Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday

Ven, 02 Apr 21 Lectio Divina - Anno B

Acts 10:34, 36-43; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-18

 The feast of Easter is the celebration Jesus’ victory over death and mankind’s hope for eternal life. This feast gives us the hope of our own Resurrection and at the same time keeps us united with the living Christ who has promised to be with us.  The theme of today’s Mass includes both proclamation and witness. St Paul tells us that if Jesus is not risen from the dead, our faith be in vain. In the Gospel of the day Mary Magdalene is asked to go and proclaim the Resurrection to all.  To the Disciples the Resurrection of Jesus was something new and unexpected. It was a total transformation and it gave them a new vision of life. They had been witnesses of his suffering and death and during that time they had remained hidden out of fear.  Their hope in Jesus was shattered. The resurrection brought about a complete turn around and they began boldly to proclaim that Jesus, who died on the Cross, was alive. Later, when they were arrested, persecuted and imprisoned, they rejoiced as they were now even more closely related to the life experience of their Lord through his resurrection. The Acts of the Apostles tell us that they were courageous and were ready to suffer for his sake. The Easter Sunday was a totally reversal of the image of Good Friday. His death which seemed to be a defeat before the world is now shown as a triumph, a victory over death.  His dying on the cross in reality was a passage to new life.  For Jesus his death was a fulfilment of his Father’s will as he accepted it in total obedience that led to his victory.

Easter is the greatest and the most important feast in the Church for three reasons: 1) The Resurrection of Christ is the basis of our Christian Faith.  It is the greatest of the miracles, for it proves that Jesus is God.  That is why St. Paul writes: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain; and your Faith is in vain” (I Cor 15:14). “Jesus is Lord, He is risen!” (Rom 10:9), was the central theme of the kerygma (or “preaching”), of the apostles, because Jesus had prophesied His Resurrection as a sign of His Divinity:  The founder of no other religion has an empty tomb as Jesus has.  2) Easter is the guarantee of our own resurrection.  Jesus assured Martha at the tomb of Lazarus: “I am the Resurrection and the Life; whoever believes in Me will live even though he dies” (Jn 11:25-26). 3) Easter is a feast which gives us hope and encouragement in this world of pain, sorrows, and tears.  It reminds us that life is worth living.  It is our belief in the Real Presence of the Risen Jesus in our souls, in His Church, in the Blessed Sacrament, and in Heaven that gives meaning to our personal as well as our communal prayer, strength to fight against temptations, and freedom from unnecessary worries and fears.

Today's readings show us the true meaning of believing without seeing, in the first reading, from Acts Peter reminded the followers how they saw the physical reality of Jesus’ life while on earth, in His  teachings, in His miracles, in His death and resurrection, His resurrection which He revealed only to the chosen few who were close to Him. But even then, there was Thomas! Who doubted until he could touch the wound in His side!!!

Today’s First Reading taken from the Acts of the Apostles, Peter begins his proclamation by touching on the highlights of what was commonly known about Jesus of Nazareth. He tells them that Jesus was God’s anointed one who went about doing good works and healing many.  Yet he was rejected by his own people and put to death. As in Isaiah’s Suffering Servant, death was not the final word in the work of Jesus.  God raised him up on the third day.  He also emphasizes the importance of Jesus’ disciples not only experiencing and enjoying the joy of their Risen Master and Lord but also of sharing that experience and joy with as many people as possible.  Peter tells them that they were those witnesses of Jesus’ preaching and healing, of his arrest, execution and death and also of his being risen again to life.  The Apostle also tells them that they had eaten and drunk with Jesus after his resurrection from the dead.   He says that they have continued doing it every time they took part in the Eucharist that is when they ate and drank with the community in the name of Risen Jesus. Further Jesus did order them to proclaim this to his people and to tell them that God has appointed Jesus to judge everyone, alive or dead, that all who believe in Jesus will have their sins forgiven through his name.  In fact that is the mission of the disciples. For the true Christian, in fact, every day is an Easter Day lived joyfully in the close company of the Risen Lord.

In the second reading we are reminded that our life, from birth to death is but a preparation for our Eternal life. In reality, our preparation for Eternal life is a lifelong, ongoing, project. It is not just the 40 days of Lent, when we prepare ourselves by spiritual acts, (fast and abstinence, etc) and temporal actions, such as acts of charity, (almsgiving, etc)
It continues as long or as short as our lives on this earth may be. Over and over we are asked to focus not on the things of this earth but on the things above. St. Paul tells the Colossians that because of the resurrection of Jesus our earthly lives are raised to a new status. Since we have been raised with Christ, we should seek the things that are from above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. We should set our minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For, we have died in Christ, and our new life is hidden with Christ in God. Paul’s words open to us another dimension of Easter.  Not only is it a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, but also of our being raised to a new life with Christ.  More than an unequalled demonstration of God’s power Easter shows that God lives in those who are open to receive forgiveness of sin and life that bridges death.  More than an unprecedented demonstration of divine power, the resurrection shows that Christ now lives in those open to receive forgiveness of sin and the gift of life than bridges death.  The risen Christ is now with his Father in glory and at his final coming we too will share his glory. Behind this brief passage are two powerful elements of the apostolic tradition, one of which Paul himself developed.  First is the metaphor of baptism by immersion as a symbolic experience of dying and being raised with Christ.  The second is the narrative of the ascension of the risen Christ to the right hand of God the Father.

