A Kingdom Conquered

 

Fr. Frank Pavone

 
  3/16/1998
 

"Dux vitae mortuus, regnat vivus"--"Life's Captain, who died, now lives and reigns."

These words come from the ancient Easter Sequence, the Victimae Paschali, which is proclaimed before the Gospel on Easter Sunday Masses. The message is clear: Easter is not simply about someone rising from the dead; it is about the conquering of a Kingdom. Life's Captain not only lives; He also reigns. He has a kingdom, and it is the Kingdom of Life. Jesus is explicit about this when speaking to the apostles after His Resurrection. "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me" (Mt. 28:17).

Death is not merely a single event. It, too, is a kingdom, to which some choose to belong. "By the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who are in his possession experience it" (Wisdom 2:24). Yet God "has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son" (Col. 1:13; see also Heb. 2:14-15). Christ, by rising, has not only overcome His own death; He has overcome ours! He has overturned the entire kingdom of death.

The effects of that defeated kingdom do, indeed, endure, even as the Kingdom of God makes progress in growth through the phases of human history. Pope John Paul II has pointed out the existence of "a kind of 'conspiracy against life,'" a "war of the powerful against the weak" in our day (see The Gospel of Life (EV), n.12).

Yet in working to overcome this culture of death, marked most tragically by abortion, we are not simply working "for victory." We, rather, are working "from victory!" Victory is our starting point. Christ is Risen! This concrete, historical event, in all its truth and significance, contains the objective defeat of the culture of death. The Victory of Life, furthermore, is present in every Mass, where we proclaim, "Dying you destroyed our death; Rising you restored our life!"

Easter gives us our identity as "the people of life" (EV n.79). Baptized into Christ's victory over death, we are also sent to proclaim, celebrate, and serve that victory (see EV 78-101). At Easter Mass, we renew the vows of our baptism, one of which is that we "reject Satan and all his works." Chief among those works is death. Yet the Son of God has destroyed death, and that means that we who follow Him likewise are called to stand against it.

Many who sincerely believe may not realize the full implications of that belief. To believe in and celebrate the Resurrection necessarily immerses us in and commits us to the conflict against evils such as abortion and euthanasia. We are not free to ignore the battle or entrust it to someone else. It belongs to our very identity to fight it. It belongs to the very identity of the priest, furthermore, to preach it.

And it belongs to our identity to do all this with the utmost serenity, confidence, and joy. Christ is truly Risen and is with us! Let us rejoice and be glad!