Easter Sunday


Easter Sunday

Scripture Readings: Acts: 10:34,37-43; Col. 3:1-4; Jn. 20:1-9

There are nine verses in our Gospel reading, but only one of those is a spoken sentence.  The rest of the scene is portrayed in silence.  And that one sentence is really a lament:  They have taken away the Lord, and we don’t know where they have put him.  Perhaps we should follow the lead of the reading and approach the mystery of the resurrection in silence.  We need to leave aside all our verbal and critical skills and awaken those skills and sensitivities that come alive in silence.  Peter and John simply went out.  I think we are invited to go out from that secure world of sufficient evidence, verifiable facts, and reasonable certainty and engage that capacity we have for wonder, for plunging into reality that exceeds our comprehension as it draws us into its depths. 

They have taken away the Lord.  More than a declaration of fact, this is a cry of sorrow and loss.  A lament.  It expresses the deep assault inflicted on those experiencing the grief of mourning.  It is the Lord they mourn:  the center of their lives, their love, their hope.  The process of coming to terms with this loss, of seeking to find closure and healing, has been violated by the theft of his body.  Those who mourn a missing person or one who has been killed in battle find some consolation in having the body returned.  At least, now we know. This last decency has been desecrated by faceless powers (they) who can act with impunity and without remorse. 

A little reflection can unearth similar laments in our own lives.  A pervasive distrust can distance us from a living relation with Christ.  The They might be abuses of power in the institutional church, a growing incompatibility between contemporary culture and the expressions of belief, an indifference to religious practice and a reliance on our own maturity, autonomy, and critical reason.  They have taken away the Lord by separating the “spiritual” from things of this earth. We are no longer able or interested in asking unsettling questions about the proximate or ultimate meaning of our lives.

And we don’t know where they have put him.  We need to find explanations to come to closure that will satisfy our minds.  That someone has stolen the body is a likely explanation.  It fits the parameters of plausibility and gives us something to work with.  The we don’t know puts us in tension with what we have known and provokes us to go out.  If they have put him somewhere, we need only to locate that place and take him back.  Everything must have its place and even the Lord, as they had known him, had his being in places they could recognize. They did not yet understand.  The contemporary Church’s understanding as expressed in the Catholic Catechism states that the Resurrection is an event historically attested to by the disciples, yet mysteriously transcendent in so far as it is the entry of Christ’s humanity into the glory of God.  It eludes our efforts to situate and locate it within our plausibility structures. Humanity is now defined in terms of God’s plausibility structures.

John and Peter run to the tomb, but only slowly perceive its meaning. The movement into the tomb is the crossing of the threshold of humanity enslaved by the fear of death into the silence which opens to new life.  The new nature transformed through the death and rising of Christ is awakened in us as we realize the inner change offered to us.  We enter the tomb to be called to new life.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  Silence is the posture of the person who rejects closure within the self and entrusts one’s being to the word of God who raises us to life.  It is the discovery of a co-naturality with the humanity of Christ which has entered the glory of God.  Silence is the quieting of all forms of self-assertion and insistence; it is the trusting obedience to the movement of the Spirit of God who hovers over all creation.  Pope Francis has written that the resurrection is the revelation of the utter and inalienable reliability of God.  In entrusting himself to the Father, Christ has entrusted himself to the world and to us.


Easter Sunday

[Scripture Readings: Acts 10:34, 37-43; Col 3:1-4; Jn 20:1-9 ]

Today we celebrate the greatest event in the history of humanity: the resurrection of Jesus Christ which conquered death and brought to all a new life. The resurrection is the very foundation of our faith. That He was raised to a NEW LIFE, and not merely a resuscitated corpse, is crucial to our faith. Apart from this, Christianity might still be an interesting world view, or a cause for reflection, and Jesus would be a great, but failed, historical religious figure. But because of the resurrection to new life Jesus Christ is two things: He is a criterion and He is a power. He is a criterion for how to be human, i.e., knowing what God is like and how we are to relate to Him. He is the power to do so because the resurrection means that Jesus Christ not only was, but He also is.

And what is it like on the inside to experience the resurrection to new life? For the disciples it was a decisive turning point after the crisis of Good Friday. They realized that everything He had predicted on the way to Jerusalem had happened and that He had willingly handed Himself over to it. This life-changing awareness they had was of what Pope-emeritus Benedict calls the “pro-existence” of Jesus Christ. It is the essence and the entirety of who and what Jesus Christ was and is. “Pro-existence” is living for the good of others. Jesus Christ is FOR.

