Our Spiritual Resurrection, The Anchor, April 2, 2010

Fr. Roger J. Landry
The Anchor
Putting Into the Deep
April 2, 2010

The saints are always given to us as models of the Christian life. St. John Vianney is given not merely to priests as a patron and exemplar but to all the faithful as an icon of receptivity and response to God’s graces. That’s why it’s particularly instructive for all of us how he celebrated Easter, so that we may imitate him in making the practical consequences of Easter come alive.

For the Curé of Ars, the joy of Jesus’ resurrection came not from just from the fact that Jesus rose from the dead but from the reality that Jesus, risen from the dead, is still alive. In his Easter homilies, he would exultantly and repeatedly exclaim, “Jesus lives!,” and pass on the joy of that fact and living relationship to his parishioners.

The height of his joy was inversely proportioned to the depth of his Lenten sorrow over the Lord’s sufferings. “We beheld him trodden upon like a worm,” he preached one Easter Sunday, with words that can move all of us this Good Friday. “We saw him drag his rack to the place of execution; we heard the dull strokes of the hammer that fastened his hands and feet to the cross; we saw the cross lifted up with its precious burden; briefly, we were witnesses in spirit of the awful agonizing death of our Savior. … The only begotten Son of the Father was calumniated as the poor Son of the carpenter, the Messiah sent from heaven was mocked as the Galilean, his words of charity were branded as the work of hell. When he said that he had come to found a kingdom that was not of this world, he was denounced as a seducer of the people, and an enemy of Caesar. … It seemed as if His enemies were really triumphant in victory when Jesus hung bleeding upon the cross. His enemies appeared sure of victory, when they said to the crucified Savior in derision, ‘If you are the Messiah, descend from the cross. You helped others, now help yourself,’ and He made no reply to these words, but bowed His head and died. And still more, He was laid in a grave like an ordinary mortal, the grave itself being guarded and sealed. … Everything was over and at an end; the world seemed to conquer.”

“But dear brethren,” Fr. Vianney continued, stressing the adversative conjunction, “our mourning is now turned into joy. The seal of the grave is broken; he who reposed there is living; he whom we saw die upon the wood of the cross, as the outcast of mankind, he has proclaimed his divine dignity; neither seal, nor grave, nor stone, nor lock could withstand Him; He is risen! Jesus lives! … Because he arose from the grave through his own almighty power, because he has built up again the temple of his body in three days, he has proven the glory of his divinity and placed the seal of completeness upon the work of redemption.”

The joy of the resurrection and the fact that Jesus Christ is alive, Fr. Vianney stressed, should have several “practical” consequences in the way we live. “As Christ is risen, so we must arise and enter into a new life.”

He started by saying that this new life must begin in the domestic church. He called on spouses and parents to renew themselves in this risen life at home, reflecting on whether they both live in union with the risen Lord Jesus and whether they pass on to their children, by word and example, how to keep their communion with Jesus. He called on Christian children to appreciate the gift of a living mother and father, not to grieve them by disobedience or sin but to honor and please them by a virtuous life. He reminded them both that they are among the principal catalysts or obstacles to each others’ Easter joy.

Jesus’ resurrection must lead all of us, he continued, to do a thorough housecleaning of their soul. Basing himself on St. Paul’s words, “If you have been raised with Christ … seek the things that are above, not the things of earth” (Cor 3:1-2), he said:  “To seek and to find that which is above, we must not only arise from the grave of sin, by cleansing our hearts from every sin, but we must purify them…. When Christ arose from the grave he left the burial sheets behind; so should we at our spiritual resurrection leave in the graves the fetters of our old habits; we must break with the old life and walk in a new one; we must put off the old man and put on the new man, which is created in holiness and justice. And so … we should be able to say of [hedonists], ‘He is risen, he is not here, he is no longer in the tomb where he has so often sinned;’ of the greedy, ‘The miser is risen, he lingers no more with his treasures, which the rust and moth will eat away; he no longer kneels at the altar of mammon; he has become the father of the poor’; of the drunkard, ‘He is risen’; of the gambler, ‘He is not here. Behold the place is empty where once he sat far into the night playing and drinking, while his poor wife and hungry children suffered want at home.’ This is what ought and must be said of all sinners: ‘They are risen, they are not here, the grave of sin is empty, they are leading a new life. O then indeed we shall all spend a blessed and happy Easter, a day of gladness, a day that the Lord has made.”

Christ’s resurrection is also meant to have dramatic practical effects in those who are suffering. “If crosses and sufferings come upon us,” he said, “let us, too, kneel in the garden of olives; let us drain the chalice of suffering to the dregs on Golgotha, let us look up with courage and holy zeal. Good Friday was followed by a joyful Easter morning for the incarnate God, and we, too, shall enjoy a day of rejoicing, for if we suffer with Christ we shall also be glorified with Him. Our cross will be for us Jacob’s ladder, upon which we shall ascend from earth to heaven, where there shall be no more weeping, no more pain, but where eternal joy, eternal peace, and eternal rejoicing will reign.”

This assurance in particular for those who are mourning the death of loved ones. Christ’s resurrection defeated death and removed its sting, Fr. Vianney triumphantly emphasized. “Now we may face death with confidence and say with Job: ‘I know that my Redeemer lives, and that he will raise me up at the last day’ Dry your tears, then, poor wife, weeping at the heavy loss of your children’s provider; weep not, poor husband, at the early death of your wife; children, mourn not the loss of your parents, who have left you orphans. My brethren, let us not weep and mourn for our beloved dead, like those who have no hope. We have a hope in the risen Savior, that he will one day send his Angels to call us from our graves; we shall see one another again; we shall rejoice, and our joy no man shall take from us!”

Finally, Christ’s resurrection also has practical consequences for the whole Church, especially when she is suffering, as we now are with our Holy Father. “Our Church, too, will arise from the grave of oppression,” Fr. John Vianney said. “Every century testifies that the deeper they dig her grave, the tighter they seal and close it, the more gloriously she has arisen from the grave, and the more victoriously she has unfurled her flag. Her founder, who rose from the grave today, has said: ‘The gates of hell shall never prevail against her.’ And this founder proclaims this joyfully to the redeemed world today.”

Jesus is alive! He has truly risen! And this changes everything. Alleluia!