Deep Roots, Luxuriant Leaves: Resurrection and New Life
First Reading (Acts 10: 34, 37-41): Peter bears witness to Jesus' Resurrection
Second Reading (Col 3: 1-4): Seek the things that are above
Gospel (Jn 20: 1-9): The empty tomb
-“The minister heard that for a tree to grow well, one must strengthen its roots; for a river to flow wide, one must dredge its source; for a country to be stable, one must be kind and honorable” (1)
-“Luxuriant roots beget plentiful fruit, sufficient oil brightens the light.” (2)
“So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col 3: 1-3)
For Christians, Easter is the greatest feast of the year (even greater than Christmas). We call Sunday 'the Lord's Day' because that day belongs to God and Our Lord rose from the dead on that day.
The Jews' Sabbath originally was on Saturday so actually one would think Christians would observe that day. But in order to commemorate the Lord's resurrection, Christians gave priority to Sunday. On that day we worship God, participate in Mass, refrain from one's daily labor. We join joyfully in community with other Christians and we perform acts of charity. We term Sunday the “Lord's Day.” These are external practices of the Christian faith, but they are not the essence and spirit.
The essence and spirit of Christian faith is: death, resurrection, unity, seeking. This is what St. Paul says: You have already 'died', but now together with Christ you have 'risen.' 'United' in Christ, you should 'seek' the things that are above.
“Death” and “Resurrection” is a process. The merging of the two is what today we call 'Pascha' or 'Passover'. 'Your life is hidden with Christ in God' means a state of life closely linked to God, a life filled with God’s grace. 'Seeking the things that are above' refers to a keen interest in spiritual matters, an appreciation of life, a holding to high ideals. It is a spiritual 'atmosphere', a lifestyle that shows concretely that spiritual matters are important.
In the early Church, though the Gospels do not record that anyone knew how or when Christ rose from the dead, the disciples believed in the Resurrection. Afterwards Jesus did not appear to large numbers of people (at the most perhaps somewhat over a thousand persons.) But obviously the faithful in the early Church did not feel their faith in Jesus needed to be based on having actually “seen” the Resurrection. They had not seen Jesus rising from death but they firmly believed Jesus had risen. This is what Jesus said to Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (Jn 20:29)
The early Christians had faith in the risen Jesus. This Jesus was alive and was in their midst. He abode in their hearts, he was beside and around them, he shared and bore with them all that happened in their lives. He became the strength and focus of their lives.
They simply 'believed' in Jesus' Resurrection and in what had happened on the third morning after Jesus had died and was buried: “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” (cf. Jn 20: 1-9). No one had seen Jesus rising from the dead. Even in the Mass for Easter Sunday, it is this section on the ‘empty tomb’ that has been chosen for the Gospel Reading.
But they had 'experienced' the risen Jesus truly alive, outside themselves yet also within their hearts. He was already with them and would be with them forever. This Jesus was truly there, influencing and changing their lives. For this Jesus, they were fearless in facing any suffering or difficulty, and it was for this Jesus that so many of them suffered persecution and all kinds of torture.
In the “Ten Memorandums to Advise Emperor Tai Zong” Wei Jing wrote, “The minister heard that for a tree to grow well, one must strengthen its roots; for a river to flow wide, one must dredge its source; for a country to be stable one must be kind and honourable.”(1) For trees to grow tall and strong, the roots must be firm, for a river to flow far and wide, its source must be very deep. For a country to have peace and stability the ruler must govern with kindness and honor.
After the early Christians had been converted to Jesus they experienced a depth in
their life forces and an overflow of grace within their hearts. They were aware of an abundance of love and good works flowing from within themselves. This was the inevitable result of their union with Christ. It was similar to Han Yu's 'Reply to Li Yi':“Luxuriant roots beget plentiful fruit, sufficient oil brightens the light.” (2) Plants with deep roots and luxuriant leaves will produce plentiful and large fruit, a lamp with sufficient oil will give out a bright light.
Because the early church was united so closely to Jesus, it shone with radiant brightness. ”Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.” (Acts 2: 46-47) In Jesus they were really a 'resurrected community'.
We too believe in Jesus' Resurrection. But are we united to Christ? Do we seek the things that are above? How much experience of Jesus do we have? Do we really believe and feel that the Risen Jesus is always with us throughout the failures and successes, gains and losses, of our lives?