Easter Sunday
April 17, 2022

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Introduction

As Catholics, today is the biggest celebration of our faith and the most important day of the year.  We come together as one family of God and cry out with excitement, “He is Risen!  Alleluia!”

 

Today is bigger than any Super Bowl Sunday, Final Four Weekend, World Series 7th Game, or performance at Carnegie Hall or on Broadway.  For today we celebrate Jesus gaining for us eternal life!  Death has no power over us, if only we believe in Him.  The greatest victory of all!  The reality of Jesus’ Resurrection is the foundation of our hope and expectation that one day we will be united with Jesus in eternal love.  We are also commissioned as Peter proclaims in our first reading, to be “.. witnesses chosen by God in advance… to preach to the people… that everyone who believes in him
will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”  Today’s Easter joy must be the encouragement we need, as Paul urges the Corinthians in our second reading, to “Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.” As Paul proclaims, our ultimate destiny is to “..appear with him in glory.”

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Gospel Explained

Without faith, realities that should inspire hope and expectation only confuse. Jesus’ empty tomb is the sign of the complete victory and the most extreme love. Mary Magdalene, Peter, and John all see the empty tomb. But their limited faith needs time to grow and accept the great gift that is offered to them.  

Running is an integral part of this Gospel. Mary Magdalene runs. Peter runs, and John outruns Peter. Love for the Lord creates a sense of urgency. What they saw at the tomb could have been seen without running at all. But promptness is a sign of love for the Lord. 

 

In the actions of Mary Magdalene, John, and Peter, we see an example of the “progression of faith  in Jesus” that needed to take place even in those disciples who were closest to Him.  Mary sees the empty tomb first, but it was dark.  Her curiosity is peaked, and her love and concern for Jesus causes her to run to tell Peter what she had seen, rather than risk entering the tomb on her own.  Hearing the news, Peter and John also run to the tomb.  They must experience what they heard for themselves.  Upon arriving first, John looks into the tomb and sees the burial cloths, confirming that the tomb was empty.  Like Mary, he too does not enter the empty tomb alone.  Then Peter arrives and enters the tomb.  Seeing the burial cloth for the head rolled up and placed separately from the other cloths confirms that this was not a random theft, but the resurrection that Jesus had foretold to the disciples.

 

Today’s Gospel concludes with “For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.”  The progression of the three disciples’ faith still needs more development.  In today’s account, their collective faith is shown to progress from curiosity, “seeing” but needing confirmation from others to fully believe, to experiencing the unexpected reality firsthand which strengthens our faith.

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Today’s Theme

In approaching the mystery of God, we must enkindle our faith. Otherwise, what should cause hope and courage will only wind up becoming an obstacle for us. Only a sincere and generous faith in Christ enables us to experience the circumstances of life in hope, confidence, and security. 

 

If we wish to experience Christ and the power of his resurrection, we need to have a sense of urgency in our relationship with the Lord.  We must strive to meet him and give ourselves to him in our lives here and now. We can’t wait for the “ideal” moment. If we don't give ourselves to Christ now, under the present conditions, there is no reason to think we ever will.

 

One thing is certain, if Jesus had not risen from the dead and appeared to his disciples, we would never have heard of him. Nothing else could have changed sad and despairing men and women into people radiant with joy and courage. The reality of the resurrection is the central fact of the Christian faith. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Lord gives us "eyes of faith" to know him and the power of his resurrection. 

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Theme in our Life Today

John, Peter and Mary Magdalene will eventually have an unshakeable conviction in the Resurrection and become messengers of the Resurrection. But they first need to see the empty tomb and pick up the wrappings. They would also need to see and touch the risen Christ. All this would cause wonderment, reflection, and eventually a growing realization that would induce faith. God works in the same way in our lives. First, there are the lived experiences: people we meet, circumstances we face, events that occur. Then we experience wonderment and reflection on what it all means.  Then comes the slow dawning of faith.

 

When John saw the empty tomb he must have recalled Jesus' prophecy that he would rise again after three days. Through the gift of faith John realized that no tomb on earth could contain the Lord and giver of life. John saw and believed (John 20:8).  John had to first deal with the empty tomb before he could meet the risen Lord later that evening along with the other apostles who had locked themselves in the upper room out of fear of the Jewish authorities.  What is our reaction to the empty tomb, the proof of the resurrection of Jesus?  Most of the world just watches all the great sporting and cultural events I mentioned above as a spectator.  But the empty tomb calls us not to just observe but to participate in the salvation of the world. 

 

Our Catholic faith, as revealed to the Apostles, their successors the early Church Fathers, and through all the popes and the Magisterium, gives us the same opportunity to experience the physical reality of Jesus’ presence in our lives through the sacraments, especially in the celebration of the Mass.  At the Mass, through the mystery of our faith, we experience again the physical reality of being with Jesus at the Last Supper, His living presence with us in receiving the Eucharist, and the commissioning to go forth  and spread the Good News with our lives.

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To Prepare for this Sunday’s Liturgy, consider the following: 

  1. Do you accept the good news of Jesus' death and resurrection with skeptical doubt and disbelief or with trusting faith and joyful wonderment?

  2. Are you ready to allow the events of this Easter Sunday deepen your faith in the resurrection of Jesus so that you can grow as His disciple?

  3. How can you continue to fill your soul with the “good news” and tell others about what awaits those who believe in Jesus and His resurrection?

 

Let us pray:

Lord Jesus, you know how to prepare your disciples to experience your presence deeply and know you intimately. I ask today for a deepening of my faith in your resurrection. Let all the events of my life point me to the truth that you are alive.

Amen.

 

Note:  Some parts of this reflection were excerpted from “Empty Tomb, Expectant Heart” https://www.epriest.com/reflections/view/349

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