My birthday has fallen on every day of Holy Week throughout my life. I’d like to say that the lessons of days like Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil, or Easter Sunday always infused my birthday with special meaning growing up, but sometimes even the beauty and the significance of the Easter Triduum cannot come between a boy and the excitement of his birthday. Special attention, gifts, and cake (especially the cake) always help usher in another year alive on Earth, honoring the joy that is a year past and celebrating the hope for a future year full of happiness and growth. I’m sure we’ve all experienced these common characteristics of any given birthday celebration.
This year I found myself reflecting more on the significance of the Resurrection than in past years. St. Paul said those who are baptized into Christ’s death are also raised up to new life with the Resurrected Christ (Romans 6:3-6). This scriptural passage shows that Christians are already walking with the Risen Christ from the moment they are baptized until the moment they enter into the fullness of this reality through death. Our baptism by water binds us closer to the Risen Christ, whose blood has purchased for us the keys to eternal life.
However, we cannot proclaim this new reality of walking with the Risen Christ without also understanding that Christ’s resurrection was for the entire world. Pope Francis alluded to this idea in two separate homilies in 2013. In one homily he said, “the Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics… even the atheists.” Many websites clarified this quote and pointed to the fact that Francis was simply highlighting solid, Catholic teaching that comes from the Catechism. The Catechism states that people who do not believe in the Church or Christ can still attain eternal salvation if they have a sincere desire to follow God’s will as they have come to know it through what they have learned about it through their conscience (no. 847). This teaching indicates that God’s will can be discovered within the hearts of every person and lived out (or not) by the actions that a person takes after discovering that will.
So where does the Resurrection fit in to all of this? Knowing the sure answer to that question would be an incredible birthday gift. Yet, I think one obvious, gift-wrapped piece of wisdom that the Resurrection reveals to all of us is that God and God’s will for humanity is one that seeks life and not death. Moreover, God’s will is for everyone to have new life free from the snares and challenges of death, even if one has not come to know Christ. Remembering this incredible mystery every year must challenge us to learn to walk in the new life of the Resurrection every year, decade, and century to come. Even though we can never fully understand everything about the Resurrection, let us use this wisdom to invite others to take part in Christ’s unfailing, unconditional love through the way that we live our lives.