Faith in the death, resurrection of Jesus is central to Catholicism

April 11, 2017

By now we’ve been with Jesus for some time in the Lenten desert journey, walking towards the cross on the way to the glory of the resurrection. As we prepare to celebrate the crowning truth of our faith, I do wonder, how seriously do we take the fact of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ?

A 2015 survey by Pew Research found that belief in Jesus’ actual resurrection was an essential part of being Catholic for 67 percent of U.S. Catholics. For a full one-third of Catholics the resurrection was less than an essential component of their faith! Apparently, this is not necessarily a modern trend. 

Already St. Paul had to stress to the Corinthians the centrality of the resurrection telling them that “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Cor 15:14). As some commentators put it, without the resurrection the Church becomes another social club. 

On the contrary, for the faithful the resurrection is reason for our hope, as it was for the seven brothers who declared: “The King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws” (2 Macc 7:9). 

His resurrection points to our own resurrection at the end of times, as we express every Sunday when we pray the words from the Nicene Creed, “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” This means that for the Christian, death is not an end, but a passage to new life in Christ. 

In fact, the beginning of our life of faith is marked with an identification with Jesus’ death and resurrection in our Baptism, as Paul declared to the Romans: “We were indeed buried with Him through Baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life” (Rom 6,4). The resurrection gives assurance to our faith, for it is confirmation of Jesus’ earthly ministry.

His works and teachings (see Catechism of the Catholic Church #651). It is also confirmation of His divinity and His filial relation to God already declared by a heavenly voice during his Baptism: “this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (Mt 3:17). Jesus even identifies Himself with it saying “I am the resurrection, and the life” (Jn 11:25).

If we truly believe in the resurrection of our Lord, how might our life change as a result? St. Paul’s life was radically changed after his encounter with the risen Christ. From being the fiercest of persecutors he became the Apostle to the Gentiles, tirelessly preaching the Gospel of the Risen Christ. 

For the apostles, an encounter with the risen Christ invariable culminated in a call to the mission of evangelization. For the faithful, with Christ’s resurrection we are able to live amidst trials, sufferings and difficulties and turn our eyes to the Risen One with confidence exclaiming “Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev 20:22). 

As we celebrate the Easter season it is my prayer that we open our hearts to the newness of the resurrection and its transforming power in our lives.

Juan Carlos Moreno is an associate director with the Archdiocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.