One of my favorite churches in all of Rome is Santa Maria Sopra Minerva – the only Gothic church in the city. It houses one of Michelangelo’s not-so well-known sculptures. He depicts a young Christ standing firm but not stiff. He stands alone, holding the cross in his left hand. The cross, however, is puny. It’s barely taller than Him. He holds it as if He were holding a bouquet of flowers. One would not look upon this image and surmise it to be an instrument of torture and in no way is it big enough for a man on which to die. And that is the point.
In his account of the resurrection, St. Mark tells us that He “has been raised” – a closer look at the original Greek we find “he has been roused” … The same word used by both St. Luke and St. Matthew … in other words, He has awakened, brought out of sleep … He has come to life. Thus, Michelangelo’s image of the Risen Lord accurately depicts His power over death … it shows that no amount of pain, nor suffering, not even death could bind Him, shackle and hold Him down to earth … “he is not here…” resurrexit sicut dixit” – He has risen as He said. The fact that Jesus had authority and power over death was already on display in the Gospels … In Luke He raises the son of the widow of Nain, in John He raises Lazarus – Jesus has already shown He has divine authority … Yet, this, His own resurrection is even further proof … He is the Son of God … The whole of our faith, the reason why we are Catholic hinges on this singular event – Christ raised from the dead …
The rescue mission is thus complete … Jesus entered the world of human suffering – God became a human being … everything about being human He embraced and experienced … except for sin … He lived life, He ate and drank, laughed and cried, He worked, He loved … He suffered and He died … Are not all these the same experiences we have? He proves to us that faith in Him, belief in Him … trust in Him and His power over life and death does not leave us in the darkness of human suffering, He does not leave us to fend for ourselves … He does not leave us to die … He proves to us that we too are not bound nor shackled by pain and suffering, we are not held captive by our sins … Christ raised from the dead rouses us to life with Him. The resurrection speaks to us of vigilance … of staying awake and alert with our eyes, our minds, our hearts fixed and focused on Him on a faith in Him who proves to us today that He comes not to condemn … but to save. Christ knocks on the doors of eternity for us – He knocks on God’s door to let us in … it’s about time we trusted Him.
Today, we show Him our crosses … show Him the pain and the suffering that seems too heavy to bear … show Him the hurt caused by the weight of sin and the heaviness of life… show it all to Him and with a renewed openness of heart and be roused – raised – to a newness of jot, a new experience of faith … rise with Him to life.