EASTER SUNDAY DURING THE DAY (2021)
Readings:Acts 10:34, 37-43Psalms 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23Colossians 3:1-4John 20:1-9
For fans of the sometimes cumbersome, and always substantially more lengthy, Saturday Easter Vigil, we seem once again to be cheated out of the possibility by a pandemic of even attending the magnificent Vigil service, with its solemn hymn to the Paschal Candle and its Scriptural unfolding of salvation history. From my earliest days as an altar boy, there was nothing that pointed to the profundity of the solemnity we celebrate more than the gradual lighting of a darkened church, the Light of Christ traveling from the Easter fire to a single candle, and then to hundreds of people who sincerely desired that they would become, and who in reality were, “other” lights of a resurrected Lord.
This Easter, like last Easter, (and for me, the two Easters before that), will be different from the Easters we have customarily celebrated. Yet, there is, or should be, no diminishment to the importance of this celebration for those who call themselves Christian. The celebration of Easter is the quintessential Christian feast, it contains within it all we need to know about what it should mean to be a Christian. The journey from Ash Wednesday to Easter is meant to instruct us, just as the rather brief public ministry of Jesus was meant to teach His disciples, how to establish the Kingdom He came into this world to inaugurate. That Kingdom would not, could not, come to pass without the seeming failure of Jesus’ suffering and death. As hard as Jesus tried to teach his disciples with several predictions of His Passion and death, it would appear that they entered the events of Good Friday in confusion, buoyed up as they were with the jubilant crowds that met them on their way into the city of Jerusalem. They failed to understand Jesus’ teaching that just as the grain of wheat must die before it can become the life giving bread, so also those who would follow in the footsteps of Jesus must also suffer and die before enjoy life eternal.
Easter is the day that makes us “rejoice and be glad,” because it is the day when we learn what true generosity is (He gave up His life that we might have eternal life); it is the day we learn what real obedience is all about (He became obedient unto death, even death on a cross); it is the day when we learn what genuine love is (He loved us so much that he came into our world to take our sins upon Himself); it is the day we learn what hope is all about (for the hopes of countless generations were fulfilled in Jesus); it is the day we learn what forgiveness is all about (everyone who believes in Him will receive forgiveness through His name). As the psalmist tells us: “we give thanks to God, for He is good, for His mercy endures forever.” The Paschal mystery is the earthly manifestation of something that is not momentary, for “His mercy endures forever.” It is our task while still living, “to declare the works of the Lord,” that others may come to know what we especially know on this day, and on every day.”
In John’s gospel the first hint that divine justice had been accomplished was shared with Mary Magdalen, who notices that the stone has been “removed from the tomb,” something she surely would not have been able to do alone. Her first thought is that something nefarious had occurred: “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put Him,” she tells Peter and another disciple, assumed to be John. There is no expectation of a resurrection; in spite of Jesus’ predictions, it was unimaginable. After their arrival at the tomb, Peter and the other disciple peer in to see the burials cloths, and the cloth that covered Jesus’ head neatly folded and “in a separate place.” Nothing is said about Peter believing or understanding, but it is said about the other disciple who arrived first, that “he saw and believed.”
We too, as we celebrate the Lord’s glorious resurrection from the dead, are called to have our faith strengthened, and to believe in the unimaginable. We need to hope in what science cannot explain; we need to believe that in spite of a world gone bad that justice can be accomplished; we need to believe that Jesus’ promises to us will be fulfilled. Unlike Mary Magdalen and the frightened disciples, we know the entire story, and the marvelous Easter season yet to unfold will explain it all to us in more detail. We need only to trust, and hope, and believe, “for the Lord is truly risen, alleluia! To Him be glory and power for all the ages of eternity, alleluia, alleluia.” A happy and joyous Easter to all!