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The Resurrection: From Darkness to Transformation

On the Readings for The Resurrection of the Lord | April 12, 2020 | Easter Sunday

Fresco from the Chora Church, Istanbul (Wikipedia/Gunnar Bach Pedersen)

• Acts 10:34A, 37-43
• Psa 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23
• Col 3:1-4 or 1 Cor 5:6b-8
• Jn 20:1-9 or Mt 28:1-10 or Lk 24:13-35

“How can I lay open before you the mystery of the Lord’s resurrection, the saving grace of his cross and of his three days’ death?” asked St. John Chrysostom in a homily given on Holy Saturday. “For each and every event that happened to our Savior is an outward sign of the mystery of our redemption.” This mystery is not an event that cannot be known; rather, it is an event whose meaning and power cannot be fully plumbed. The mystery of the empty tomb is not a puzzle to be solved, but a saving truth to be proclaimed. “The mystery of Christ’s resurrection is a real event,” states the Catechism, “with manifestations that were historically verified, as the New Testament bears witness” (CCC 639).

This has always been confusing and controversial. This is understandable, for many people feel the story of Easter seems to good too be true. Also, if it is true, it demands a radical and transforming change in perspective. Which is one reason some try to turn the Resurrection into a “spiritual” event whose meaning differs according to the needs of the individual. Some insist, for instance, the Gospel accounts depict a shaken community finding solace in a shared narrative that is not mean to be historical and objectively true, but internal and subjective.

However, the vast majority of people are not willing to completely change their lives, and to even die, for a consoling story rooted in wishful self-deception. There is also the grounded, historical nature of the Gospel accounts, which depict the disciples acting as we would expect they would after Jesus’ death and, later, the discovery of his empty tomb. Throughout the three years of Jesus’ ministry, the disciples often misunderstood the words and works of their Master; he regularly had to explain and interpret for them. This was especially true of his words about his approaching Passion, death, and Resurrection. Recall how deeply scandalized Peter was by Jesus’ explanation of what was to transpire in Jerusalem (Mt. 16:21-23).

This confusion is deftly indicated by John, who writes that when Mary of Magdala went to the tomb “it was still dark.” She, like the others, was in the dark about what had happened, and what it meant; she immediately assumed that someone—perhaps the Jewish authorities? The Romans?—had stolen Jesus’ body. When Peter and John arrived at the empty tomb, the head apostle rushed past the younger (and faster) apostle, and saw the burial cloths. “Then the other disciple also went in,” John writes of himself, “the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed.”

That belief was an instance of light penetrating the darkness. “When, therefore,” wrote St. Cyril of Jerusalem, “they looked at the issues of events in the light of the prophecies that turned out true, their faith was from that time forward rooted on a firm foundation.” And so the transformation began in earnest, culminating on Pentecost with the power of the Holy Spirit filling the Upper Room with tongues of fire and setting the newborn Church aflame with grace. How else to explain Peter’s bold sermon on that day and also later, when speaking to the centurion Cornelius, the first Gentile convert?

Notice that the head apostle, in preaching to a clear-eyed Roman soldier, did not appeal to subjective experience or use emotional ploys, but to actual experience and first-hand knowledge. “We are witnesses,” Peter said, “of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem.” And after Jesus rose from the grave, he appeared “not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.”

We see, then, the reality of the Resurrection and the reliability of the witnesses. And also, as St. Paul writes, the responsibility each of us has been given: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above.”

(This “Opening the Word” column originally appeared in the April 20, 2014 edition of Our Sunday Visitor newspaper.)

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About Carl E. Olson 1190 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.


  1. Happy Easter to all!!! Paraphrasing the title of this article and to totally experience the Resurrection of Jesus in us on this day and any day of our lives we MUST call Darkness BY NAME, so we can TRULY leave it behind and not still carry it with us like a mile-long train. Satanic Political Correctness is about the opposite, NOT calling things, good and bad, by their REAL NAME, but mixing them up. By the Grace of God, I got free of so much demonic infestation in false religions/spiritualities, occultism, etc. when I realized and called them by their REAL NAME: highly toxic, dehumanizing garbage.

