From my high school days I had a serious interest in the afterlife, including aspects of death and dying. This fascination began by reading books for class as a senior by Drs. Raymond A. Moody, Jr. and Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. Hearing about near-death and out-of-body experiences and the various stages of dying from a medical/clinical perspective sparked my intellectual curiosity and heightened my desire to reconcile my Catholic faith with the reported experiences of science. How did this all fit in with the Church's teaching about the four last things--death, judgment, heaven and hell?
One thing that I was pretty certain of throughout my studies was that the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead was something completely unique. The Resurrected Body was not some out-of-body experience or near-death occurrence like those stories I had read. The Glorified Body revealed to those chosen disciples followed after Jesus was unmistakably dead by means of torture and crucifixion. This Glorified Body could now pass through matter such as locked doors (Jn. 20: 19-20) (subtlety). It could be in various places not necessarily in close proximity like Galilee and Jerusalem (agility). It was frequently unrecognizable as on the road to Emmaus (Lk. 24: 13-32) or to Mary Magdalene in the garden (Jn. 20: 11-18) (brightness or glory). It had triumphed over all human suffering (impassibility).
As we celebrate Easter once again, I hope that we never take for granted what occurred on that first Easter morning. Most of Jesus' disciples had fled and were presumably in hiding for fear that what just happened to their rabbi-leader might also happen to them. Women went to anoint the crucified Body and found an empty tomb. Jesus then made His presence known and everything changed! He is risen! No matter what they did to Him, He is still alive! The experience of a Resurrected Jesus led the disciples to be fearless in their preaching and to endure torture and martyrdom themselves.
If we get to a point in our lives where this essential teaching of our Christian faith--the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead--ceases to captivate, to encourage, to foster hope and to motivate, then I suggest that we should probably just stay in bed on Easter morn and every other Sunday morning. Why bother at all? Life would be pretty empty and meaningless as far as I am concerned.
However, for Christian believers it is this triumph of Jesus over sin and death that makes all the difference in the world. We hope to share in His Resurrection. We hope to receive a new, glorified body ourselves. We have hope for an eternal life. We believe that Jesus can and does forgive our sins when we repent. In essence, we have Christian hope.
On behalf of the priests, the deacons, the sisters and our entire parish staff, I wish you all the joy that the disciples experienced when they saw the Risen Lord!
Fr. Ed Namiotka