First reading Acts 10:34,37-43
'We have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection'
Peter addressed Cornelius and his household: 'You must have heard about the recent happenings in Judaea; about Jesus of Nazareth and how he began in Galilee, after John had been preaching baptism. God had anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and because God was with him, Jesus went about doing good and curing all who had fallen into the power of the devil. Now I, and those with me, can witness to everything he did throughout the countryside of Judaea and in Jerusalem itself: and also to the fact that they killed him by hanging him on a tree, yet three days afterwards God raised him to life and allowed him to be seen, not by the whole people but only by certain witnesses God had chosen beforehand. Now we are those witnesses - we have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection from the dead - and he has ordered us to proclaim this to his people and to tell them that God has appointed him to judge everyone, alive or dead. It is to him that all the prophets bear this witness: that all who believe in Jesus will have their sins forgiven through his name.'
Second reading Colossians 3:1-4
Look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is
Since you have been brought back to true life with Christ, you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is, sitting at God's right hand. Let your thoughts be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth, because you have died, and now the life you have is hidden with Christ in God. But when Christ is revealed - and he is your life - you too will be revealed in all your glory with him.
Gospel Reading John 20:1-9
He must rise from the dead
It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. 'They have taken the Lord out of the tomb' she said 'and we don't know where they have put him.'
So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first; he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed. Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
The feast of Easter is the celebration of Jesus' victory over death and mankind's hope for eternal life. This feast gives us the hope of our own Resurrection and at the same time keeps us united with the living Christ who has promised to remain with us. The theme of today's Mass includes both proclamation and witness. St Paul tells us that if Jesus does not rise from the dead, our faith is in vain. In the Gospel of the day Mary Magdalene is asked to go and proclaim the Resurrection to all. To the Disciples, the Resurrection of Jesus was something new and unexpected. It was a total transformation and it gave them a new vision of life. They had been witnesses of his suffering and death and during that time they had remained hidden out of fear. Their hope in Jesus was shattered. The resurrection brought about a complete turnaround and they began boldly to proclaim that Jesus, who died on the Cross, was alive. Later, when they were arrested, persecuted, and imprisoned, they rejoiced as they were now even more closely related to the life experience of their Lord through his resurrection..
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is at the very heart of Christianity. For his disciples, it was indeed a mystery. The Easter Sunday for them was a total reversal of the image of Good Friday. His death which seemed to be a defeat before the world is now shown as a triumph, a victory over death. His dying on the cross in reality was a passage to new life. They were not able to comprehend the fact of Resurrection and grasp the deep inner meaning of it even though Jesus had spoken to them several times during his public life. However, it built up their faith particularly because of their experience of the presence of Jesus and made them persons, courageous, and ready to face any eventuality for their master. Jesus stood among them, talked to them, ate with them, and taught them. They were called upon to build the faith of others and we see how marvellous the living faith of the early Church was. The disciples once they knew that Jesus was the Messiah and that he had been resurrected from the dead by the Father became totally transformed persons. They were ready to face any suffering and even death as it was Christ that was important.
Today's First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles begins with the discourse of Peter who touches on the highlights of what was commonly known about Jesus of Nazareth. He told them that Jesus was God's anointed one who went about doing good works and healing many. Yet he was rejected by his own people and put to death. As in Isaiah's Suffering Servant, death was not the final word in the work of Jesus. God raised him up on the third day. He also emphasized 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. Peter communicated to them that they were those witnesses of Jesus' preaching and healing, of his arrest, execution, and death, and also of his resurrection. The Apostle told them that they had eaten and drunk with Jesus after his resurrection from the dead. He explained that they have continued doing it every time they took part in the Eucharist was when they ate and drank with the community in the name of Risen Jesus.
In the Second Reading Paul told the Colossians that because of the resurrection of Jesus their earthly lives are raised to a new status. Since they have been raised with Christ, they should seek the things that are from above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. They should set their minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For, all those baptized have died in Christ, and the new life is hidden with Christ in God. Paul's words open another dimension of Easter. Not only is it a celebration of Jesus' resurrection, but also of our being raised to a new life with Christ. More than an unequaled demonstration of God's power Easter shows that God lives in those who are open to receive forgiveness of sin and life that bridges death. More than an unprecedented demonstration of divine power, the resurrection shows that Christ now lives in those open to receive forgiveness of sin and the gift of life than bridges death. The risen Christ is now with his Father in glory and at his final coming, we too will share his glory. Behind this brief passage are two powerful elements of the apostolic tradition, one of which Paul himself developed.
