Sunday Scripture readings, April 17, 2022: Easter Sunday The Resurrection of the Lord
1) Acts 10:34, 37-43 Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23
2) Col 3:1-4 or 1 Cor 5:6-8 Gospel: Jn 20:1-9
Festivities mean little if we do not experience a renewing of God’s love
Across the ages, artists have portrayed the Gospel scene we hear proclaimed on Easter Sunday, namely Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the risen Jesus soon after his resurrection. One particularly evocative depiction is the mid-15th century painting titled “Noli Me Tangere,” completed by Fra Angelico, the renowned Dominican friar artist.
The work was part of an extended fresco cycle of Gospel scenes painted on the walls of the Convent of San Marco, where he lived in a community of Dominican friars. The Latin title evokes Jesus’ words to Mary Magdalene, “Do not touch me,” as the artist sets the scene in a grassy garden outside a cave.
Mary Magdalene kneels in astonishment as the risen Lord calls her by name and she reaches out to touch him. The risen Jesus, radiating light, reaches out his hand to Mary Magdalene to assure her of his enduring presence, now transformed into his glorious, resurrected body.
On Jesus’ feet and hands are the wounds of his passion, painted as small red dots. Art historians note that scattered in the grass the artist paints similar red dots, seen as tiny red flowers. And as a visual reminder of Jesus’ passion and death on the cross, the artist paints between the figures of Jesus and Mary Magdalene three small bleeding crosses!
In his resurrection, Jesus sows in the garden of this world the seeds of the radical transformation of our bodies and creation itself in the power of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Mary Magdalene’s pain at Jesus’ passing was transformed into her joyful proclamation of his resurrection.
Our Easter faith invites us to a similar transformation patterned after Jesus’ passing from life to death to glorious new resurrected life.
“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad,” sings the psalmist. On this Easter Sunday, we join in this hymn of praise at the great mystery of our new life in the mystery of Jesus’ resurrection. The world has been weighed down by a global health crisis, the war in Ukraine and the endless spread of violence, poverty and fear.
We might wonder what the way is out of the darkness of the human condition. Faith gives us a new perspective as we hear Peter preaching boldly in the first reading when he says of Jesus, “Everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”
At Easter, we celebrate the mystery of Jesus’ resurrection and our rising to new life in him. Our Easter festivities mean little to nothing if we do not experience in ourselves the renewing life of God’s love and the new life of hope and peace that comes from God alone.
As St. Paul reminds the Colossians, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above. … For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.”
As people of faith, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus as God’s answer to the darkness of the human condition of sin that leads to separation from God. Easter is a gift of faith because our faith is in vain without the resurrection of Jesus.
In the light of his resurrection everyone and everything is capable of being made new. As we rejoice in God’s victory over sin and death in the resurrection of Jesus, we seek to have eyes of faith to recognize God’s presence transforming our lives this Easter day as we pray, “speak to me, Lord.”
How does the resurrection of Jesus’ give you renewed hope in God’s love?
Sullivan is a professor at The Catholic University of America.