Easter is arguably the greatest time of the liturgical year. Though Christmas it wonderful, Easter is like our Super Bowl as Catholics. Not only are we celebrating new people joining the church, but we are celebrating the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The resurrection is so important that St. Paul tells us that if it did not happen that we are still dead in sin (1 Corinthians 15:17). Sometimes there is some apprehension when the resurrection is discussed because we feel a burden of proof, but the evidence for it is out there. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but three proofs for the resurrection of Christ.
1. Jesus appeared first to a woman
To the modern reader this fact is not a big deal, but in the ancient world it was total scandal! Women were like second class citizens, and could not be called on to be witnesses in a case of any kind. Women in that time were expected to walk six steps behind men, and if they showed their hair in public, they were called a harlot. To start a false movement on this premise would have been disastrous. Yet in Mark 16:9 we read that Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene after the resurrection.
If the resurrection were a lie and concocted as a ploy to spread a false message about Jesus then someone forgot to tell the Apostles. The Gospel of John tells it a little differently, but the people who Jesus appeared to first were women. They saw Christ, then ran back to tell the disciples. The Gospel writers could have easily left out this fact in an effort for the to validate the claims of Jesus, but they did just the opposite. The resurrection account of Jesus flourished though it was widely known that women were the first witnesses.
2. The newfound courage of the apostles
During the passion, death, and just prior to the Resurrection, the gospels reveal the human weakness of the disciples. The only one of them that was at the foot of the cross was St. John. The others ran away and hid in fear. What’s more telling is that after the crucifixion they hid in locked homes out of fear (John 20:19). Yet after the Resurrection there was a radical change in their conviction and courage. After seeing the risen Lord they traveled the known world to preach the Gospel. They left their families, professions, and homes to take the message to foreign lands. All but St. John died a martyrs death, and even he died in exile on the island of Patmos.
They received this courage by what they witnessed, and Jesus appeared to them at different times. It is not uncommon for one person to die for something that he thinks is a lie, but it is impossible for a whole group to die for something they know is a lie. That is because the resurrection really happened and it changed the course of history as the disciples spread the news everywhere they could. They would not stay quiet about it even in the face of death.
This courage of the disciples carried on into those whom they taught. Great saints like St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Polycarp, and St. Clement of Rome all died the death of a martyr. In fact, the more Christians that the Roman empire killed the fast Christianity spread. This courage lives on today in the Christians that are being killed every week just to attend mass.
3. The change in our lives
The Resurrection is a religious experience of one who has come to faith in Christ, and is much more than something that happened to those who physically encountered the risen Christ. Every Christian with a genuine faith in Christ experiences the Resurrection in a special way through baptism. Through the Sacrament of Baptism, the effects of Original Sin are wiped away, and we are raised in the newness of life. Everyone has something deep in the recesses of their mind that they are ashamed of. It may be an addiction, adultery, or a gambling problem.
These things are destructive, but when one comes to faith those things are in the past. They still may struggle, but through Christ they are resurrected and forgiven for those things that they have done. Those types of experiences are the modern-day equivalent of the disciples physically seeing the resurrected Jesus. Our former selves are dead and gone, but we were resurrected spiritually into a new creation.