Summary: The moment of greatest defeat is the beginning of a cosmic triumph in Christ.
I invite you to view with me the broken body of Jesus Christ, Son of God, Messiah of the Jews, hanging from the cross. Around him, almost dancing with joy, are his enemies, challenging him, “if you are the Messiah, come down from the cross, if God really loves you.” Egging them on is the Father of Lies, who has used every kind of prevarication to put this God-man on the cross. It is, he thinks, the ultimate revenge on the God who cast him from heaven, on the upstart archangel Michael whose sword chained him in hell, and on the whole human race who were made–unlike himself–in the image and likeness of God.
Beneath the cross of Jesus were a handful of the faithful–his mother, of course, who was always faithful, the boy-man John, the beloved disciple, Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons, and a couple of others. But that was enough. That would be the beginning of the rest of the story, the infant Church. On them with his dying breath he breathed out his spirit, just after giving all of them his mother who in agony was bringing forth this new assembly, this new body of Christ.
It was at that moment that the Father of Lies knew he had made a grave error, that the death agony of this guy was the moment of triumph of the community of man, of the plan of the true Father, of what was now clearly the God-man, Jesus the Messiah. And as they saw the death of the faithful witness, declared even by the Roman centurion to be the Son of God, those who engineered his death also realized their mistake. They had broken their own law by crucifying a just man, the one who could forgive their sins. So they went off to their homes to celebrate Passover, but they went away beating their breasts.
Not quite three days later, in the evening of the day after the Sabbath, Jesus appeared to all his cowering apostles–the word means “those sent out”–in the same room where they had celebrated the first Mass. His first words as Risen Messiah echoed his last as Suffering Servant, when he asked his Father to forgive his executioners for their stupidity. He said “Peace be with you; whose sins you shall forgive are forgiven, whose sins you retain are retained.” He breathed on them, giving them the only power that humans really need, the power to live as repentant, forgiven men, the power to undo the curse that Adam and Eve brought on them, the power then to live forever in the presence of God.
Truth, then, in the person of Christ and the teaching and celebration of the Church, is triumphing even when it seems that falsehood is ascendant, as it does when you see the mainstream media today. But Goodness and Beauty are also triumphing, and we see the signs just about every day in the Church that is completely true to Christ’s teaching and the ecclesial communities who have not yet embraced the full truth of the Gospel. As we have seen, Jesus Christ has risen, taking captivity captive. And he has given the Holy Spirit, the greatest gift, along with the corollary gifts of the Spirit.