During the Easter season, the Church celebrates the rising of Christ’s glorified body from the tomb. Jesus goes before us as our sacrificial lamb and paves the way for Christian believers to share in his eternal glory one day. Yet as St. Paul indicates in his Letter to the Colossians, Christ also serves as the head of his mystical body, the Church, who continues his mission on earth. Thus in this Easter season, as we celebrate Christ’s physical victory over sin and death, we can also focus our attention on how the Lord’s mystical body continues to rise to newness of life in her ongoing renewal.
The Easter mystery unleashes a power that the world had never known before. This power was fresh and novel as a sealed tomb and locked doors could not hold back the Risen Lord in his physical form. Yet this power is not limited only to historical events from Jerusalem. Christ’s newness of life continues today, both in the eternal glory that the saints have come to enjoy and in the heavenly aid that Christ the head provides for his body, the Church.
As the Church is called to share in the Lord’s glory, there can be a temptation to assess her vitality in terms of secular progress. What is her net growth of members during the past year? How many institutions has she founded? How is she making any measurable impact on the culture at-large? The allure of measuring the Church’s vitality according to business metrics will always remain before us. Those who tirelessly serve in the Church want to know that their efforts are worthwhile. They also want some assurance that if their labors are not bearing demonstrable fruit, proper changes can be made. Yet the Easter mystery at work within the Church cannot be easily translated into quick solutions and decisive triumphs over the powers of this world.
Unlike the Lord’s dramatic exit from the tomb, Christ’s continual rising to new life through the renewal of his Church is not instantaneous. For we within the body must walk the path laid forth by the head, a path that involves the way of the cross and the journey of spiritual purification. The growth of the mystical body develops over time through the holiness of each of her members and remains rather hidden as conversion of heart, bodily mortification, and growth in virtue cannot be easily measured. To insist on immediate results within the Church’s work is to cheapen the price that was paid to win her the gift of eternal life. To expect immediate results within the hearts of believers is to underestimate the penetrating depths that Christ’s power seeks to go within their interior lives.
As we prepare for the coming celebration of Pentecost, the Church longs to live in the power of Christ’s Spirit ever more deeply, thus allowing the Spirit of God to animate each of her members and every aspect of her missionary effort. As such, we should not limit ourselves to thinking that Lent is the only time for Christian growth. Rather, the full unleashing of heavenly power should be readily experienced in the Easter season. Now is the time to relish in Christ’s life, a life that is ever fresh and ever new. Now is the time for the Church to embody the Easter mystery as new life springs forth from her penances and purifications.
Wherever the Church seeks to live in the risen power of Christ Jesus, she retains her youthful vitality. Wherever she remains rooted in Christ’s victory over sin and death, new life is already assured. May this be true in her evangelical zeal and in the holiness of each of her members during this sacred time.