Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord
This weekend, the Church celebrates the greatest of its feasts, the feast of the Resurrection of the Lord, or Easter. It is the greatest of feasts because it rejoices in the fulfillment of human salvation, finalized and completed when the Lord Jesus rose from death to new earthly life after having been crucified.
On Holy Saturday, after dusk, the Church presents its splendid liturgy of the Easter Vigil. Quite vividly in the vigil’s readings the Church recalls the long history of God’s unfailing love for us.
For Easter itself, the first reading is from the Acts of the Apostles. Speaking on behalf of all the Apostles, Peter capsulizes the life and mission of Jesus. More than a biography, it is a testament of God’s love for humankind, given in Jesus, and in the sacrifice of Jesus. It invites people to follow the Lord, eagerly offering a reassurance that God is with us, still alive and well in Jesus, the Risen Lord.
For the second reading, the Church offers a passage from the Epistle to the Colossians. This reading tells us, as it told its first audience, that we have been raised with Christ. We usually associate resurrection with death, in that resurrection is re-vivification after physical death. In the Pauline writings, resurrection also meant an event on earth while physical life is present. It is a resurrection over sin and despair, a gift of God to each disciple.
St. John’s Gospel supplies the last reading. It is the familiar story of Mary Magdalene’s early morning visit to the tomb where Jesus had been buried after being crucified. She found the tomb empty. Immediately, she hurried to Peter and the other disciples to give them the news.
Peter and the others took her word. They hurried to the tomb and saw for themselves that it was empty. The disciple whom Jesus loved, unnamed in the Gospel, traditionally assumed to be St. John, saw the tomb. He was not bewildered. Strong in faith, he knew that Jesus had risen.
The readings for this feast, as well as the feast of Easter itself, are overpowering in the richness and breadth of their message. Jesus is the Savior! He lives forever!
In the Acts of the Apostles, Peter and the Apostles were exercising a role given them earlier by Jesus, as documented in John and the other Gospels. Salvation in Jesus did not end when Jesus ascended. It lived in the Apostles, and it lives now in, and through, the Church.
Colossians, the second reading, calls us to turn totally to Jesus. We must drown our sins in baptism. Dead to sin, we also rise, in our lives, here on earth. Sin is death. If we do not repent, our sins are final, dooming us to death. Turning to God brings us life.
Volumes have been written about the verses from the fourth Gospel’s Resurrection Narrative. Two figures are very important. The first is Mary Magdalene. The second is the Beloved Disciple.
Both Mary Magdalene and the Beloved Disciple loved Jesus without qualification, perfectly, totally.
They are examples for us to remember. Mary of Magdala is a model to follow as temptation and doubts occur. She played with fire by paying attention to the corpse of a condemned traitor. The Romans always were looking for conspiracies, and they played for keeps. Yet, disregarding the risk, and indeed not knowing what she would find, Mary went to the tomb.
The Beloved Disciple possessed the insight to realize what the empty tomb meant. Loving the Lord is all that mattered. It answers all questions.
As humans, we cannot predict, control or explain everything. We need Jesus. He lives. He awaits us. He will guide and save us.
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