O God, Who on this day, through Your only begotten Son, have conquered death and unlocked for us the path to eternity, grant, we pray, that we who keep the solemnity of the Lord's Resurrection may, through the renewal brought by Your Spirit, rise up in the light of life...collect for Easter Sunday
Believe in the resurrection by Msgr. Richard Henning
It was easy to believe in the crucifixion. Jesus’ disciples fled from the gruesome reality of his arrest and execution. Even though few found the strength to stand by and witness those last terrible hours, they never doubted that the horror was real. The resurrection was a different matter.
In today’s passage from the Gospel of John, Mary of Magdala comes to the tomb in the darkness, both the physical darkness of the last hours before dawn and the spiritual darkness of despair and trauma. She has not ceased to love the Lord, but she cannot yet grasp the reality unfolding before her. The Lord is not in the tomb and she cannot yet dare to hope. When she summons Simon Peter and the other disciple, they too are dumbfounded. The tomb is empty and the burial cloths neatly arranged where the body once lay. When Jesus called Lazarus from the tomb, others had to release Lazarus from the burial wrappings. The scene before Peter and the other disciple hints that something much greater has happened in this tomb. The other disciple is the first to begin to perceive the significance of what he sees, for he believes.
Even so, the disciples would need more time to absorb and begin to understand the remarkable truth that the Lord had been raised. Even more crucial than time, they need the Lord himself to open their eyes and hearts to the significance of the events occurring around them.
In the first reading we can see the effects of these events at work in Peter. By this point in Acts, Peter has witnessed courageously to Israel that Jesus is Lord. With newfound conviction and constancy, Peter has also helped the fledgling Christian community take its first steps in a hostile world. Peter himself served as an example of the Lord’s power to transform a frightened fisherman into an Apostle who shamed even the council with his deeds and words of power.
But Peter’s transformation is ongoing. By the middle of Acts, he must face a new situation: how should he relate to Gentiles who respond in faith to the message about Jesus? This reality provides added drama to the words we have heard today. Peter is preaching about Jesus just as he has done before. However, in this case he preaches the message in the house of a God-fearing Gentile, Cornelius. There among people who were so different from his own, Peter speaks the same message of hope and salvation. He teaches them that God’s raising of Jesus from the dead has done two crucial things. It has caused Peter and all those who witnessed Jesus’ ministry and his crucifixion to understand those events with new insight. Their reading of the Prophets and their perception of Jesus have been transformed. Secondly, the resurrection is the moment by which Jesus assumes a new exalted role as leader and judge for all the world. His guidance and wisdom remains with them in a new way.
This same transforming power of the Risen Lord Jesus stands behind the words of the two selections from Pauline literature. The letter to the Colossians counsels Christians to apply the new perspective of the resurrection to their hopes for the future and their living in the present. The passage from Corinthians takes imagery from the Passover customs. Before the feast, pious Jews must clear the house of all leavened bread. Just so, Christians must leave aside the old ways and live by this new power given in Jesus, who is the Paschal lamb of the new Passover.
Even in our day, it is almost too easy to believe in the truth of the cross. We need look no further than events in the world or even in our own lives to see the concrete reality of suffering and death. But as Christians, we must have the capacity to believe in the resurrection: to see the life-giving power of God at work in the world. Like those first Christians, we must come to the scriptures and to our own lives with a new perspective made possible by Jesus’ rising. It is not easy, but we have the ongoing presence of our Risen Lord to guide us and empower us. With him by our side we can truly say: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.”