A variety of biblical readings occur in the course of liturgical celebrations for Easter. For instance, the Liturgy of the Word for the Easter Vigil is unsurpassed among all the feasts of the year. These reflections center upon the readings for the Eucharist, celebrated during the day on Easter itself.
The first reading is from the Acts of the Apostles. As this season continues, most often the Church will draw from Acts its first scriptural reading. In this reading, Peter addresses a crowd. His sermon, one of several in the early chapters of Acts, capsulized the Gospel message. Jesus is Lord. John the Baptist foretold the coming of Jesus. Jesus was the gift and representative of God. Jesus died on Calvary for the sins of all humanity.
After dying on Calvary, Jesus rose and was seen by witnesses. The Lord sent the surviving Apostles to proclaim the Gospel as they went into places far and near.
The reading, while crisp and not too long, focuses attention upon the Lord. The Crucifixion redeemed the world. Then, Jesus rose from the dead. The Resurrection is more than a pious assertion of some vague, unearthly way to say that the Lord’s power endures from age to age through Christianity and its adherents.
Jesus rose from the dead in time and space. Witnesses actually saw the risen Lord.
St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians provides the second reading. Paul calls the Corinthian Christians to turn to Jesus. They are with the Lord. The Lord is with them. Such is the effect of the Incarnation, of the Redemption, and of the personal decision to turn to God.
The Gospel of John furnishes the last reading. It is a triumphant story, revealing the excitement in which it was written. Mary Magdalene, forever faithful, discovered that the tomb is empty. She immediately alerted Peter and the other Apostles to her discovery.
Peter and the beloved disciple hurried to see for themselves. The beloved disciple saw the empty tomb and remembered the Lord’s prophecy of rising from the dead.
The Gospel catches it all. The resurrection of Jesus, of course, was an event utterly unique in earthly history, but for the first Christians the Lord’s rising had a deeply important meaning for them. They themselves had no cause to fear. In Jesus, they would live forever, come what may on earth.
This weekend, in celebrating Easter, the Church stands with Mary of Magdala, Peter and the Beloved Disciple. He lives! Death has been defeated. We can live eternally. The key to life eternal is in our love for God.
The second reading, from Paul’s first letter to Corinth, reinforces the notion that the Lord’s resurrection has profound implications for each human being anywhere and at any time.
St. Paul was justifiably, and totally, overtaken by the realization that through the Incarnation, the fact that in the one person of Jesus the nature of God and human nature coexist, all we humans commune with God — if we turn ourselves to God willingly and truly.
These readings instruct us. Jesus, of course, is central. He is Lord. He conquered pain and death. His wondrous resurrection is our guarantee of salvation and everlasting peace.
Human beings also enter the story. Today, these human beings are seen in retrospective. Most are saints, highly venerated persons. In their humanity, however, they were as we are.
We benefit from noting their great faith and of hope. Are we able to manifest the same? Do we hold dear in our hearts the trust in Christ that was so vivid among them?
Only if we are of the same strong faith can we, too, know the thrill of declaring, “He lives!”
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