The Gospel – Easter Sunday
9th April 2023
Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed;
let us then feast with joy in the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
On the first day of the week,
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture
that he had to rise from the dead.
First and foremost, a very Happy Easter!
Our Lord has overcome death and He has opened the gates of Heaven to all who believe and receive the gift of salvation. Today’s Gospel concludes by saying, “For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” This is evident by the initial reaction of Mary of Magdala, Simon Peter and the Apostle John. Mary first thought that someone had taken the body of Jesus and moved it from the tomb. Peter was confused and ran to see for himself. John also went and when he saw the empty tomb, he believed. Eventually, all of the Apostles would come to understand and believe.
The initial reaction to the empty tomb teaches us an important lesson. Though the Resurrection of Christ is clearly known to us today, our knowledge of this glorious event must continually deepen. This is evidenced by the fact that the disciples of Jesus came to understand the Resurrection over time. They did not comprehend His Resurrection when Jesus first taught them about it. They did not fully understand it when they saw the empty tomb. They did not even fully comprehend it when they saw the risen Lord. It was only after they were given the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that their minds were open to this incredible mystery of faith so that they could begin to penetrate and comprehend this mystery more clearly.
The Resurrection of Christ is an event which transcends time. It’s an event that must permeate for all time and transform every moment of our lives. When Jesus rose from the dead, it was much different than a simple return to life. Instead, His resurrected state was a new beginning. He was now different. He was transformed. His body would now never age. It could not die. It could pass through closed doors. This resurrected body of our Lord, which is perfectly united to His divine soul, will remain with Him forever.
According to John’s gospel, from which we read this morning, there was a garden in the place where Jesus was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb. It was in this tomb where Joseph of Aramathea and Nicodemus buried Jesus.
After Jesus’ death on the cross, the disciples were lifeless. They had lost all their enthusiasm for the Lord’s work. Some of them went back to their fishing; others had locked themselves away out of fear. In this morning’s gospel reading, Mary Magdalene is very distressed. According to John’s gospel, she had stood by the cross as Jesus was dying, alongside Jesus’ mother, Mary the wife of Clopas and the disciple known as the ‘beloved disciple’. Very early on the first day of the week, our Sunday, she came to the tomb and found the stone that covered the opening had been rolled up away and the tomb empty. She presumed people had stolen the body of Jesus. In great distress she ran to Simon Peter and the beloved disciple and announced, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him’. Jesus’ undignified death was terrible to see, and, now, she thought his body had suffered the further indignity of being stolen. Simon Peter and the beloved disciple ran to the tomb, as Mary Magdalene had ran to them. They shared her distress. Running can be a sign of panic and concern. This was the mental and emotional state of the disciples on that Sunday morning. It was only when the risen Lord appeared to them that they understood why the tomb was empty. Jesus’ broken, disfigured, body had been transformed by risen life. He was now more alive than he had ever been. The wounds of his crucifixion were still on his body, but now they were openings through which the light of heaven, God’s eternal light, was shining.
Jesus had been transformed and his various appearances to his disciples transformed them. This lifeless, fearful, despondent group were raised to new life. They were filled with the risen Lord’s joy and peace; their fear gave way to courage, their despondency to hope. The work that Jesus had begun before his crucifixion would continue. As risen Lord he would be with his disciples until the end of time, doing his work through them.
That is how the risen Lord is present to all of us today. He comes among us to raise us to new life, to communicate his own peace and joy to us, to give us his strength in our weakness, to renew our hope when we are feeling despondent, to give us courage when we are fearful. He comes to us to bring light into our darkness, the light of God’s faithful love. He journeys with us, as he journeyed with the two disciple on the road to Emmaus, so that we can begin to enjoy in the here and now something of that risen life that awaits us beyond our earthly lives. There are times in our lives when we struggle to believe that the risen Lord is journeying with us. We struggle to recognise him. In today’s gospel reading, the beloved disciple is the first to recognise that the Lord was alive and present. When he looked into the empty tomb, he believed. He didn’t need the risen Lord to appear to him. We are all beloved disciples, greatly loved by the Lord. Our love for the Lord in return can help us to see with the eyes of the beloved disciple, recognising the Lord even in places that are usually associated with death and loss. This morning we ask for the eyes of the beloved disciple to recognise the Lord’s presence at every step of our life journey.
My resurrected Lord, Your sacred body and soul are forever united as one in a new and glorified state. You now invite all of us to share in Your suffering and death in this life so that we can share in Your Resurrection. Please fill my mind with understanding of this gift in order to fill me with hope so that I will work tirelessly for that day on which I hope to share in Your Resurrection. Jesus, I trust in You.