Did you hear about the elderly couple who went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land? They were fighting and bickering with each other, so they thought that a pilgrimage might help. Then the wife died in Jerusalem. When her husband met with the undertaker, he was told that it would cost more than $3,000 to ship the body home, but it would only cost $500 to have the burial there. He thought about it for a few minutes, then stated adamantly, “I can’t risk having her buried here.” The undertaker asked him, “What was the risk to have her buried in Jerusalem?” He said, “Well, I heard that 2,000 years ago a man died and they buried him, but after three days he rose from the dead. I just can’t take that chance with my wife.”
Do you think that the husband had a good understanding of the Resurrection? He saw it as a power that revives us physically, but without changing us and our relationships. He had no idea of how it transforms us.
What is the Life of the Resurrection like? What does a person act like who believes in the Resurrection?
When St. Paul wrote his letter to the Christian community at Rome, he was concerned that they did not know what it means to believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus. They failed to understand the consequences of being baptized into his death and resurrection. He says, “Do you not know that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Rom. 6:3).
The word baptized here means immersed. By baptism we are immersed into Christ Jesus. We live inside of Christ’s death and resurrection. Early Christian baptismal fonts were shaped in the form of a cross. There were steps down into the font. The person being baptized knelt in the middle of the cross filled with water, while the priest poured water over their entire body.
You who are being baptized this Easter will be immersed into Christ Jesus. In the baptismal formula the priest says, “I baptize (immerse) you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” ‘Name’ is the biblical term for ‘person’ or ‘presence.’ So you will be “immersed into the presence” of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
St. Paul described one of the effects of baptism by saying, “Our old self was crucified with Christ so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin.” (Rom. 6:6). Where have you been in slavery to sin? Open that place in your heart to Christ Jesus, so that you will experience freedom from sin.
Easter is the anniversary of our baptism. So each of us should ask the same question. Where has sin enslaved me? Where do I feel trapped by sin? On Easter Sunday, we sprinkle the congregation with holy water to renew your baptism. As you are sprinkled, expose your sinful heart to the Risen Lord so that you will be healed by the water flowing from his open side.
St. Paul says, “We were buried with Christ through baptism into his death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live (literally, ‘walk’) in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4).
Through baptism, we are BURIED with Christ and RAISED to new life with him. What does that newness of life feel like? Are you living it? The image Paul gives is that we should be “walking in newness of life,” walking in the resurrection. Every step we take, every word we speak, every action done with Christ.
One sign of this newness of life is bearing witness to forgiveness. When Peter describes his experience of Jesus death and resurrection, he talks about forgiveness. He realized that God’s love was stronger than his triple denial. Peter says, “Everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:43).
The person who lives the newness of life proclaims God’s forgiveness. Tells other people how readily God forgives, how constant his mercy is. As God says in Isaiah, “Though the mountains leave their place and the hills be shaken, my love shall never leave you, nor my covenant of peace be shaken, says the LORD, who has mercy on you” (Is. 54:10).
But forgiveness is only possible if we are walking in Christ. Then his grace flows through us. This is described so clearly by Corrie Ten Boom in her book, The Hiding Place. Corrie lived in Amsterdam during WW II and her family sheltered Jews from the Nazis. Eventually, they were discovered and deported to a concentration camp. Her sister Betsie died in the camp, but Corrie survived.
After the war, Corrie toured throughout Europe speaking about forgiveness. After one talk, a man approached Corrie and thanked her. She was horrified because she recognized him as one of the SS who had stood guard at the concentration camp. He started thanking her for her message that Christ washed away his sins. Then he extended his hand to shake her hand. She froze, unable to act, because the horror of her sister’s death flooded her mind. She was repulsed and could not forgive him. Even though she tried to convince herself to do it, she could not extend her hand.
Praying silently, Corrie told Jesus that she could not forgive the man and begged Jesus to give her his own forgiveness. Immediately, she felt something like a current flow through her shoulder, down her arm, and toward the man. As she shook his hand, Corrie felt an overwhelming love for this man springing from her heart (The Hiding Place, pp. 214-215).
If you are walking in Christ, the power of his death and resurrection flows through you. He empowers you to bear witness to forgiveness.
Christians are resurrection people. We share in Christ’s power over sin, evil and death. Here and now we live beyond sin and death. One sign of newness of life is bearing witness to forgiveness. Other signs that we are walking in the Risen Christ might include:
- Being JOYFUL in tribulation. Sick people with great faith have such joy.
- Being PEACEFUL in a crisis.
- Showing PATIENCE every day to family members
If you are being baptized or confirmed this Easter, ask God for his gifts. In my prayer, I often ask the Lord to give me the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, chastity, humility, perseverance.
Ask for God’s gifts. Then keep your connection to Christ strong. The two main ways to develop a strong relationship are the Eucharist and daily prayer. Be faithful to the Eucharist every Sunday and come daily if possible. In the Eucharist we receive the Living Bread, filled with the Life of the Risen Lord. The Blood of Christ give us his power flowing from the cross.
Second, pray with the Scriptures, especially the gospels where the Risen Christ speaks to us. In Mark’s scene of the resurrection, an angel says, “Jesus has been raised. Go and tell others about this new life. He is going before you to Galilee” (Mk. 16:7). Galilee was their home. So God told them, “The Risen Lord will be with you when you go home. He will walk ahead of you and guide you.” And God tells you and me, “The Risen Christ will be walking with you when you go home.”