This awareness contrasted painfully with what they had done at Gethsemane. It rubbed their noses in their own self-seeking. They must have realized that to follow a man capable of that kind of self-donation was, for them, impossible. How could Jesus have done that?

Jesus was born without Original Sin. He was free of self-centeredness. Yet, because He was, He is the measure of what it is to be human, to be made in the image and likeness of God. And because He is and because He is for, He is the power to live this new life of self-donation.

Like the disciples, we know we are not the source of power for self-giving; rather the desire to be self-giving is written on our hearts and gives us the feeling that life could be worthwhile. It is here that we experience the joy of Easter: it is the joy of effective love, of living for others. Christ gives the power to us through our faith in Him and His resurrection.

In a few minutes this pro-existence will take the form of Christ giving Himself to us entirely in our consumption of bread and wine. This will give us the power to grow in self-giving. We may not be able to love with the extravagance of Jesus Christ, but we find that, as a way of life, it is worthy to die trying.

Pro-existence, the joy of living FOR, powered by faith in the Risen Christ is the essence of what it is like to be a Christian on the inside!

Easter Sunday

[Scripture Readings: Acts 10:34, 37-43; Col 3:1-4; Jn 20:1-9 ]

Today we celebrate the greatest event in the history of humanity: the resurrection of Jesus Christ which conquered death and brought to all a new life. We celebrate this not only as an historical event; we celebrate it as a personal event in each of our lives that we can now share in common.

We have each, I am sure, had an experience of the resurrection. After all, the spiritual journey is a paschal journey: a journey of dying to an old way of living and rising to a new life. This is why Jesus told skeptics that no sign would be given them except the Sign of Jonah. It is a paschal sign. Thomas Merton saw that Sign as an emblem of monastic life.

Monastic life is a spiritual journey made up, like any journey, of steps. These steps gradually teach us Jesus' primary human virtue: humility. They begin by teaching us the ground of what He knew about being human: that God matters most. Through the second step of humility we renounce self-will. In doing this, we, like Jesus, enter an agony. The Greek words agon and agonia mean “contest” or “struggle,” not pain. We came from a world that encourages “getting the upper hand.” Thus the “upper hand” ethic enters us into a contest with the monastic way of handing oneself over.

With the third step of humility we die to the old self by obedience, by submission to something greater. Jesus' agony began and ended in Gethsemane, where He was handed over. Once He decided to allow them to do whatever they wanted to Him, to obey, the struggle was over. Surrender always works that way.

In faith we submit and undergo whatever is required. We submit to a way of life. The idea of something greater than self is offensive and even frightening to us. It is a burden to us. Yet, we take the remaining steps of humility, because God matters most. Submitting to a way of life is self-emptying because it is not one's own way. We consent to be done-to.

What is done to us is that we are raised, as Jesus was, to a new life. The promise of taking those steps, of living them is “the perfect love which casts out fear.” Fear was the burden we had been carrying.

When the fear is gone and love set in place we experience three things:

First, we experience the gratuity of the presence of God in our lives. It is heart-breaking, and I mean that in the nicest way! We are intensely aware that we have been given something we did not even know enough to want much less merit. We cannot see the connection between the gift of His presence and anything we did, no matter how good a life we tried to live. We know we grumbled during our passion, not realizing we were emptying ourselves. You see, God loves empty spaces!

Second, as St. Peter tells us in our first reading from Acts, we experience forgiveness (and we knew there was something to forgive!). The gratuitous presence of God can only be a forgiving presence. He doesn't say “I forgive you.” His presence is enough to convey it. Another way to say forgiveness is Love without condition. Nothing is harder to receive. This is precisely what breaks the heart. It shatters our old way of perceiving, understanding, and being in relationship.

Third, as St. Paul tells us in the second reading from Colossians, we are given the mind of Christ. This is a mind characterized first by self-donation. We feel the need to pass on this love and forgiveness. Second, we find we have empathy for victims. Our empathy is for victims of natural disasters, that is, victims of fallen human natures. We empathize with victims of the “upper hand” ethic; those who have been hurt by another's effort at dominance and those who have been hurt by their own efforts.

The mind of Christ is not just a change in perception and understanding. It is not a matter of just “getting the idea.” It goes much deeper. It is a change of relationship. It is a change in relationship to the Father Who has changed our hearts. A change of heart is a change in what affects us. That is the miracle of the resurrection.

