The Death and Resurrection of our Lord
Holy Week and Easter constitute the climax of the Christian year. While the popularily of Advent and Christmas in our culture creates the appearance of an equivalence between Christmas and Easter, it is Easter that matters the most. Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Without the resurrection, there would have been no apostles and no church. Without the resurrection, Jesus' death would have been a tragedy rather than the message of justification and reconciliation of the world to God. Without the resurrection, Jesus himself would have been totally forgotten except perhaps as a obscure reference in the works of the Jewish historian Josephus. It is in light of the resurrection that we know who Jesus is and affirm the message of Christmas that Jesus is the incarnation of the Word of God.
The most important contribution of the Christian year with its holy days and seasons is that it helps the church to remember the meaning of the Gospel. Because Holy Week and Easter are the highlights of the Christian year, we are taught that the Gospel is centered in the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. There has been a tendency since the Enlightenment to place the center of the Gospel elsewhere---the teaching of the kingdom of God, the commandments to love God and to love one's neighbors, or the spiritual consciousness of Jesus as Son of the Father. Of course, Jesus' death and resurrection should never be understood apart from his historical vocation as the herald and personal agent of the kingdom of God. His spirituality and teaching are integral parts of his historical vocation. But it is clear that in the New Testament the center of the Gospel is his death and resurrection. The Synoptic Gospels--which are often cited as the basis for putting the emphasis more on Jesus's life and teaching than on his death and resurrection--are actually extended stories of the passion of the Lord. The Acts of the Apostles clearly indicates that the message of the apostles was the announcement of Christ's redemptive death and glorious resurrection. It is Christ's death and resurrection that are the basis of the writing of most of the rest of the New Testament.
During Holy Week and Easter we rejoice in the good news of the Gospel. The Gospel is summarized in the words of the apostle Paul when we turn his negatives into positives (cf. I Corinthians 15: 12-20):
Because Christ has been raised, our faith is not in vain!
Because Christ has been raised, we are no longer in our sins!
Because Christ has been raised, those who have died in Christ have not perished!
I hope everyone has a solemn Holy Week and a joyous Easter.