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Sunday Scripture: Easter is the beginning, not a happy ending

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Readings for April 8

The Resurrection of the Lord, The Mass of Easter Sunday

Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Colossians 3: 1-4 or 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8

John 20:1-9

 

We who have known the Easter story for years may possibly wonder why the close followers of Jesus were so slow to understand, but then we have to realize that we certainly don’t understand what resurrection from the dead is, or how it happens. So we take refuge in Easter bunnies, preferably chocolate, and Easter eggs, which are symbols of new life.

I don’t understand it either. But St. Paul, with his usual forthrightness, told that if it isn’t true, then our whole faith is “vain” and we are back to square one.

Mary Magdalen was the first, according to the Gospel of John, to discover that the body of Jesus was not in the tomb. She got Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved, and they saw, and believed, but did not yet understand that He had to rise. Then the men went home.

Sister Jeanne Hamilton

Mary stayed at the tomb, weeping, and when a man, apparently the gardener, came, she asked where he had taken the body. It was Jesus. The Good Shepherd, He called her by name: “Mary.” Jesus sent her to announce to the other disciples that he had risen, and that he was going to ascend to his Father and their Father, to his God and their God.

Mary Magdalen had had the love and courage to stand at the cross with the mother of Jesus and to go to the tomb on the first day of the week, while it was still dark. (She was confused in popular tradition with a great sinner, and by a popular author with poor research and a part of it was a figment of his imagination. What she was, was a great disciple. She is mentioned in the Gospels 14 times, more than any person except members of the Twelve.)

The disciples had an unbelievable (to anyone not full of faith) experience of the risen Lord on the evening of that day. The doors were shut, but he came to be with them, said “Peace,” showed his hands and side, gave them their mission, breathed the Holy Spirit on them, and gave them power to forgive sins. It was an overpowering experience, which Thomas missed. The music of the Sequence of today’s liturgy reflects radiant cheerfulness and triumphant joy.

A week later Thomas the doubter was with the other disciples, and Jesus again came through the closed doors. Thomas did not need to touch the wounds; he believed, and made what was possibly the most profound expression of belief ever pronounced: “My Lord and my God.” Perhaps Thomas stands for all of us, strong in faith as we are, or would wish to be.

Jesus appeared again to his disciples, one appearance was told in he Gospel of John: the great catch of fish. Jesus used the fish they caught, and prepared breakfast for the hungry disciples. In this scene Peter was told to feed the Iambs, and the sheep. And the disciple whom Jesus loved, who was never named, was there.

The Resurrection was not, as one author said, just a happy ending story. It was the beginning of the new life for believers. The Lord who rose and ascended to the Father remains with the Father, caring for those whom he has chosen, and speaking for all of us. We are called to a new life in him.

This column reflects the Gospel of John, used in today’s liturgy. John’s was the last Gospel written. Each Gospel was written for a different Christian community, and has its particular focus. It seemed best not to try to fuse them.

 

Ursuline Sister Jeanne Hamilton lives in Wilmington.