“I am the resurrection. Anyone who believes in me, even though that person dies, will live; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (Jn 11:25)
On Easter Sunday, we reflect on the powerful meaning of resurrection. The path of Holy Week leads, through the gates of Jerusalem to the Last Supper, to the Garden of Gethsemane, to the indignity of death on Calvary, and finally … to resurrection. The resurrection was itself pre-figured by the raising of Lazarus. A friend of Jesus, Lazarus died. He was restored to life by Jesus, but only to his old life, a signpost to the resurrection, not the resurrection itself. Jesus would be the first to rise from the dead to new and eternal life.
In the Gospel account of the raising of Lazarus, Martha expresses a faith in resurrection after death. Jesus says: “I am the resurrection. Anyone who believes in me, even though that person dies, will live; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die”. And then he adds these words: “do you believe this?”. He is asking Martha but, through the words of the Gospel, it is a question which reaches down the centuries to us. Is it our understanding that those who believe in Christ have the promise of eternal life? And, what does it mean now, in the present moment?
In the Gospel of John, we are told that the raising of Lazarus takes place at Bethany, a village which is only about two miles from Jerusalem. Often in the Gospels, it is worth looking at what comes before or after a particular gospel passage, as the order is no accident. In John’s Gospel, after the raising of Lazarus Jesus goes to Jerusalem, to his Passion, Death and Resurrection. The connection between these events could hardly be made more obvious. The Christian faith is a resurrection faith or it is nothing at all.
Jesus challenged Martha to reflect on what resurrection faith meant to her. At Easter we are challenged to reflect on what this resurrection faith means for us. It is not merely a commemoration of the past, of the events in Jerusalem some 2000 years ago. Nor is it a passive experience, whereby we simply await the future promise of resurrection. Rather, resurrection faith is alive and active, something to be lived every day. What we celebrate on this Easter Day is a call to action, not passive waiting. A resurrection faith is not an excuse for otherworldliness, for failing to engage with life; rather, faith inspires action into every aspect of life. Resurrection faith is lived in the small things of every day, not just in the future and not just in the extraordinary. Through our faith in action, resurrection faith is in this moment, with each day Easter Sunday.
“Seek God’s house in happy throng;
Crowded let His table be;
Mingle praises, prayer, and song,
Singing to the Trinity.
Henceforth let your souls always
Make each morn an Easter Day.”
Easter (G M Hopkins, 1866)
Fr Paul McCafferty is a priest of the Diocese of Derry
Image ©Fr Paul McCafferty