Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Today, we rejoice with the whole Church in Christ’s victory over sin and death. With His victory, we who are weighed down by sin, weakness, and weariness of life are free. The Church urges us, for the very reason of our weakness, especially our tendency to turn inward, to turn the eyes of our hearts to our Savior. In “Christ, A Quickening Spirit,” Blessed John Henry Newman explains how Christ’s resurrection gives life to our souls.
The life Christ gives is a participation in His own, but how readily we lock ourselves inside, and close ourselves off to Him. Pastor and author Timothy Keller describes the nature and effects of self-centeredness: “There’s nothing that makes you more miserable (or less interesting) than self-absorption: How am I feeling, how am I doing, how are people treating me, am I proving myself, am I succeeding, am I failing, am I being treated justly? Self-absorption leaves us static; there’s nothing more disintegrating. Why do we have wars? Class struggle? Family breakdown? Why are our relationships constantly exploding? It’s the darkness of self-centeredness.”
Christ wants to free us from this darkness, it’s roots reaching back into death itself, and our deep fear of loneliness. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, before he became Pope Benedict, wrote about our fear of death, “In truth–one thing is certain: there exists a night into whose solitude no voice reaches; there is a door through which we can only walk alone–the door of death. In the last analysis all the fear in the world is fear of this loneliness . . . where man falls into extreme loneliness he is not afraid of anything definite that could be explained away; on the contrary, he experiences the fear of loneliness, the uneasiness and vulnerability of his own nature, something that cannot be overcome by rational means . . . The fear peculiar to man [fear of loneliness] cannot be overcome by reason but only by the presence of someone who loves him.”
In His Resurrection, Christ defeated death, and in so doing left no barrier between us and Himself. Blessed Newman comments, “though He was liable to death, ‘it was impossible He should be holden’ of it. Death might overpower, but it could not keep possession; ‘it had no dominion over Him.’” Our own loneliness and our fear of future loneliness cannot be banished by mental effort, but only, as Cardinal Ratzinger writes, “by the presence of someone who loves him.” Our Lord reached into and through death itself so we would never be alone. “But death is no longer the path into icy solitude; the gates of sheol have been opened . . . The doors of death stand open since life–love–has dwelt in death.”
Afterward, the Disciples looked on as Christ ascended to the Father, unsure of what would happen next, and undoubtedly sad to lose Him. But in ascending, He went to the Father “to plead our case.” And He was Emmanuel, God with them and us, in a way no one anticipated. Newman comments, “Yet we must not suppose, that in leaving us He closed the gracious economy of His Incarnation, and withdrew the ministration of His incorruptible Manhood from His work of loving mercy towards us. . .He remembered our necessity, and completed His work, bequeathing to us a special mode of approaching Him, a Holy Mystery, in which we receive (we know not how) the virtue of that Heavenly Body, which is the life of all that believe.” This is the Eucharist, in which we are united with Christ, who is our sustenance. When we accept this mystery by faith, we can come to understand the vitality of Sunday Mass in the life of a Christian.
The Resurrection should also assure our unsteady hearts that neither “ … Trials nor temptation, time of tribulation, time of wealth, pain, bereavement, anxiety, sorrow, the insults of the enemy, the loss of worldly goods, can ‘separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’” We need not turn in on ourselves, supposing that if we do not take care of ourselves, no one will. We need not fear pain and death, for Christ is with us even in and through these. In His Resurrection, we see that death has no power over Him, and if we remain in Him, it cannot possess us either. His quickening spirit gives life to our own. Forever we belong to Him and nothing can take us from his grasp.