"There you shall see Him, as he told you." St. Mark, 16:7.
Some years ago a popular English novelist wrote a book called WHEN IT WAS DARK. The story centers about the efforts of a wealthy atheist and unbeliever who tried to discredit and disprove Christianity. He tried to do this by showing that the Resurrection of Jesus never really happened. Certainly he was attacking the very foundation stone of all faith in Christ.
This wealthy unbeliever of the novel hired several archaeologists, that is, men who study the relics and ruins of the past, to fake the discovery of the body of Jesus in the neighborhood of Jerusalem. On the tomb which these scientists falsely maintained they had discovered, these deceivers carved an inscription declaring that the owner of this tomb had stolen the body of Jesus and had hidden it there.
The novel then goes on to describe the horrible effect of such a discovery, if it were true. In powerful passages he shows how the Christian Church would crumble and collapse, how men and women would go back to lust and cruelty and animal ways, and how the flame of hope would die out in every human heart.
In this story, which was pure fiction, we see just one of the scores of attempts to disprove the first Easter. The fact remains, the sound, certain, unassailable fact that Christ really did rise from the grave. There is no fact in history more certain than that. No fact has been the object of fiercer attack from atheists, unbelievers and anti-Christians like the Resurrection. This Easter morning we know it is true, and, knowing it is true, we take hope.
Among the sentiments in our heart today hope stands out strongly. Hope is a supernatural confidence that God will give us salvation and all the means necessary for it. The virtue of hope is a confident expectation that we will gain heaven, and that God will give us the means to gain heaven.
1. In all hope there are two elements:A. The desire for some valuable good in the future, like getting a certain job or passing an examination.
B. Confidence that future good will be attained. Hope, as you can see, and as St. Paul tells us, will cease in heaven.
2. Consider supernatural, spiritual, religious hope:A. Its object is a future good, the gaining of heaven. It includes the confident expectation that our sins will be forgiven, that we will triumph over temptation, that we will receive graces and virtues needed for salvation, that our bodies will rise again, and that body and soul will enjoy an eternity with God. Included is the spiritual confidence that God will give us certain temporal helps to this end, like health, good disposition, education.
B. Our hope must be:i. Living: it must spur us on to a life that will merit heaven.
ii. Firm: it continues to glow in the face of difficulties.
iii. Accompanied by distrust of self.
iv. Effective: cooperating as far as we can with God's help.
v. Complete: including all phases and times of life.
This is the kind of hope that stirs our hearts this Easter morning. We, too, hope for a resurrection with Christ. Seeing our Lord rise from the grave, we have a firm, living, complete and effective trust that we also will rise.
How can we have such a hope? How can we trust so simply and completely that God will take us to heaven?
3. We have solid reasons for our hope:A. God knows all things; He knows our temptations and our weakness.
B. God can do all things; He offers us all the helps we need to fulfill our hope.
C. God is boundlessly kind and loving; He is more willing to help us than we are to ask His help.
D. He has promised us eternal life and the means to it. He expressly promised us eternal salvation. (I John, 2 :25); the resurrection of our bodies, (St. John, 5 :28); the forgiveness of sin (St. Luke, 15 :7) ; and temporal goods (St. Matthew, 6 :25-32).
E. But our greatest ground for hope is the truth we celebrate today the glorious, thrilling fact that Christ rose from the grave by His own power.
In the face of that fact, we will never doubt God's power and goodness; we will never despair; we will never grow feeble in confidence. On the other hand, we will never presume on His goodness by committing sin or by a false, rash confidence. A happy Easter means a hopeful Easter.
As the angel told the followers of Christ at His empty tomb:"Go, tell his disciples and Peter that he goes before you into Galilee; there you shall see him, as he told you."Yes, there in Galilee; and there on the altar, and there at the Communion rail, you shall find Him, as He told you.
Indeed, take away the resurrection of Christ as that novelist did in his story WHEN IT WAS DARK and the world will be dark indeed. Then we would have to scratch the word "hope" out of our dictionaries and our literature; we would have to take the thought of hope out of our prayer, should there be any prayer. Then we would have to dim the light of hope in the eye and the spark of hope in the heart. Then, truly, the world would be dark.
But, thanks to the risen Christ, the world is not entirely dark. Today a light, a dazzling, divine light shines through the darkness of the world. Today we underline every word of hope in our literature and our liturgy; today we see the light of hope in the eyes of all Christ's followers; today we feel the flame of hope in our hearts.
May you continually recall and thank God for giving us that glorious Easter, with all its blessings and graces, but especially, may we we have a heartfelt, holy hope that you and I shall one day rise with Him, that you and I shall one day see Him-just as He told us. Amen.
Prayers, Precepts and Virtues by Fr. Arthur Tonne (1949)