Christ’s Resurrection and Ours

Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory? (Lk 24:26)

After the death of Jesus, it seems that even those who had been closest to Him were blinded by the pain of disappointment and despair. Although our Lord had told His disciples numerous times about His imminent death and resurrection,1 they simply couldn’t wrap their minds around it. And so, when our Lord died a humiliating death upon a cross, seemingly defeated and thoroughly crushed, almost all of His disciples sank into despondency and despair.

Some of them went back to their former profession: Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James, John, and two other disciples went out to fish, unable to recognize Jesus standing on the shore and calling out to them.2 Mary Magdalene actually complained in despair to the resurrected Christ, unable to recognize Him: “They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have put Him” (Jn 20:13). Even when she saw the resurrected Christ standing there, asking her who she was looking for, Mary Magdalene still failed to recognize Him.3 Instead, she suspected this “gardener” to be the one who had taken away Jesus’s dead body, and implored Him to tell her where He had put away the body! Similarly, the two disciples who were walking to Emmaus after Jesus’s death also failed to recognize the resurrected Christ coming up to them and walking together with them.4 One of them, named Cleopas, even accused our resurrected Lord of being an “ignorant visitor to Jerusalem” who wasn’t aware of the latest news!5 It was their despair and heartbreak that had clouded their vision and prevented them from recognizing the Resurrection. As Cleopas had articulated so profoundly, “But we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.”6 Jesus’s humiliating death had crushed their hopes so thoroughly that, overcome with despair, they were unable to recognize His Resurrection.

Human beings have always grappled with the problem of pain and mortality. Instinctively, we know that we’re created for wholeness and joy, for perfect love and communion with one another. This is why we desire wholeness, happiness and love so intensely. When pain comes and our hopes are crushed, our whole being instinctively rebels against this brokenness. In fact, we can argue that all the philosophies and religions that have existed throughout human civilization are, in a way, various responses to our basic problem of pain and mortality.

This Easter, Christians throughout the world celebrate the Resurrection of Christ. In our increasingly diverse, cynical, and multicultural society, how do we explain the relevance of Christ’s Resurrection to those around us? How is Christ different from the various deities and religious figures that have existed throughout history? When we scrutinize the philosophies and religions of the world, we will find that they usually fall into either one of two categories: those who worship a particular god or gods (these religions can be either polytheistic or monotheistic), and those who focus on self-enlightenment rather than the worship of a particular deity. Religions that focus on the worship of a God or various gods always stress the importance of keeping certain rules in honor of their god(s), as well as the offering of various sacrifices in order to appease the wrath of such god(s), especially in times of distress. We can even see traces of this belief in the Bible — when a fierce storm threatened the safety of Jonah’s ship, for example, its sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.”7 Similarly, when Job was struck down by various ailments, his friends told him repeatedly that he must have provoked God’s wrath by sinning grievously against Him. We can see traces of this belief in various pagan mythologies and secular culture: The sacrifice of Iphigenia,8 the cult of the Vestal Virgins,9 and even the violent riots and killings that occurred in recent history when the honor of a particular god or religious leader was seen to have been tainted or mocked.10

Shaken by such notions of violence, many people in our modern world turn to various philosophies that reject the worship of any particular deity and focus on peaceful paths of self-enlightenment instead. While it cannot be denied that many of these philosophies contain great wisdom that would benefit any human being, one caveat remains: without the belief in a Creator or final judgment, how do these philosophies deal with the problem of evil? Since there is no loving Creator, no original sin (and thus no possibility of offending such a Creator) and no final judgment, the root of evil is seen to lie in the desires of the human heart.11 Buddha actually taught that the root of suffering is craving, or tanha,12 a word that literally means “thirst”. Since human thirsts and longings are the root of suffering, they must be tamed, controlled, extinguished, or sublimated — which explains the emphasis of these religions and philosophies on yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, mindfulness, and so on.

Christ, on the other hand, is a God who thirsts and longs intensely for the love of His creatures. In fact, it was His ardent longing for our wholeness, joy, and happiness that led Him to empty Himself and take on our brokenness and pain. Purely out of love for us, He — the omnipotent God — made Himself vulnerable and broken, so that He can walk together with us and lead us Home to heavenly glory. Commenting on our Lord’s thirst, St. Thérèse of Lisieux once observed:

The same God, who declares that He has no need to tell us if He be hungry, did not disdain to beg a little water from the Samaritan woman. He was athirst, but when He said: “Give me to drink,” He, the Creator of the Universe, asked for the love of His creature. He thirsted for love.13

The truth is, despite all the beauty and wisdom contained in the religions and philosophies of this world, only one Person can claim to be the God who is Love itself. Scripture proclaims this truth repeatedly: God is love;14 whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.15 But how do we explain to the world that our Lord is, in fact, Love itself?

Perhaps we should ask ourselves: What kind of love do we desire? What kind of love story always strikes a chord in our hearts and moves us so profoundly? Is it not the kind of love where all sorts of barriers and distance are successfully overcome by the power of love? These barriers can come from various sources: human selfishness and cruelty, poverty or differences in social status, sufferings and misfortunes, misunderstandings and various forms of brokenness, illnesses and death. No matter how big the obstacle, we always celebrate the triumph of love over all barriers and distances — in fact, the greater the barrier, the more profoundly are our hearts moved by the love story. These stories give us hope and strength, for they confirm our instinctive longing for true and perfect love.

