What is the connection between freedom and rising from the dead?
When America was in its infancy and struggling to find a culture and frustrated at governance from Great Britain, the word most frequently uttered in speeches and pamphlets and editorials was not safety or taxes or peace; it was freedom.
Two acts of Parliament broke the bonds with the mother country irreparably. The first was the Stamp Act, which was enforced by British soldiers, who used general search warrants issued by a secret court in London to rummage through the personal possessions of any colonists they chose, ostensibly looking to see whether those colonists had purchased the government’s stamps. The second intolerable act was the imposition of a tax to pay for the Church of England, which all adult male property-owning colonists were forced to pay, no matter their religious beliefs.
The Stamp Act assaulted the right to be left alone in the home, and the Church of England tax assaulted the freedom to retain one’s earnings and to choose to support one’s own means of worship. The two taxes caused many colonists to realize they needed to secede from England and form their own country in which freedom would be protected by the government, not assaulted by it.
Today, it seems the power of the government continues to expand and the freedom of the individual continues to shrink. The loss of freedom comes in many forms. Sometimes, it is direct and profound, as when the government forces you to buy a health insurance policy for yourself or your employees that pays for contraceptive services, euthanasia and abortion, no matter your core religious beliefs. Sometimes, it is more subtle, like when the government prints money to pay its bills, and as a result, all the money and assets you already have lose much of their value.
Sometimes the government steals freedom without you knowing it, like when NSA agents in defiance of the Constitution they have sworn to uphold read your email and text messages and listen to your phone calls. Sometimes the government’s assaults on freedom are just plain inexplicable, like when the president wins political support by lying repeatedly about keeping your doctor and your health insurance and about the government’s not reading your emails or listening to your phone calls.
Freedom is the ability of every person to exercise his own free will, rather than be subject to the will of the government or anyone else. Free will is a characteristic we share in common with God. He created us in His image and likeness. As He is perfectly free, so are we.
When the government takes away our free will, the government steals a gift from God; it violates the natural law; it prevents us from having and utilizing the means to the truth. The moral ability to exercise free will to seek the truth is a natural right that all humans possess, and the government may only morally interfere with the exercise of that right when one affirmatively has given it away by using fraud or force to interfere with the exercise of someone else’s natural rights.
We know from the events 2,000 years ago, which Christians commemorate and celebrate this week, that freedom is the essential means to discover and unite with the truth. And to Christians, the personification, the incarnation, the perfect manifestation of truth is Jesus – who is the Christ, the Son of God and the Son of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
On the first Holy Thursday, Jesus attended a traditional Jewish Passover Seder. Catholics believe that at His last supper, He performed two miracles so that we could stay united to Him. He transformed ordinary bread and wine into His own body, blood, soul and divinity, and He empowered His disciples and their successors to do the same.
On the first Good Friday, the Romans executed Jesus because they were persuaded that by claiming to be the Son of God, He might foment a revolution against them. The revolution He fomented was in the hearts of men and women. The Romans had not heard of a revolution of the heart; nevertheless they feared a revolution that would disrupt their worldly power, and so they condemned Him to death by crucifixion.
Jesus had the freedom to reject this horrific event, but He exercised His freedom so that we might know the truth. The truth He manifested is that His acceptance of the destruction of His body would enable Him to die so that He could rise from the dead. On Easter, three days after He died, that manifestation was complete when He rose from the dead. By doing that, he demonstrated to us that while living we can liberate our souls from the slavery of sin and our free wills from the oppression of the government, and after death we can rise to be with Him.
Easter – which manifests our own immortality – is the linchpin of human existence. With it, life is worth living, no matter its costs or pains. Without it, life is meaningless, no matter its fleeting joys or triumphs. Easter has a meaning that is both incomprehensible and simple. It is incomprehensible that a human being had the freedom to rise from the dead. It is simple because that human being was and is God.
Jesus is the hypostatic union: not half-God and half-man, not just a godly good man, but truly and fully God and at the same time truly and fully man. When the Romans killed Jesus, they killed God. When the dead Jesus rose from His tomb, God rose from the dead.
What does Easter mean? Easter means that there is hope for the dead. If there’s hope for the dead, there’s hope for the living. But, like the colonists who fought the oppression of the king, we the living can only achieve our hopes if we have freedom. And that requires a government that protects freedom, not one that assaults it.