Our Easter season began almost a month ago with the three days of the Triduum. On Holy Thursday at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper our faith community gathered to recall Jesus and his circle of disciples coming together for the Passover meal. This Jewish festival meal is an important piece of Jewish faith tradition.
On Passover, Jewish families come together and recall the meal shared by the Israelites as they began their exodus journey. This trek through the desert was a movement out of slavery in Egypt to liberation in their own land. During that Exodus journey, with all its challenges, the Israelites not only came to their promised land, they became formed as a people of God. It was a passage from bondage to freedom, from darkness to new light.
It is no small thing that we Catholic Christians mark this same journey, from the bondage of death to the liberation of new life. Easter is central to who we are. We are Easter People. Now here we are in the midst of the Easter season. In John’s Gospel there is a wonderful passage that parallels the Old Testament Book of Exodus as it describes the community of Israelites journeying from bondage to new life.
John 10:27-30 presents the disciples of Jesus as now formed into a community of friends and ready to follow him. He leads them, filled with trust and faith to new and eternal life. Our Feast of Easter acknowledges and calls us to celebrate together this Good News of God’s life-giving love, for us and for all humanity.
For all Christians this season celebrates the central element of our faith, the Paschal Mystery. Not a common phrase for most of us, the Paschal Mystery refers to the whole life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It is a reminder to us that our key belief as Catholic Christians is our belief that Jesus was raised from the dead. We are not about the Cross but about the resurrection to new life.
From the very beginning of the Christian church, the time of the apostles, the resurrection was the core belief. All else, as the apostle Paul expressed it, is dependent on our belief that Jesus was raised from the dead. Paul put it this way as he wrote to the Christian community in Corinth: If there is no resurrection from the dead, Christ himself cannot have been raised, and if Christ has not been raised then our preaching is in vain and your believing it is useless. (1 Cor.15:14-15)
Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is the foundation of our faith. Our ancestors in the faith expressed this belief that Jesus is risen from the dead in many ways. The earliest symbols and images used by Christians were those that presented the resurrection of Jesus. Only much later, more than 1000 years later, did the cross portraying the suffering Jesus find its way into the Christian church’s images.
We are a people of the Paschal Mystery. The central part of our Eucharist is what is called the Eucharistic prayer. It is a prayer of thanksgiving for the wonder of God’s promise of life for all. The various versions of this prayer all celebrate our faith in the resurrection and its promise for all humanity. We hear words such as this: “O God, as we celebrate the remembrance of the saving passion of your Son, his wondrous Resurrection and Ascension into heaven, and as we look forward to his second coming,…” (Eucharistic Prayer III)