Then Peter began to speak to them: "I truly understand that God shows no partiality, That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Israel say,
His mercy endures forever. (R./)
The right hand of the Lord has struck with power;
the right hand of the Lord is exalted.
I shall not die, but live,
and declare the works of the Lord. (R./)
The stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the Lord has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes. (R./)
So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival, no with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him." Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus" head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.
The Easter story begins very early in the morning of the first day of the week while it is still dark. As an old man, John would later write that ‘the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining‘. But he links this strictly to one condition: ‘Whoever loves his brothers and sisters,’ John says, ‘lives in the light.’ On the other hand, ‘whoever prefers to hate… is still in the darkness.’ (1 Jn 2:8-11).
On Friday, as we remembered the sufferings and death of the most marvellous human being the world has ever known, we came face to face with the dark side of human nature, the darkness that led the enemies of Jesus to torture, humiliate, and finally murder him on a cross. On that black day in Jerusalem, the capacity of human beings to hate, hurt and harm one another went completely out of control. It’s no wonder, then, that ‘darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon‘, that ‘the sun’s light failed”, and that ‘the curtain of the temple was torn in two‘ (Lk 23:24).
Between light and darkness, between good and evil, one mighty struggle is still going on. It’s going on in the physical cosmos, in human societies, and within our own personalities. Although the darkness often appears to be stronger than the light, it has not yet triumphed. The light is remarkably resilient. Often in danger of being extinguished, it manages to survive, and even to win many victories. The words of Mahatma Gandhi, the father of modern India, still ring as true as when he spoke them seventy years ago: ‘When I despair I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but, in the end, they always fall.’ The words of the Easter Vigil liturgy express the same truth in an equally appealing way: ‘The power of this holy [Easter] night,’ it proclaims, ‘dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy. It casts out hatred, brings us peace, and humbles earthly pride.’ Our celebration of Easter reminds us that the darkness of evil and hatred will never have the last say. For the resurrection of Jesus proclaims the ultimate triumph of light over darkness and goodness over evil, both in us and in our world.
Jesus was buried at sunset, as darkness was once again creeping over the earth, to all appearances a victim and a failure. But on the third day afterwards the sun came up on him victorious and triumphant, alive, powerful and influential. Once again, ‘the true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world” (Jn 1:9)
So we celebrate his resurrection today by rising from darkness and death ourselves. The Risen Lord himself, represented here by this beautiful Easter candle burning in our midst, is asking us to leave behind the works of darkness, to renounce and reject anything and everything in our lives which is dark, sinister and evil, and as persons connected to him by baptism, to ‘walk always as children of the light‘, following in his footsteps.
So we are now invited to renew our baptismal promises. Reject darkness, evil and sin in every shape and form. And promise to follow Jesus Christ from now on, in a life of light, goodness and love, a life shaped by his own powerful example, a life supported and guided by the Holy Spirit, whom he first gave us at baptism and whom he gives us again right now. So together, dear People of God, let us renew our baptismal promises, and renew them as loudly and enthusiastically as we can.
Mary of Magdala was first to go to the tomb, before the dawn when it was still dark, and discovered it empty. Jesus was missing — the master who had understood her and cured her, the prophet she had followed faithfully until his death. Who would she follow now? So her lament to the disciples was: They’ve taken my Lord from the grave and we don’t know where they have put him. Her lament could express the experience that many Christians are living through today: What have they done with the Risen Jesus? Where have they put him — the Lord in whom we believe: is it a Christ full of the promise of life or a Jesus whose memory keeps fading little by little in our hearts?
We don’t need scientific proofs in order to believe more firmly. To experience the joy of Easter it’s not enough to turn to the magisterium of the Church, or to study theological books. In order to meet the Risen One we need above all to journey within. If we don’t meet him inside ourselves, we won’t meet him anywhere. Later, John describes Mary going about looking for information. But when she does see Jesus, she’s so blinded by grief and tears that she does not recognize him; she thinks he’s the gardener. Jesus just asks her a question: Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?
Maybe we too need to ask ourselves something similar: Why is our faith so sad and low-key? What are Christians today looking for? What do we yearn for? Are we going around looking for a Jesus that we need in order to feel full of life in our communities? When Mary doesn’t recognize Jesus, he calls her by her name, with the same tenderness in his voice as when they were walking through Galilee: Mary!. She turns around quickly: Rabbuni! Master!.
Mary meets the Risen One when she feels herself personally called by him. That’s the core of resurrection faith. Jesus shows himself full of life to us when we feel ourselves called by our own name and we hear the invitation that he makes to each one of us. That’s when our faith grows. Our faith in the living Christ won’t be revived only by the Easter accounts alone. We won’t properly meet him if we don’t seek a living, personal contact with him. A combination of the love of Jesus known through the Gospel and sought personally in the depths of our hearts, can best lead us to meet the Risen One. [José Antonio Pagola]
The resurrection is deeply mysterious and we can’t quite experience its original impact in the hearts of his followers. This gospel, this great news, spans the centuries and is still a living force for here and now. In a sense, you and I are reflected in elements of that story, and may place ourselves within the account given by Saint John today. Am I like Magdalene, announcing the news of resurrection? Or like the apostles who respond immediately by running off to the tomb to see for themselves.
On Easter morning, the stone was rolled back from the mouth of the tomb. Is my heart be ike a tomb awaiting resurrection? Can I identify any “gravestone” that is holding me back from a fuller, freer life? It could be an addiction, a compulsion or some dark secret I have never shared with anyone. We can be sickened by our secrets. But as pope Francis said, we are meant to be “people of joyful hope, not doomsday prophets!” If we too discover the risen Jesus, we can all find hope and joy, and go out to share them with others.