He Who Was Dead Has Risen

The Lord is risen, alleluia, alleluia!

He is risen indeed, alleluia, alleluia!

One of my favorite places in all the earth is the empty tomb of Jesus, the Messiah. I have been privileged to have been there numerous times. I once had the singular grace to concelebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke in the tiny space where the dead body of Jesus had lain, where his own grieving mother had arranged his grey, lifeless, and terribly disfigured corpse.

But more importantly, it was the very place where Jesus, filled with glory and immense power arose from the dead. I must admit, that offering the Holy Sacrifice in that place made my knees literally knock. To think, there in that place where Jesus rose, I was there with the living Jesus again! For in the most holy Eucharist, the risen Lord is made truly present. It was an experience of a lifetime, and a great grace.

I bring it up because anyone privileged to see the empty tomb is thereby made a witness to the resurrection of the Lord. We have seen the tomb and it is indeed empty! Jesus is indeed risen We have seen where they laid him, and he is not there! It is for this very reason that I encourage every Catholic to make the sacrifice to go and see the place where Jesus rose triumphant from the grave, and then go forward as a witness to the resurrection.

That word “witness” is an interesting one. In modern parlance it means to see something, as in being a witness to a crime. Those who see the empty tomb are witnesses to the fact that it is empty. It also can mean the sharing of one’s testimony, but the Greek, in which the New Testament was written, adds another layer of meaning. The root words of both witness and martyr is the same.

So, there forms the idea that our giving witness could lead to death, to being a martyr. We see it clearly in the early church. Those who give witness to the resurrection are put to death. All of the twelve apostles, except St. John the Beloved, gave witness to the truth of the resurrection by their death, and the martyrdom of the witnesses to the gospel continues to this very day.

It is the certainty that Jesus died and rose, and the promise that those who are faithful to Jesus and his Church till the end, which allowed them to go, quite willingly, to horrible and painful deaths. This same promise and certainty about the death and resurrection of Jesus should also lead to our giving witness, even if that witness is rejected. It also, when wholeheartedly embraced, will give us confidence in the Mercy of God, and fearlessness in the face of death.

After all, if we believe that he died and rose, if we are in the ark of the Church Jesus founded, if we receive the sacraments that the Lord himself left us, if we know the Risen Lord through prayer, then not even death has any power over us! It should cause us no anxiety, as with the martyrs. It’s coming should be seen as a triumph over death, our own final victory.

My children, Jesus teaches us to be fearless in giving witness to the world. The world sorely needs our joyful and confident witness to the truth of the gospel. So, don’t be afraid! Speak up! What’s the worst they could do? Kill us, so we can triumph over this world of sin, and go to heaven? That doesn’t seem so bad if you see with the eyes of faith in Jesus, the King of Love.

So, speak! Speak the truth for all to hear! Be a witness with me that Jesus, who once was dead, has risen from the tomb!

Photo caption: the empty tomb of Christ in Jerusalem.

Published with permission from the author; this article previously appeared in A Living Sacrifice.

Fr. Dana Ambrose Christensen is a priest and writer of the Diocese of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  He was ordained priest in 2005 and has served various assignments.  He is well known for his blog, A Living Sacrifice, which has achieved an international following.  Fr. Dana writes on subjects related to spiritual direction and more recently his journey with ALS.