March 28, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Monday Within the Octave of Easter
Reading (Acts 2:14, 22-33) Gospel (St. Matthew 28:8-15)
As we see this point about the fact that Our Lord had risen from the dead – Mary Magdalene had seen the vision of the angels, and as she was going to tell the apostles, Our Blessed Lord appears to her and to the other Mary; they bow down, they worship Him, and He instructs them on what to do – the interesting thing in juxtaposition is to see what happens with the guards. Like the high priest, rather than having faith, the guards run simply to tell what happened and then get caught into a lie. The point that is of great interest here is that only a few days earlier the high priest was willing to give thirty pieces of silver to put Our Lord to death; but when it comes to hiding the Resurrection, they were willing to give a very large sum of money. We are not told how big it was, just that it was large. And so Our Lord in life was worth thirty pieces of silver to them, but Our Lord in death was worth an immense amount.
First of all, they had put a guard at His tomb, the only person in history that we know of who had to be guarded so that he did not come out of the tomb! It did not work anyway. Then the fact that the soldiers would pocket the money, that they would buy into this lie, and that they would circulate this story so that people would not believe, we see the extent to which Satan is willing to go to try to undermine our faith. Money is not a problem for him. Power is not a problem for him. He uses anything that he can to try to lure us away, to try to put little ideas into our heads, or to play upon our selfishness or our greed so that we will not believe. What we have to be able to do is reject everything that is not of God.
When we talk about the Resurrection, there is no doubt that Our Lord has risen from the dead. We have eyewitnesses who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead. We have the witness of the Gospels. Someone could say, “Well, these were written by Christian people, so there is really no idea that they are historical.” It is funny that when we read pagan historians from the time, everybody bows down and says, “This is true; this is history,” but when we read history that is inspired by the Holy Spirit, then we say, “Maybe that wasn’t real.” This is more historical and there is more evidence of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead than there is of most historical personalities that have ever lived. No one would ever say, “Caesar didn’t live because there isn’t all that much written about him,” or this one or that one or whomever it may be. So there is no reason for us not to believe.
What that Resurrection means is not fully understood, and it will not be fully understood until our bodies rise from the dead. But we do know that the body of Jesus Christ was reunited with His soul, and His body shares in the glory of the eternal life of God. His body now is in a glorified form so that it is not held bound by any of the limitations that our bodies are. We cannot walk through the walls – He can. On the day of the resurrection, we will be able to as well. People wonder how we are going to get out of a grave that is six feet deep. Not a problem. Your body is not going to be held bound by any of the physical limitations. When you rise from the dead, all of the inherent weaknesses and problems of the body will no longer be a problem. The body is going to be freed from all of those things. The body is going to be freed from everything that keeps it bound, and it will share fully in the freedom of the children of God. Our Lord’s Resurrection is the guarantee of that; it is the foreshadowing of what is going to happen to us.
While it is imperative that we never take our eyes off of the Cross, it is also imperative that we never forget that the Cross is not the endpoint; there is much beyond it. In fact, the Cross, in Our Lord’s life and in ours, was very brief by comparison to the glory which is eternal. And so while we continue through our lives on earth, it is living in this vale of tears, it is sharing in the Passion of Christ, it is still to walk up Calvary; yet it is because we know that there is something that is beyond Calvary. As Saint Paul said, For the joy that lay before Him, Christ accepted the Cross, heedless of its shame. It is the Resurrection that is possible only through the Crucifixion. It is eternal life that is possible only through sharing in the death of Christ. For us, it is to be able to listen to the words of Our Lord when He told the man: Doubt no longer but believe, and to believe wholeheartedly in the Resurrection and to know that the life, the victory, that Our Lord has won for us is guaranteed to us as long as we remain faithful. So as we keep our eyes on the Cross, keep it focused on what the Cross leads to. The Cross is the key to heaven. The Cross is the opening to eternal life. We go to Calvary, we go to be crucified with Our Lord, not merely for the purpose of dying, but for the sole purpose of eternal life.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.