Today’s Gospel from John draws our attention to the empty tomb as the sign of Jesus’ resurrection to life. In this empty tomb story John involves Mary Magdalene, Simon Peter and his beloved disciple.  It was the first day after Sabbath, first day of the Christian week when Mary Magdalene came to the tomb of Jesus.  It was a Jewish custom to visit the tomb of the beloved departed at least for three days after the burial. She was the first one to discover that the tomb where Jesus was buried was now empty. As she approached the tomb she saw the stone rolled back and wondered who could have removed such a heavy stone. Her immediate conclusion was that the body was taken away by somebody. She immediately ran to the disciples to inform the matter of the missing body of the Lord.  She reported the matter to Peter who was already accepted as the Leader of the group. Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved run to the tomb. They saw the entire scene, they understood and they believed in the act of the resurrection. Till then they had failed to understand the term to be raised from the dead. They saw how the clothes were kept, the one that covered the head had been set apart and rest of the clothes did not look as if Jesus had taken them off or removed by someone else. All were neatly folded and kept. They did believe that he was raised.

In the gospel we see that the open tomb is a big part of the Easter story. When Mary of Magdela visits the tomb on the third day after Jesus is crucified, she finds that the stone has been moved away. The realisation gradually dawns that something wonderful has happened. Jesus is risen from the dead. Because the hearts of Mary and the disciples were opened that first Easter morning they understood what Jesus had been trying to teach them all along. Are our hearts open to receive the Good News of the Resurrection? Are we ready to accept this good news and bring it to all people?

The Gospel of today tells us how Mary Magdalene went in search of Jesus even after the disciples went away. She loved her master and was much devoted to him and wanted to remain close the tomb. She was upset with the events that the stone was removed, the body was missing and she thought that someone had deliberately stolen it. She wept at the loss and with the inner burning desire to be near him, to follow Him, to hear Him, to feel loved, to be understood and to be forgiven of sins.  In the tomb she sees two angels who ask her the reason for her crying.   At that very moment Jesus too is present and he too asks her the reason for her crying.  She thinks that he is gardener and looks for his help but Jesus presents himself to her and calls her by name.  Only then she understands who he was and worships him. Jesus indeed accepts her presence but gives her the mission. She was asked to go and tell all, starting from the disciples that Jesus is raised from the dead and she has seen him and he has the good news for everyone. He also tells her that he has to ascend to the Father but she has her task to fulfil here and now, namely to be his messenger. For Peter and other disciples this was the moment of growth in their faith in the resurrection of Jesus. Immediately after the visit to the empty tomb they may have been shocked.  This will soon be clarified to them about the resurrection of Jesus perhaps through Mary Magdalene. 

Today on Easter Sunday the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus reminds us that we have the same mission as Peter and Mary Magdalene and the other disciples of Jesus. This requires as the first reading of today tells us that we need a radical conversion, a radical change on our part. In the celebration of the Pasch, the Jews used to throw out all the leavened bread they had and replace it with freshly baked unleavened bread. Because of the fermentation process that leavened bread undergoes, yeast was regarded as a corrupting agent. So Paul tells us that we, too, as we celebrate our Christian Passover, are to become “a completely new batch of bread, unleavened as you are meant to be…having only the unleavened bread of integrity and truth.”  Further, Peter emphasizes the importance of Jesus’ disciples not only experiencing and enjoying the joy of their Risen Master and Lord but also of sharing that experience and joy with as many people as possible. It is something we must do also to live joyfully in the close company of the Risen Lord. For the true Christian, in fact, every day is an Easter Day lived joyfully in the close company of the Risen Lord.  “He has ordered us to proclaim this to his people and to tell them that God has appointed Jesus to judge everyone, alive or dead, that all who believe in Jesus will have their sins forgiven through his name.” On this Easter Sunday Jesus calls us to be his messengers of peace.  We pray that this peace will remain in our hearts always to make us his messengers in the world of today. The celebration of Easter is a call for us to change – and perhaps change radically as Jesus ‘own disciples changed. Let us truly begin New lives today, from the inside out, by listening to that voice that is installed in each and every one of us, it is called our 'conscience', we can ignore it, we can stifle it, but we can never kill it! It is embedded in our soul, because our lives are not merely physical and temporal, our lives are spiritual, eternal! It is our Souls that are important, our bodies are merely the 'case' for the Soul, a beautiful body may hide an ugly soul, and an ugly body a beautiful soul. As we rejoice today in the victory of soul over body we are reminded of that beautiful hymn, 'Have Thine own way Lord, Have Thine own way, Thou art the Potter, and I am the clay’.