Easter Sunday – 2016
Acts.10:34a, 37-43; Ps 118; Col.3:1-4 or 1Cor.5:6b-8; Jn.20:1-9
Jesus Christ is Risen, Alleluia! Jesus Christ is Risen, Alleluia! No matter what the headline of the Daily News is today, we’ve got bigger news: Jesus Christ is Risen, Alleluia! That’s the headline; here’s the story: In the beginning, God made humans. We sinned. Then God became human.
We killed him. Then God rose from the dead, and he still loves us. No news, domestic or foreign, is more interesting than that. Two-thousand years ago, Peter declared to the Nations the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Today I proclaim that same news to you: Jesus Christ is Risen, Alleluia, and everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name. What an amazing offer: forgiveness of sins through his name! Jesus crossed over to the realms of death and brought back victory through his cross.
And what a victory! What else could we want? What else could we need? Who needs food, who needs water, who needs air to breathe so long as we have got forgiveness of sins?
Two-thousand years ago, those to whom Peter spoke received this news with joy. This was the answer to a question which consumed their lives. Through the centuries the nations throughout the world received this news with joy. Christianity grew from a handful of people to two billion strong.
Has this message lost its power now? Can news which is 2000 years old still be news? This good news is still powerful, and it will remain powerful. It is the only solution to our problems. So long as sin remains in the world, we will need forgiveness of sins. So long as sin has power in each of our souls, we will need forgiveness of sins.
The Greek poet Hesiod, who lived eight centuries before Jesus was born, wrote about this legendary bird phoenix in his poetry. When the bird felt its death was near (every 500 to 1,461 years), it would fly off to Phoenicia, build a nest of aromatic wood and set itself on fire.
When the bird was consumed by the flames, a new phoenix sprang forth from the ashes. Thus, the phoenix symbolizes immortality, Resurrection, and life after death. It sums up the Easter message perfectly. Jesus gave up His life, and from the grave He was raised to life again on the third day.
New life rises from the ashes of death. Today we are celebrating Christ’s victory over the grave, the gift of eternal life for all who believe in Jesus. That is why the phoenix bird, one of the earliest symbols of the Risen Christ, also symbolizes our daily rising to new life.
Every day, like the phoenix, we rise from the ashes of sin and guilt and are refreshed and renewed by our living Lord and Savior with His forgiveness and the assurance that He still loves us and will continue to give us the strength we need.”
Now the question is: Once Jesus had died and descended into hell, would it have been possible for Jesus to accomplish His victory over sin and death by rising straight from hell to Heaven? Why did Jesus spend forty days on earth?
The answer might seem obvious: that is, to convince His followers of His Resurrection. We might think that if Jesus had been raised by the Father straight from death in hell to glory in Heaven, His disciples would not have believed in the Resurrection.
On the other hand, we hear at the end of Gospel passage that “the other disciple also went in… and he saw and believed.” Mary of Magdala had told Peter and John that the Lord’s Body had been taken from the tomb, but when John “the other disciple”—saw the burial cloths there, and then entered the tomb, he “saw and believed.”
Does this mean that John believed in the Resurrection? St. Augustine of Hippo answers “no”, noting that the very next sentence of the Gospel text tells us that Peter and John “did not yet understand the Scripture that [Jesus] had to rise from the dead.”
So what did John see and believe if not the Resurrection of Jesus? Augustine argues that John “saw the supulchre or the tomb empty, and believed what the woman had said, that He had been taken away from the tomb”.
So if even the two greatest apostles—Peter, most invested with authority by Jesus, and John, most beloved by Jesus—saw but did not believe in the Resurrection, what hope would other, lesser disciples have of believing without seeing the Lord Jesus in the Risen Flesh?
As we hear all four evangelists’ accounts of these forty days, we learn that the Risen Jesus fosters belief chiefly in two ways. Jesus explains “the Scriptures” of the Old Testament, and celebrates the Holy Eucharist.
Jesus manifests the power of His Resurrection in Word and Sacrament, or better yet, in the Word and in the Word made Flesh. But during these forty days, Jesus does not only convince His followers of what had happened on Easter Sunday morn.
Jesus does not merely console them with final chances to be with Him before His Ascension. Jesus during these forty days equips His apostles.
The Easter Season has two poles. Easter is not only about celebrating the truth that Jesus has risen. Easter is also about preparing for Pentecost. Jesus was preparing His Apostles to lead the Church—His Mystical Body—from the day of Pentecost onwards by means of the Word and Sacrament.
The focus of the Easter Season on the life of the Church is why the First Reading during Easter comes not from the Old Testament, as it does throughout the rest of the year, but from the Acts of the Apostles.
You and I need to spend this Easter Season, then, not only giving thanks for the gift of the Risen Jesus. Each of us needs to thank God for the Resurrection by faithfully living one’s vocation and daily stewardship within the life of that Mystical Body who conquered sin and death. Amen.
It is unfortunate that today of all days, on Easter Sunday, we must recall sin and death. Today should be a day of joy, but how can we rejoice at the good news if we do not first know the bad news? Who will rejoice at the headline: “War Ends” unless they knew that there was a war?
If today it is announced that some deadly disease has been cured, we might all express mild gladness, but if we and our family had this disease, the news would cause us to leap for joy. Jesus Christ is Risen, Alleluia! This should cause us to do cartwheels down that aisle.
The Resurrection is not only about something that happens after we die. The Resurrection is taking place right now in our lives. It is the potential for our lives to be different, to be amazing. Perhaps someone will say, “But I haven’t done anything really bad; I’ve never killed anyone.”
Do not set your standards according to how depraved and selfish and evil humanity can get. What about how good we can be? What about John Paul II? What about Mother Theresa? What about St. Francis of Assisi? What about Jesus? How are you doing compared to them?
The Resurrection means that we can be like them. It is the opportunity to be no longer mediocre. The Resurrection is not only for after we die, but it is for then too. Death is the universal human experience. You are all going to die.
You and I and every single person in the world is going to die. We do not like to think about it, I know. We try to forget about death because it is unpleasant and frightening. But it does not have to be like that anymore.
If the Resurrection of Jesus Christ was only about an innocent man recovering from death, we would be happy for him, but if the Resurrection signifies that Jesus Christ went down to Hell and destroyed the power of death, that he has unlocked our prison, that we are free to go, then we can rejoice.
The good news today is not only the good news; it is the best news. The joy of today cannot be ranked with other joys. We can spend forever perfectly happy with God. What could be better?
Say Alleluia with me: Alleluia! Now say it louder! Alleluia! Christ is risen! Alleluia! Rejoice! Alleluia! Sin is overpowered! Alleluia! Death is defeated! Alleluia! God loves us! Alleluia! Heaven is full of people, right now, just like us! Alleluia! We can go to heaven too! Alleluia!
We killed Jesus Christ, but he rose from the dead! Alleluia! And he still loves us! Alleluia! We do not need to hate anymore! Alleluia! We do not need to be afraid anymore! Alleluia! We do not need to try to be rich anymore! Alleluia! Every tear will be wiped away! Alleluia!
All suffering in this world will be joy in the next! Alleluia! The Devil cannot hold on to us! Alleluia! We are weak, but God is strong! Alleluia! We have been pre-accepted into heaven! Alleluia! We just have to go! Alleluia! Let us begin the journey right now! Alleluia!
We are going to be rich! Alleluia! We are going to be strong! Alleluia! We are going to see what we could not see! Alleluia! We are going to meet Jesus! Alleluia! And all the saints in heaven! Alleluia! Praise God! Alleluia! Jesus Christ is risen! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.