First Reading: Acts 10. 34, 37 – 43
Responsorial Psalm: 118
Second Reading: Colossians 3. 1 -4
Gospel: John 20. 1- 18
A God Who Still Moves Stones
We live in a world where brokenness is all around us. There is the unrest in Myanmar. There is the pandemic, which despite our fatigue is still with us. There is violence. There are mental health issues, especially among young adults that are growing exponentially. This is a time when we must stress the unity that is the charism we are called to cooperate with the Holy Spirit to bring about in our world. Jesus spent his life with the broken, and his resurrection is the proof that brokenness, sin and death do not have the last word.
What are we celebrating today? In the hymn of praise ‘Exultet’ sung at the beginning of Easter Vigil night, several times reference is made to ‘This is the night ’. We are celebrating the night when the Lord saved our fathers, freed the people of Israel from their slavery; the night that destroyed the darkness of sin; the night when Christians were washed clean of sin and are restored to grace and to grow together in holiness; the night when Jesus Christ broke the chain of death and rose triumphantly from the grave; the night when the fault or sin of Adam became a necessary sin that became our light and joy; the night that acquired the power to dispel all evil, to wash all guilt away, restored lost; innocence brought; mourners joy, cast out hatred, brought us peace and humbled earthly pride; the night when heaven was wedded to earth and man was reconciled to God; the night during which we plead with the Lord to accept our evening sacrifice of praise as the Church’s offering.
This day therefore is important for us because it is the day that gives us the joy and peace to last for eternity. Because on this day our Saviour rose from the dead on account of which sin, Satan and death have no lasting power over us. This is the day that tells that now, because of the Resurrection of Jesus, all of us are capable of experiencing true joy, true peace and true light. This night tells us that once again we can be free from within and that we can experience a genuine and authentic interior transformation of our lives that can influence all our thoughts, actions decisions and life itself.
If such is the night that we are experiencing, then, what are we waiting for? What are we longing for? What are we yearning for? What is the determining factor in our life? What kind of life that we want to live?
That ‘Christ is Risen, Alleluia! Has to be the motivating light and energy of our life. For, as we heard from the letter of St. Paul we who have been baptized into Christ were baptized into his death. We were buried with him into baptism into death so that as Christ was raised from the death by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
This day makes us experience the newness of life. What is the newness of life? It is the newness which the apostles experienced. The newness will be unfolded to us day by day from tomorrow as we listen to the Acts of the Apostles. The newness which apostles experienced is the newness we are called to experience.
Firstly, the Apostles experienced a kind of inner freedom that they had never experienced earlier. The obsessions of the mind, body and soul that express themselves through various ways of attachments to this materials world were destroyed. Now they began to open the doors of their hearts and minds to a power they had not experienced earlier. They became unselfish in their love, and unconditional in forgiveness of one another. They were ready to embrace and enemies rather than hate or condemn them. They were ready to undergo sufferings rather than escape from them. They were ready to give their life to the preaching of the Word rather than afraid of dying for the Lord in the process of accomplishing timid and coward. Their life became an open book to all.
Secondly, owing to their experience of the Resurrection of Jesus they were transformed. Their own transformation became the proof of the Resurrection of Jesus.
They became joyful and energetic. They did not require anyone or anything else to motivate them.
Alleluia! Christ has risen indeed! Alleluia! He has risen to die no more. It is not merely because we have not spoken this beautiful word for six weeks, but given our present circumstances, it is more necessary than ever to sing Alleluia in our hearts. It is true that anyone can speak the word with their mouth, but do they really mean it? That is why I say we need to sing it loudly in our hearts. If something comes from the heart, it has real meaning in our lives. Alleluia joins two Hebrew words and means “Praise God.”
With all the lunacy that has been taking place in our world and in our nation, why should we be praising God loudly in our hearts? After all, many people have been convinced that they should be terrified that they might get sick and they might even die. While we all know we are going to die one day, one would think that the older we get, the more we should be a peace with the reality of dying. But the fear that is gripping so many people, especially so many older people, is the fear of death. Jesus is risen from the dead! This is certainly great good news for us, but as we just read, He has obtained new life for us. Christian people should not live in fear of death. We know we will die one day, but we also know this is the transition to new and everlasting life. We are not afraid because our King has conquered the one who held humanity in the bondage of fear, sin, Satan and death. Why would we want to go back to being captured in the shackles of Satan? Jesus has broken the bonds; fetters, we are now free! Alleluia!
In the first reading St. Peter says he and the other Apostles had been commissioned by Jesus to testify that Jesus is the Judge of the living and the dead. He is our Judge. If we have served Him selflessly, we have no need to be afraid; ours will be a merciful judgment. But, one might ask, what about those of us who have not always served Him this way? If you have been to confession, your sins have been forgiven and if you are striving to love and serve Him now, none of those past sins will be remembered. Praise God!
So, the only reason why we should be afraid is if we do not believe. St. John relates the story of the events of Easter morning when he and St. Peter ran to the Lord’s tomb after being informed by St. Mary Magdalene that the stone (about six feet in diameter and about a foot thick) was rolled back from the entrance to the tomb. The Apostles saw the burial clothes there together, but the cloth that covered our Lord’s head was rolled up in a separate place. This was enough to convince St. John, and his inclusion of this point suggests it should also be enough to convince his readers.
That the cloth was rolled up and in a separate place tells us two things. First, the body was not stolen, because thieves would not have taken the time to remove the cloth while in the tomb. Moreover, most thieves were not interested in stealing dead bodies, they were interested in stealing the burial cloth and anything valuable that may have been buried with the person. Beyond this, even if someone wanted to steal the body of our Lord, it would have been considerably more difficult because there were Roman soldiers stationed at the tomb.
Secondly, the rolled up cloth points to the truth of the resurrection. The main cloth was lying flat, similar to what they showed in the movie The Passion of the Christ when the clothes simply “deflate” to show that our Lord’s resurrected body was no longer held bound by the normal physical limitations of the body. The cloth around the head may have been wrapped more than once and it maintained its form. Even if someone wanted to steal our Lord Body and leave the clothes, they would not have taken the time to arrange them carefully and make sure the cloth around the head maintained its shape.
Faith in the resurrection of Jesus leads to faith in the new life He has obtained for us. St. Paul tells us in the second reading that when “Christ your life appears, you too will appear with Him in glory.” The entrance to eternal life is through the doorway of death. Death is not the end; it is the means to life. Be not afraid: death is swallowed up by life; eternal life is yours. Alleluia!
God bless. Have a blessed Easter! Blessings on you all.