April 8, 2024

Easter Sunday 2024

Fr. Elias Correa-Torres

They put Jesus to death by hanging Him on a tree, but God raised him up on the third day. On this day,  through Jesus Christ, who is God’s only begotten Son, God conquered death and unlocked for us the path to eternity. These messages are impressed upon us in today’s mass. What are we to make of them today?

From the earliest times of the church, it has clearly been important for Christians that Jesus was hung on a tree, for it was thus that they interpreted the crucifixion on the cross. Somehow this idea was necessary for understanding everything that God had done. In the Book of Genesis, it is recounted how Adam and Eve disobeyed God and sinned when they ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and that sin entered into human experience and reality.

Jesus on one occasion said, “Amen, Amen. I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. A slave does not remain in the household forever, but as son always remains. So if a son frees you, then you will truly be free.” In sinning, Human beings become slaves in the moral and spiritual sense. Ironically, when people follow their self-will and commit sins, often while asserting their freedom and believing that they are acting freely, they end up spiritually enslaving themselves.

For from that point on the introduction of sin into the soul has also introduced concupiscence, the disordered desire for pleasure, the attraction to sin that is very difficult for human beings to resist on their own. Saint Paul expresses these ideas to the Romans when he writes, “I am carnal, sold into slavery to sin. I take delight in the law of God and my inner self. But I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate. The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not.”

Speaking on behalf of sinners through all time, he then says, “miserable one that I am!” For truly sin, beyond the brief and transitory pleasure, leaves behind only misery.

After Adam and Eve and sinned by eating from the tree, God said, “See, the man has become like one of us knowing good and evil. Now what if he also reaches out his hand to take fruit from the tree of life and eats of it and lives forever?”

There was another tree also there in the middle of the Garden of Eden, the Tree of Life. And here we see that God’s full plan was from the beginning, for all the pieces of our eventual deliverance and salvation were present. It has been commented before that for human beings to have eaten of the tree of life in this state of being enslaved to sin would have resulted in the experience of hell: being slaves forever.

As God says, eating of the tree of live gives eternal life. Since we were not in a good state to eat of the tree of life, therefore God in his mercy, banished us from the Garden of Eden to till the ground from which we had been taken. These actions were taken by God for our own good and never without hope for us.

For even then, God had an ultimate plan to deliver human beings from slavery to sin, and then to give them fruit to eat from the tree of life. As Saint Paul says, “thanks be to God through Jesus Christ, our Lord. He is the one who will deliver us from slavery we experience in this mortal body.”

And it is through him that we will also partake of the Tree of Life. Jesus Christ is the way the pathway to be delivered from slavery to sin, and to enter life is to be united to Christ in all of the essential aspects of his life: the way he lived his life here, how he was treated and accepted it and bore it, what he experienced, his faithfulness and love to the end.

We are to turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel. We are to imitate Christ in all things to put on Christ. In this life, we are taught to empty oneself, to strive, to become obedient to death, serving the Lord and our brothers and sisters in humble work. For in the end, when we were baptized into Christ Jesus, we were baptized into his death.

He willingly laid down his life. He died out of love for others. We are to imitate him in his love and in his death. And there is no greater love than that. And if we are buried with him through baptism and to death, then just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too will live and newness of life.

Such a description can leave us a little discouraged, for it speaks of a lot of sacrifice, self-care, suffering, and self-emptying. But we are not alone in this while proceeding along this path in the imitation of Christ: Christ will also increasingly befriend us. Jesus says, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”

It is promised to us that we should increasingly encounter the deep joy and peace of Christ’s intimacy. Jesus also said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood as eternal life. And I will raise him up on the last day. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”

This is the intimacy which should grow in us as we receive the body and blood of Christ, which Jesus desires to give us us, so that we increasingly converse with him. And as he shares his spirit with us, as we hear his words speaking to us in our hearts, in union with the Eucharist, the rest of our deliverance and transformation will be accomplished.

“Unlike a slave, a son always remains in the household. So if a son frees you, then you will truly be free.” And they put Jesus to death by hanging him on a tree. They sought to conquer him by killing him. They believed the death to be their definitive weapon, but they were mistaken. They did not recognize the cross for what it truly was.

If the demons had known it, they would not have goaded men into crucifying the Lord of Glory, for it is their true and everlasting defeat. The Cross is really the tree of life and Christ is its fruit. And now the tree of life is made available to everyone who wants to may eat of it.

“Blessed are they who wash their robes so as to have the right to the tree of life, to the victor I will give the right to eat from the tree of life that is in the garden of God.”

Truly, through His only begotten Son, God has conquered death and unlocked for us the path to eternity. On this Easter day, may the Easter message once again possess and fill our hearts, and may we increasingly share it with others.



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