Is there any greater love in this world than the love of Christ? Purely out of love for us, the God and Creator of the universe took on our brokenness and death. He also made us the very members of His Body: “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.”16 When any one of us is hurting or in pain, our Lord is also hurting together with us — for how can any part of the Body feel pain without the Head knowing and feeling it as well? This is why our Lord’s Sacred Heart is always portrayed with a crown of thorns — He is a God who is broken for and together with us. We can see this in the Eucharist, and also in our daily lives (although perhaps, just like His disciples, we often fail to recognize Him in our pain and desperation). Scripture confidently proclaims that “greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”17 And how is it possible for us to call the omnipotent Creator of the universe our Friend?18 This miracle is only made possible by the power of Love. The Trinity is, in fact, a proof of this communion of Love: not only is God omnipotent, immortal, holy, and inapproachable,19 He is also a God who suffers, fears, and thirsts, who ardently longs to commune with us and to live in our hearts. Everything in this world that we find moving, loving, and beautiful is but a small reflection of this eternal communion of Love, from whom, through whom, and to whom are all things.20 As Christians, it is our duty and calling to constantly abide in this Love,21 so as to be able to incarnate it in our lives and share it with others. For, despite appearances to the contrary, every single human being in this world is longing for the love of Christ. They just fail to recognize Him. Just like the disciples after Jesus’s death, we often mistake Him for who He is not: a gardener who has taken away our loved one, an ignorant passerby who doesn’t know the latest news, a mere fisherman who asks unimportant questions. In incarnating and sharing the love of Christ, it is our job to be patient with ourselves and with one another, just as our Lord is patient with us — patiently He spoke to Mary Magdalene, listened attentively to the disciples’ complaints, and waited while others went fishing.

Recognizing the love of Christ in our earthly journeys — so often marred by brokenness and despair — can be difficult at times. And yet, as our Lord has reminded us: “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?”22 If God Himself, who certainly doesn’t need to suffer, chooses to take on the burden of suffering out of love for us, must we not be careful lest we fail to recognize Him in our sufferings? In every instance of pain and suffering, all human beings long for love — we long for that tender, loving power that gives strength and sustenance to the soul in the midst of tribulations. We long for a purpose, a meaning in our brokenness, and a greater glory at the end of the journey. We are actually longing for Him — the Resurrected Christ who is Love itself. If His own disciples could fail to recognize Him in their despair, let us be careful lest we fail to recognize Him in our moments of need. For has He not promised to be with us always, even to the very end of the age?23

  1. Mt 16:21, 17:22-23; Mk 8:31.
  2. Jn 21:2-5.
  3. Jn 20:14-15.
  4. Lk 24:13–16.
  5. Lk 24:18.
  6. Lk 24:21, emphasis mine.
  7. Jnh 1:7.
  8. Menelaos Stephanides, “The Sacrifice of Iphigeneia,” The Iliad: The Trojan War, as found on sigmapublications.com/txt_mth_en_en6.html.
  9. Oliver J. Hallett, “Vestal Virgins: Purity, Punishment and Privilege,” TheClassicalHistories.com,
    theclassicalhistories.com/2018/12/04/the-vestal-virgins-romes-holy-women/.
  10. Josh K. Elliott, “Why Muslims are livid over a Muhammad cartoon contest in the Netherlands,” GlobalNews.ca (Aug. 30, 2018), globalnews.ca/news/4418378/muhammad-cartoon-contest/.
  11. Luke Wayne, “Desire, suffering, and eternity: A contrast between Eastern philosophy and the gospel,” CARM.org (Feb. 27, 2017), carm.org/desire-suffering-and-eternity.
  12. “The Four Noble Truths: The Second Noble Truth — the origin of dukkha,” DharmaNet.org, dharmanet.org/coursesM/23/Theravada4b.htm.
  13. Excerpt from Saint de Lisieux Thérèse, The Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, iBooks.
  14. 1 Jn 4:8, 16.
  15. 1 Jn 4:16.
  16. Eph 5:29-30.
  17. Jn 15:13.
  18. Jn 15:15.
  19. 1 Tim 6:15-16.
  20. Rom 11:36.
  21. Jn 15:9.
  22. Lk 24:26.
  23. Mt 25:20.
Audrey Yu About Audrey Yu

Audrey Yu (Maria Audrey Lukito) is a Chinese Indonesian writer. Prior to her conversion to the Catholic faith, she wrote about the Chinese identity in Indonesia; her books on this subject have been archived by various institutions worldwide, including the National Library of Congress, Yale University, Harvard University, the National Library of Australia, and many others. She graduated from the College of William and Mary in Virginia and is currently studying theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio. She is also a regular contributor to Catholic Insight. Her personal website can be accessed at www.audreyyujiahui.com.

Comments

  1. Avatar Victoria Kubicz says:

    Beautiful! Thank you for sharing!

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