Today's Gospel from John draws our attention to the empty tomb as the sign of Jesus' resurrection to life. In this empty tomb story, John involves Mary Magdalene, Simon Peter and himself as his beloved disciple. It was the first day after the Sabbath, the first day of the Christian week when Mary Magdalene came to the tomb of Jesus. It was a Jewish custom to visit the tomb of the beloved departed at least three days after the burial. She was the first one to discover that the tomb where Jesus was buried was now empty. As she approached the tomb she saw the stone rolled back and wondered who could have moved such a heavy stone. Her immediate conclusion was that the body was taken away by somebody. She quickly ran to the disciples to inform the matter of the missing body of the Lord. She reported the matter to Peter who was already accepted as the Leader of the group. Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved run to the tomb. They saw the entire scene, they understood and they believed in the act of the resurrection. Till then they had failed to understand the term to be raised from the dead. They saw how the clothes were kept, the one that covered the head had been set apart and the rest of the clothes did not look as if Jesus had taken them off or removed them by someone else.
The fact that the tomb was empty is confirmed by Peter and the beloved disciple John. They too had sensed the urgency and so they went in haste to the tomb to confirm Mary Magdalene's report. Much has been said about the detail that the younger disciple John outran Peter but most of it seems to be creative speculation. What is really important is what the beloved disciple and Peter saw when they arrive at the tomb. The body was indeed missing but they found the burial clothes there itself. Peter noticed that the head covering had been rolled up separately and placed in a different location from the other burial cloths. The evidence points to two conclusions. First, the body had indeed gone. Second, it had not been stolen by grave robbers or anyone else. Robbers would not have taken the time to remove the burial clothes and put them in places where they could be immediately seen. It was the beloved disciple who was the first to draw the conclusion that more was going on here than the grave robbery. He arrived at his conclusion not from logic or reason but through faith. His faith told him that the body of Jesus had not been stolen. Instead, Jesus had conquered death and had left behind those garments that symbolized death. He did not fully understand what his faith told him.
In the Gospel of today tells us how Mary Magdalene went in search of Jesus even after the disciples went away. She loved her master and was much devoted to him and wanted to remain close the tomb. She was upset with the events that the stone was removed, the body was missing and she thought that someone had deliberately stolen it. She wept at the loss and with the inner burning desire to be near him, to follow Him, to hear Him, to feel loved, to be understood, and to be forgiven of sins. In the tomb, she saw two angels who asked her the reason for her weeping. At that very moment, Jesus too was present and he too asked her the reason for her crying. She thought that he was the gardener and looked for his help but Jesus presented himself to her and called her by name. Only then she understood who he was and worshiped him. Jesus indeed accepted her presence but gave her the mission. She was asked to go and tell all, starting from the disciples that Jesus has been raised from the dead and she had seen him and he had the good news for everyone.
For Peter and other disciples this was the moment of growth in their faith in the resurrection of Jesus. Immediately after the visit to the empty tomb they might have been shocked. This was soon be clarified to them about the resurrection of Jesus perhaps through Mary Magdalene. Later it was further clarified as Jesus encountered the disciples on the way to Emmaus where he explained the positive meaning of the sufferings of the messiah as found in the Old Testament. The resurrection of Jesus brought a new hope in the disciples and transformed their emptiness into the fullness of light. The word, "Jesus is alive!" or "I have seen the Lord!" was enough to instantly create a great spiritual hunger in their soul the worldly minds of the disciples suddenly became alerted to the truth. Faith was being reinstated in the Words that Jesus had spoken while He lived on earth. They could now understand what it really means to be raised from the dead. In this resurrection, they saw the new creation by the Father. In the book of Genesis, we hear of God creating the Universe.
To the Disciples the Resurrection was a new experience. It was something totally unexpected and new. It gave them a new vision of life. They were persons totally transformed with the presence of the Resurrected Jesus. They had seen his suffering and during that time most of them had remained hidden out of fear. For them, as it is for us the celebration of Easter Sunday totally reverses the image of Good Friday. It tells us what Good Friday is about; it tells us that what took place on the cross on Good Friday was not just a simple death but a real sacrifice, it was not a defeat but a triumph over sin and death, and it was not an end but a great beginning. Jesus accepted death in total obedience to his Father. He told his Father that he was ready to do his will and sacrificed himself for the salvation of the world. His death was 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 humankind with greater love and with the resurrection Jesus will stay with us forever. The resurrection of Jesus, and later the Pentecost brings a change in the disciples.
