Pray for a more receptive heart to receive the love of the Trinity and to live in that love.
Think about those sins that God’s grace has enabled you to overcome. Recall those difficult moments that he has sent someone to you to support you and walk with you through pain and difficulty. Remember those moments when your heart was filled with hope and joy and dwell there in gratitude with the Holy Trinity. Remember, as the psalmist says, the things the Lord has done.
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is a present reality, and by living with an awareness of his love for us we will be able to respond to his call to “go forth.” Every authentic disciple of Jesus must give witness to him in their life, with their families, friends, co-workers, and in the public square.
My prayer for you this Easter season is that you become more deeply immersed in God’s ongoing work of resurrection and that you allow him to change your life, and in doing so, change history. May the Risen Christ bless you abundantly!