    So we must do with the present situation in the Catholic Church. We all must stop the enabling naivete that says: “that’s inconceivable, that will never happen”. It’s the same enabling naivete that opened the doors to things that were “inconceivable/impossible” like liberal tyranny, savage radical feminism, abortion, homosexual marriage, the priestly crisis, etc. The Great Mysteries of our Holy Catholic Faith never ever cancel the Free Will/Free Choice that God gave us. Never. That’s why the Highest Mysteries don’t ignore the lowest depravations; INDEED, they exist as God’s response to those bottomless depravations.

    Where sin abounds, Grace super abounds. So it is with the Resurrection of Jesus. We MUST pray for those demonic doors opened during the Vatican Pachamama Incident to be closed forever and for those high prelates that enabled that abomination to repent, convert and surrender to Jesus in the One and True Catholic Faith or be replaced according to God’s Will. Mention those prelates by NAME, you know who they are. It’s our authority through Baptism. These days, what you don’t reject, you accept and legitimize. Remember that. If we don’t have a saintly devotion to Judas Iscariot neither should we be devoted to them and in love with them in any form, way or manner. Our false charity impedes their chance of repentance. The Resurrection comes by the testimony and sacrifice of our lives to Jesus and by the testimony of our mouth in fidelity to Catholic Truth and all REALITY (Revelation 12:11). Bring the Invincible Light of Jesus’ Resurrection to Earth, all humans and all Creation by CALLING THINGS BY THEIR REAL NAME!!

  2. When the centurion standing there in front of Jesus saw how He had breathed His last, he said, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God!’ (Mk 15:39). An intriguing dimension of faith in Christ’s divinity is the witness first given ‘after’ Christ’s death not by the Apostles, the women, rather by a Roman centurion. If we examine author Olson’s take on John and Peter’s witness to the Resurrection it is John, much closer to Christ’s heart not Peter who “saw and believed”. Nonetheless the Apostles remained skeptical of Mary Magdalene’s actual flesh and blood witness of the Risen Christ, were shocked when he appeared to them in the upper room. Olson quotes Cyril of Jerusalem That belief was an instance of light penetrating the darkness. “They looked at the issues of events in the light of the prophecies that turned out true, their faith was from that time forward rooted on a firm foundation.” There’s narrative within a narrative in the Resurrection event that cannot be addressed in a brief commentary, yet suffice it to identify a mystery in the selective unfolding of faith in the resurrection. Romans some atrociously brutal towards Christ others exemplary proponents. The former the ‘grunt’ soldier the latter the more educated upper echelon officer class [we have the centurion Cornelius, the centurion who gave us the communion prayer]. Similar to the highly educated Saul who studied “at the feet of Gamaliel”, opponent to Christ converted then greatest missionary theologian. Is it God’s providence predilection or both? Certainly the use of God’s gift of intellect, which most likens us to God is in play. Fisherman John Zebedee’s son is an anomaly. Privileged by Christ, privileged by the Sanhedrin, perhaps because of his youthful innocence permit him complete access during the trial, at the foot of the Cross while the others hid. Then premier Gospel theologian Apocalyptic prophet. It seems in accord to Cyril of Jerusalem that Apostles, Jews familiar with scripture, lower class fisherman like the original Apostles, except for Paul and Romans educated familiar with Marcus Tullius Cicero, Virgil had a sense of justice that made them candidates for a collective witness of Jew and Roman, the chosen and the gentile to the Resurrection of Christ from the dead igniting a fire of faith throughout the world in the crucified Son of God.

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. The Resurrection: From Darkness to Transformation - Catholic Mass Search
  2. Some reading material, 13.04.20 – RC Largs and Millport

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