Today on Easter Sunday the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus reminds us that we have the same mission as Peter and Mary Magdalene and the other disciples of Jesus. This requires as the first reading of today tells us that we need a radical conversion, a radical change on our part. In the celebration of the Pasch, the Jews used to throw out all the leavened bread they had and replace it with freshly baked unleavened bread. Because of the fermentation process that leavened bread undergoes, yeast was regarded as a corrupting agent. So Paul tells us that we, too, as we celebrate our Christian Passover, are to become "a completely new batch of bread, unleavened as you are meant to be…having only the unleavened bread of integrity and truth." Further, Peter emphasizes 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 to live joyfully in the close company of the Risen Lord. For the true Christian, in fact, every day is an Easter Day lived joyfully in the close company of the Risen Lord.
On this Easter Sunday Jesus calls us to be his messengers of peace. We pray that this peace will remain in our hearts always to make us his messengers in the world of today. The celebration of Easter is a call for us to change - and perhaps change radically - as Jesus' own disciples changed. The feast of Easter is the confirmation of our faith. Our faith is deeply rooted and finds its real meaning in the resurrection of Jesus. St Paul says that, if Christ is not raised, then all our believing is in vain. Hence our faith tells us that Good Friday and the death of Jesus is not the climax of Holy Week. It is only a path in the achievement of the final resurrection. The cross was the high point of Jesus' gift of himself to the Father for our sakes and the Father returns the gift of resurrected Jesus to us. Accordingly, today's mass invites us with the invitation to proclaim the good news and be witnesses to the risen lord.
A friend asked Samuel Morse, the inventor of the Telegraph, whether during all his experiments, he had come across a moment or stage where he did not know what to do next. Morse in reply said it had happened to him more than once. There were anxious moments in his life where he was unable to move. Then how did he overcome asked his friend? Morse replied that in confidence he would tell him that in such moments he would just kneel down and pray to God to give him light and understanding. The friend asked him whether he got that light and understanding from God. Morse replied emphatically yes. Therefore he added when he received honours from America and from Europe on account of his invention which bears his name he never even once felt he deserved them. He had made only a valid application of electricity not because he was superior to others but solely because God, who meant it for mankind, would have revealed it to someone and was pleased to reveal it to Morse.
Fr. Eugene Lobo S.J. Bangalore, India
Easter Sunday, the day when we celebrate the resurrection of the Lord, is always a day of joy and of hope - a day when we celebrate the gift of life itself and the triumph of light over darkness, of good over evil, and of peace over war.
The great Easter proclamation, the Exsultet, which is sung at our Easter Vigil, the first service of Easter, says:
'The sanctifying power of this night
dispels wickedness, washes faults away,
restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners,
drives out hatred, fosters concord and brings down the mighty'
The Easter Vigil is always celebrated in darkness to emphasise the light and glory of the Risen Lord, but it comes at the end of Holy Week, a time when we remember the passion and death of Jesus. It is a time of high drama and emotion, of suffering and of mystery. It begins in triumph as Jesus enters Jerusalem, a king riding on a donkey receiving the adulation of the crowds as they cheer and wave palm branches. The mood rapidly changes to one of darkness and betrayal, mental anguish, suffering and death on a cross. If we lay all before the Lord at the foot of that cross God will take us beyond the cross from darkness to light and from war to peace.
As Jesus died on the cross, he prayed, 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do'. Violence and war are human failings by people who do not know what they are doing.
In these last months we have witnessed a time of darkness, unjust aggression, violence, war and the death of innocent people. We have been praying for peace for the people of Ukraine and our generosity has united us with them. In the Archdiocese of Liverpool, we have united with the people of Drohobych and their Auxiliary Bishop, Gregory Komar, who wrote to us: 'We have witnessed that God is with us, that we are not alone in our anguish, that throughout the whole world there are many people of good will supporting us.'
Yes, God is with us all the time, even though we may not realise it. The Risen Lord comes to us as we reach out to those most in need.
Through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Easter gives us hope, Bishop Gregory ends his message to us by saying, 'I am asking you, dear brothers and sisters, to be alongside us in this Way of the Cross, in these dramatic days, when the future of Europe and of the whole world is being decided. Share with us your material blessings and your support, and we in our turn will share with you our love, our gratitude, our faith and our hope.'
Let us accept the love, gratitude, faith and hope of the Ukrainian people as our Easter gift this year as we continue to support them, and may we be empowered by the presence of the Risen Lord today as he calls us beyond the fear of the unknown.
For the people of Ukraine, for those in our world who suffer conflict, hunger, injustice and deprivation, for our families and for ourselves may we make the greeting of the Risen Lord our prayer this Easter - 'Peace be with you'.