Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord. April 9, 2023

 

Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord. April 9, 2023

Acts 10: 34a, 37-43; Colossians 3: 1-4; John 20: 1-9

 

Theme: Our Love for Jesus Causes Us to Believe in His Resurrection

This morning we are gathered here in our Church with great joy to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord which marks a new life in Christ for each one of us. All our scripture readings of today testify that our Lord has risen, he is alive. Three witnesses (Mary of Magdala, Peter, and the other disciple) in our Gospel give us the report of the empty tomb. Peter, in our first reading, proclaims the living Christ, his life (all over Judea, beginning in Galilee), his death, and his resurrection. And finally, Saint Paul, in our second reading, explains to us what we need to do as we now know that we are raised with Christ.

It is important to know the context of our first reading to better understand what Peter teaches us. Note that our first reading is a speech attributed to Peter on the occasion of his visit to the house of a Roman centurion named Cornelius. This Gentile Cornelius was a generous supporter of the Jewish community in Caesarea. One day, while he was praying, he has a vision and was told to invite Peter to his house. (Acts 10: 1-8). Peter also had a vision while he was praying. In that vision, God told him to cancel certain food prohibitions that kept both Jews and Gentiles separated from each other. And because of this prohibited food, Jews and Gentiles could not enter each other’s homes. (See Acts 10: 9-23). So, here Peter, a Jew, entered the house of Cornelius, a Gentile, and dealt with many other Gentiles that he found there, Cornelius’s household, relatives, and friends. The first thing that Peter did was he acknowledged in their presence that Jews (including himself) were not supposed to associate with or visit Gentiles. But in the vision, God showed him that no human being is to be considered “profane or unclean”. (See Acts 10: 28). Peter thus broke the tradition that separated Jews from Gentiles.  Next, after Cornelius had explained to Peter why he invited him, now comes our first reading story. Peter delivers his testimony to the Gentiles and each one of us about the central mystery of the Christian faith. As an eyewitness, he tells us that Jesus was sent by God, was crucified, God raised him, and he appeared to them the witnesses chosen by God in advance. The reading ends with Peter exhorting his audience to believe in Jesus in order to receive forgiveness of sins through Jesus’ name. To believe in the resurrected Jesus means to love him as the Gospel that we heard teaches us.

Our Gospel passage begins with Mary of Magdala going to the tomb. She is alone. (The Gospel of John is the only one to report Mary of Magdala as the sole visitor to the tomb). It was on the first day of the week (which means Sabbath for the Jews and Sunday for us Christians). Early in the morning, while it was still dark. Darkness here represents moments of negative feelings such as a time of unfaith, fear, and worries. When she arrives at the place, Mary Magdalene has not encountered an angel nor has she seen the empty tomb. She just saw the stone that was removed from the tomb. (Note that later following this passage, she will return to the empty tomb and weep there because the body of her Lord is gone. At that moment then she will see two angels in the tomb and the Risen Lord whom she first believes must be a gardener.  Just when Christ calls her by her name, “Mary” then immediately she realizes it is the Lord.) In our Gospel passage, Mary Magdalene deals with an opened tomb. In the darkness, she runs to announce the news to Peter and the other disciple who is identified here as “the beloved disciple.” Where there is love, everything becomes possible. Because this woman loved her Lord Jesus, the dark moments of her life did not stop her from going to her Lord on the “first day of the week”, Sunday. We too have moments when we experience darkness. So, we cannot let our dark moments prevent us from going to Jesus as often as possible. Also, in her darkness, Mary Magdalene seeks help from Peter and “the beloved disciple.” When we are confused and when we experience moments of darkness, let us find help from others.

Mary Magdalene did not mention anything about the resurrection of the Lord in her report to Peter and his fellow disciple because she is still in “darkness” at this point. She told the two disciples that the Lord had been taken out of the tomb by an unnamed plural “they”. “They have taken the Lord from the tomb…” Also, notice how she associates the two disciples with her lack of faith by employing another plural “we”, “… and we don’t know where they put him.” (v. 2, NABRE).

 In v. 2, Mary Magdalene ran from the tomb, and in v. 3, Peter and his companion run toward the tomb. The other disciple arrives first as he runs faster than Peter. However, he lets Peter goes first into the tomb because Peter is the leader of the disciples. Peter experiences the empty tomb but nothing is said of his reaction. The other disciple whom Jesus loved also enters, he does his own experience of the empty tomb, and he believes. The narrator adds an important detail: “For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” (v. 9, NABRE). Love can cause us to do things without thinking, trust without logical reason, and accept things without necessarily understanding them first. This is what happens with Peter’s companion in this story. He believes without any evidence of the presence of Christ himself or the testimony of an angel. Note that the narrator does not give the name of this disciple. He refers to him as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. This unnamed disciple represents all believing Christians like you and me. Jesus loves us and we love him. Thus, in our own experience of the empty tomb, our love must cause us to believe in the resurrection of our Lord before even we can try to understand its logical process. Love and Faith are connected. 

 The liturgy of this Mass invites us to connect our love of Jesus with our faith in him. No dark moments in our lives can stop us from going to Jesus and believing that he is alive. Also, we are called to let the words of Saint Paul we heard in our second reading inspire us: “Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3: 2-3). May the mystery of the empty tomb fill our hearts with the joy of the resurrection. Amen.

Happy Easter!

Rev. Leon Ngandu, SVD

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