Easter Sunday April 12, 2009

Acts 10:34a, 36-43; Col 3:1-4 or 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8; John 20:1-18 (afternoon Masses, Luke 24:13-35)
The celebration of Easter Sunday totally reverses the image of Good Friday. It places us unto the real perspective to tell us what Good Friday is about. It tells us that what took place on Good Friday was not execution but a sacrifice, not a defeat but a triumph, not an end but a beginning. The death of Jesus was not an execution as no power on earth could kill Jesus. He accepted death in total obedience to his Father. He sacrificed himself for the salvation of the world. His death was not a defeat but a triumph over sin and death. His death in reality was a passage to new life and hence it is no end in itself. Ultimately the Easter is the celebration of the total unending love of the Father for the sake of Humanity. He gave back his son to us for human kind with greater love, with resurrection, to stay with us forever. This feast also tells us that what happened to Jesus will happen to us too. We too will rise one day with him. This celebration forms the heart of our Christian living. It is in reality our faith and the expectation of the future glory.
The theme of today’s Mass includes both proclamation and witness. In the First Reading chosen from the Acts of the Apostles, we see Peter speaking after the baptism of Cornelius and his family about his own experience and sharing that experience with the listening crowds. He is now the witness of Jesus and a witness is one who has lived the life of the master and is willing to share his experience with all. Therefore there is no hesitation to proclaim the word in spite of the opposition he had. Peter testified that Jesus was indeed crucified and that He had died on the Holy Cross. But God raised Him from the dead on the third day. And, after His glorious resurrection, Jesus appeared to many of the disciples who were chosen by God as witnesses.
We find a similar theme in both of the Second Reading and the Gospel. Paul was a dedicated Pharisee and a man of integrity. He persecuted Christians because he saw in them a dangerous deviation from the Jewish Law and Jewish traditions. Then he had that sudden encounter with Jesus on his way to Damascus and that experience of the Risen Jesus transforms him completely. He goes along the path of Jesus and proclaims the word of God to all. In the Letter to the Colossians, St Paul tells us that if we have been raised with Christ, we should seek the things that are from above where Christ dwells in Heaven. We should set our minds on spiritual things, not on worldly things. In the context of the resurrection we are called to spiritually grow in shining virtues and in the fruit of the Holy Spirit so that we may gradually be transformed by the grace of God the Father to become more in the likeness of His Son Jesus Christ.
In the Gospel of today we heard how Mary Magdalene looks for Jesus. She wept when she realized that His body was gone, believing that someone had stolen it. She wept because she missed the Divine presence of Jesus. She missed that inner burning desire to be near the living body of Jesus, to follow Him, to hear Him, to feel loved, to be understood and to be forgiven of sins. Mary Magdalene was not the only one to have these feelings. All the disciples of Jesus felt that way. That is why they reacted the way they did when they heard some saying that Jesus was no longer in His tomb, that He had resurrected, or that He was appearing here and there to different disciples. But they could not really grasp what the resurrection meant. For them the word, “Jesus is alive!” or “I have seen the Lord!” were enough to instantly create a great spiritual hunger in the soul of the disciples of Jesus where emptiness existed because of His death. Through these words, there was a new hope. Faith was being reinstated in the Words that Jesus had spoken while He lived on earth.
Easter, however, is not only concerned with recalling the resurrection of Jesus or its impact on the first disciples but also with the meaning of this event for our own lives and for our faith. For the disciples it was something new and unique experience. It was something out of the ordinary that had taken place. That is why they are notable to explain it in detail. So the evangelists put forward the empty tomb, angels talking, he is coming into the close room and so on. For them it was something like an explosion and something out of the world. Even for Paul it was a sudden experience when the Risen Jesus revealed himself while Paul was on his way to Damascus to bring the Christians into line and he accepts and enters into this experience..
It is important to be aware that the Resurrection is not simply the resuscitation of the body of Jesus which died on the Cross. No one SAW the resurrection because there was nothing to SEE. The crucifixion is a historical event; the resurrection is a faith event. The Risen Jesus enters a completely new way of living. The post-Resurrection texts all indicate that; he is not recognised at first by even his intimate friends, he is everywhere that his disciples happen to be and his new Body, the means of his being visibly present among us, is the community of his disciples. We are, quite literally, from that time the Body of Christ. It is not easy to recognise Jesus for they could not expect a rising from the dead. For them it was a new revelation. We see Mary recognizing him only when he calls her by name. From then on she wants to cling to him and stay close to him and experience him. But Jesus says she too has a mission to proclaim like any of his disciples.
The celebration of Easter reminds us that we have the same mission as Peter and Mary Magdalene and the other disciples of Jesus. First, as the First Letter to the Corinthians indicates, Easter calls for a radical conversion, a radical change on our part. Going back to the First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Peter emphasises 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. Not to share our Easter joy and what it means to us is to leave Easter only half celebrated. 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.” There we have our mission.
(kindly go to the Archives for the Sermon of your choice)


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