In October of 1993 a close friend of mine died and I found myself struggling with a deep sense of grief. That had been the third death in two years. In June of 1993 my beloved brother Joe had died of colon cancer and less than two years before, in October of 1991, my loving Mother died after a struggle with Alzheimers. I had not grieved well when I lost my Dad at age 18, and then an invalid sister when I was 24. Now I was an orphan! I imaged death as this enormous impenetrable black wall of granite that stood between me and those I loved. I could not see, touch, or get through to them. One day as I sat in prayer with this image before me, out of the corner of my eye I saw a light, that grew and grew – a doorway shaped like the open tomb of Jesus had formed in the wall. There was a way through this wall of death! Jesus was the Way through, death. He is the Light that illumines the darkness of death. He is the Truth that death is not the end but the beginning of a new and wonderful life in God’s Presence. Since then another beloved brother, Art, and two sister-in-laws, Dolores and Toots, have died. I have a wonderful family waiting for me on the other side of that wall of death which has been forever breached by the power of Jesus' Resurrection.
Eastern Catholics sing out this wonderful proclamation on Easter about the power of the Resurrection. “Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, restoring life to those in the tomb. Christ is Risen from the dead!” Death which was always looked upon as the greatest evil and enemy of the human person has now lost its power! When the disciples saw the Resurrected Christ before them, still bearing the wounds in His Hands, Feet and Side, they were amazed, incredulous, overjoyed – Christ had conquered death!! That is what they were to proclaim as the Good News: Jesus had died but had risen from the dead and was alive again, and all of us can share in this resurrection from death because of the great and marvelous love and mercy of God! Having seen Him with their own eyes, heard Him speak again alive and embraced Him in the flesh, what faith, what love, what hope and what joy impelled them to take that news to everyone without fear.
It was this belief in the Resurrection that gave the Apostles, the disciples and the early Christians the strength to endure persecution and face death with joy. This same power is alive today as Christians all over the world are once again being called to face death because they believe in Jesus. The Coptic Christians who were martyred by Isis on a beach in Libya were seen mouthing the Name of Jesus as they faced death. A Sister who works incognito among the jailed Christians in the Sudan spoke, on EWTN’s Women of Grace Series, about a little five year old girl who faced death with joy for teaching her little pre-school mates about Jesus. As she was pierced with a sword in front of her family, she laughed and told her parents not to worry she would see them again. They considered it a miracle that she had no fear and did not feel pain. One evening on national news I heard a reporter interviewing a little girl of seven, who had seen her family massacred in Nigeria, ask her how she is dealing with it. She made the sign of the cross, folded her hands and with tears streaming from her eyes said “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” - the Power of Jesus’ Resurrection in the midst of the death!
My belief in the power of Jesus’ Resurrection, not only helps me deal with suffering and death when it touches me personally, but more so, when I hear of untold sufferings and countless deaths all over the world from violence, natural disasters and accidents. Unlike some, who see the suffering in the world as an argument against faith in a loving God, I see it as proof that there is a loving and just God who will bring to a place of joy one day all those whose lives here on earth were full of sorrow! God loves all His people! He will bring victory out of death! Jesus’ Resurrection is the promise and the power! Now, I image Jesus the Good Shepherd, marked with His glorious Wounds, striding confidently into the places of death – Syria, Nigeria, Sudan, Iraq, Nepal, North Korea, Yemen, wherever violence and disaster strikes - leading out His sheep to the wonderful green pastures of heaven where they will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.