On this glorious Easter Sunday,

Christianity wishes this miracle to everyone!

Easter Sunday

[Scripture Readings: Acts 10: 34, 37-43; Col. 3: 1-4; Jn. 20: 1-9]

Fr. NeilPart of getting used to any new situation is an experience of disorientation. The new situation may be a new job, moving to a new locality or meeting new friends. Frequently our experience of disorientation is little more than mild discomfort as we go through a period of becoming familiar with the change. Since most of us like surprises as long as they don’t turn our expectations completely upside down, the expectation of something new can overshadow any discomfort that might be present. Nevertheless, there are times when our expectations suffer a major disruption and the adjustment can be long and difficult.

For Jesus’ disciples the discovery of the empty tomb was one more in a series of major disruptions to their expectations. It wasn’t long into his public ministry before Jesus began to act and speak in ways that did not fit his followers’ expectations of how the Messiah should behave and speak. For those who persevered through this, his arrest and crucifixion seemed like the end of everything they had hoped for. And now the tomb was empty and they couldn’t even pay him the customary funerary and mourning rites. Scripture scholars and theologians have pointed out that the empty tomb doesn’t prove anything.

The ScrollIt raises a question: How did it become empty? Perhaps we are too familiar with the answer to appreciate what this experience meant to the disciples. The gospels are consistent that with the possible exception of the beloved disciple, they didn’t know what to make of it. Over the next few days we will hear how the appearances of the risen Christ answered the question why the tomb was empty, but Christ’s resurrection continued to lead the disciples beyond their expectations.

Resurrection means entering into a new life that is beyond human comprehension. It means an inevitable disorientation as we enter further and further into the new life that Christ brings. For St. Paul baptism was to die with Christ and to rise with Christ. Because they had died with Christ and been raised with Christ he told the Colossians they should seek what is above where Christ is. I suggest that he was telling them to learn what the resurrection meant for them by putting on the mind of Christ and living according to Christ’s example and teaching. He is telling us to do the same. Jesus went about doing good and freeing people from the oppression of the devil. He continues doing this today through his body, and you and I are members of that body. We are called to enter into Christ’s resurrected life and share his life with those we meet. The good news of Easter is that because Christ is risen, we are able to do this.

Easter Sunday

[Scripture Readings: Acts10:34a, 37-43; Col 3:1-4; Jn 20:1-9 ]

Mary Magdalene came to the tomb, while it was still dark. John is the only evangelist that places the discovery of the empty tomb in total darkness, in the midst of night. The resurrection took place in the darkness of the first day, before there was any light.

In Genesis, on the first day, there was darkness, and God said, “Let there be light.” And there was light, and God saw that it was good. Now, at the resurrection, there is another “first day.” It also begins in total darkness and dawns in the dazzling light of the risen Christ. A new creation has begun. The light of this new creation shines on believing hearts. It is seen by love and faith.

Mary Magdalene has love, but the gift of faith has not yet been awakened within her. She only sees an empty tomb. Jesus was crucified, and now they have even taken away his body. She is surrounded by darkness. Then she tells Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved, that the body of Jesus has been taken away. There is darkness outside, and there is darkness within their hearts. Peter, who has not stopped weeping bitterly over his triple denials, runs with the other disciple through the darkness to the tomb, and Peter, like Mary Magdalene, sees that it is empty. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved goes into the empty tomb. He sees and he believes. The dawn of the first day in a new creation rises over the horizon of his inner darkness and fills him with the dazzling light of faith in the resurrection.

The beloved disciple represents all of us. We live in the midst of the world as living sacraments reflecting the light of the new creation. Our hearts are on fire with love for the risen Christ, and his light shines in our hearts and through our faces. The light of this first day in the new creation never sets, and never dims. The resurrection of Christ reveals that death is not the end. It shines beyond death and shows us that death is a passing from a life of faith to a life of seeing, from life in the old creation to the fullness of life within the new creation.

The resurrection appearances of Christ will uncover the existence and presence of this new creation. At dawn Mary Magdalene will see the risen Christ with her own eyes. Then she will proclaim: “I have seen the Lord!” When we die, we too will cry out: I see the Lord and the new creation!

Today we see and taste the goodness of the Lord by faith and love. Later on, when we have finished sharing in the paschal mystery of Christ’s death, we hope share in the mystery of his resurrection, when we will see him with our own eyes. We will see God, and live!

Let us now give thanks; let us taste and see that the Lord is good.