“They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.”
Open to me the gates of holiness:
I will enter and give thanks.
This is the Lord’s own gate
where the just may enter.
I will thank you for you have answered
and you are my savior.
The stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
This is the work of the Lord,
a marvel in our eyes.
This day was made by the Lord:
we rejoice and are glad.
O Lord, grand us salvation;
O Lord, grant success.
Blessed in the name of the Lord
is he who comes.
We bless you from the house of the Lord;
the Lord God is our light.
Go forward in procession with branches
even to the alter.
You are my God, I thank you.
My God, I praise you.
Give thanks to the Lord for he is good;
for his love endures for ever.
Psalm 118: 19-29
O God, who on this day,
through your Only Begotten Son,
have conquered death
and unlocked for us the path to eternity,
grant, we pray, that we who keep
the solemnity of the Lord’s Resurrection
may, through the renewal brought by your Spirit,
rise up in the light of life.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity
of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Acts 10:34a, 37-43
Peter proceeded to speak and said:
“You know what has happened all over Judea,
beginning in Galilee after the baptism
that John preached,
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth
with the Holy Spirit and power.
He went about doing good
and healing all those oppressed by the devil,
for God was with him.
We are witnesses of all that he did
both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem.
They put him to death by hanging him on a tree.
This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible,
not to all the people, but to us,
the witnesses chosen by God in advance,
who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
He commissioned us to preach to the people
and testify that he is the one appointed by God
as judge of the living and the dead.
To him all the prophets bear witness,
that everyone who believes in him
will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”
This passage from Acts has been selected for Easter Sunday not only because the resurrection is mentioned in it, but especially because St. Peter in his first discourse to a Gentile makes the resurrection the basic doctrine and the crowning proof of the truth of the Christian faith. As St. Paul says: “If Christ has not risen, vain is our preaching, vain too is your faith” (1 Cor. 15: 14). And like Paul, St. Peter stresses the truth of the resurrection by citing witnesses, including himself, who had not only seen the risen Jesus but had spoken to him and actually eaten with him.
There is no room for doubt but that Apostles and disciples had thought that the sad events of Good Friday had put an end forever to the mission of love and mercy of their beloved Master. In spite of his previous references to his resurrection, they had completely forgotten it and were convinced that the tomb near Calvary was the end of all their hopes. They had locked themselves into the room of the Last Supper for fear of the Jews – two of them had set off for home on the Sunday morning, down-hearted at the Master’s failure; the others were waiting for an opportunity to slip out of the city quietly. But the resurrection changed all this. The unexpected, the unhoped-for happened. Even the most skeptical of them all, doubting Thomas, was eventually convinced of its reality. Had they been hoping for it, or even thinking of it, there might be some reason to suspect it was only an hallucination, the result of their “wishful thinking,” but the very opposite was the case. They were hard to convince even when it happened.
All this was intended by God – the basis of our Christian faith was proved beyond doubt. Christ, who had died on the cross on Good Friday, was raised from the dead by his Father on Easter morning. He returned to heaven in the full glory of the divinity which he had hidden while on earth, together with his human body, now also glorified. There (in heaven), as God and Man, he pleads for us at the right hand of the Father until the day when he who redeemed all men will come to judge them all.
The Alleluia is repeated often during the Easter ceremonies. It is a Hebrew word, which means “praise ye the Lord.” It is our attempt to give verbal expression to our joy and gratitude for all that God has done for us. We are no longer mere humans living on this planet for a few short years. We are citizens of heaven, made children of God the Father by Christ our Brother. And he has gone before us to his and our kingdom to prepare a place for us. He conquered death. Our earthly death has, therefore, now no real fears for us: it is not the end but the beginning of our true lives. It is only after our earthly death that we truly begin to live.
There is only one death now which we can fear – the spiritual death of serious sin which can keep us from our true heavenly life. But while this is a possibility for all of us, it is only a possibility. The sincere Christian who realizes what God has done for him and what is in store for him, will never be so ungrateful to God or so forgetful of his own best interests as to let some temporal and passing pleasure, pride, or profit, come between him and the eternal home which God’s love has prepared and planned for him.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 438 Jesus’ messianic consecration reveals his divine mission, “for the name ‘Christ’ implies ‘he who anointed’, ‘he who was anointed’ and ‘the very anointing with which he was anointed’. The one who anointed is the Father, the one who was anointed is the Son, and he was anointed with the Spirit who is the anointing.’”1 His eternal messianic consecration was revealed during the time of his earthly life at the moment of his baptism by John, when “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power”, “that he might be revealed to Israel”2 as its Messiah. His works and words will manifest him as “the Holy One of God”.3
CCC 486 The Father’s only Son, conceived as man in the womb of the Virgin Mary, is “Christ”, that is to say, anointed by the Holy Spirit, from the beginning of his human existence, though the manifestation of this fact takes place only progressively: to the shepherds, to the magi, to John the Baptist, to the disciples.4 Thus the whole life of Jesus Christ will make manifest “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.”5
CCC 597 The historical complexity of Jesus’ trial is apparent in the Gospel accounts. The personal sin of the participants (Judas, the Sanhedrin, Pilate) is known to God alone. Hence we cannot lay responsibility for the trial on the Jews in Jerusalem as a whole, despite the outcry of a manipulated crowd and the global reproaches contained in the apostles’ calls to conversion after Pentecost.6 Jesus himself, in forgiving them on the cross, and Peter in following suit, both accept “the ignorance” of the Jews of Jerusalem and even of their leaders.7 Still less can we extend responsibility to other Jews of different times and places, based merely on the crowd’s cry: “His blood be on us and on our children!”, a formula for ratifying a judicial sentence.8 As the Church declared at the Second Vatican Council:
… [N]either all Jews indiscriminately at that time, nor Jews today, can be charged with the crimes committed during his Passion. .. [T]he Jews should not be spoken of as rejected or accursed as if this followed from holy Scripture.9
CCC 659 “So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.”10 Christ’s body was glorified at the moment of his Resurrection, as proved by the new and supernatural properties it subsequently and permanently enjoys.11 But during the forty days when he eats and drinks familiarly with his disciples and teaches them about the kingdom, his glory remains veiled under the appearance of ordinary humanity.12 Jesus’ final apparition ends with the irreversible entry of his humanity into divine glory, symbolized by the cloud and by heaven, where he is seated from that time forward at God’s right hand.13 Only in a wholly exceptional and unique way would Jesus show himself to Paul “as to one untimely born”, in a last apparition that established him as an apostle.14
CCC 679 Christ is Lord of eternal life. Full right to pass definitive judgment on the works and hearts of men belongs to him as redeemer of the world. He “acquired” this right by his cross. The Father has given “all judgment to the Son”.15 Yet the Son did not come to judge, but to save and to give the life he has in himself.16 By rejecting grace in this life, one already judges oneself, receives according to one’s works, and can even condemn oneself for all eternity by rejecting the Spirit of love.17
CCC 761 The gathering together of the People of God began at the moment when sin destroyed the communion of men with God, and that of men among themselves. The gathering together of the Church is, as it were, God’s reaction to the chaos provoked by sin. This reunification is achieved secretly in the heart of all peoples: “In every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable” to God.18
CCC 781 “At all times and in every race, anyone who fears God and does what is right has been acceptable to him. He has, however, willed to make men holy and save them, not as individuals without any bond or link between them, but rather to make them into a people who might acknowledge him and serve him in holiness. He therefore chose the Israelite race to be his own people and established a covenant with it. He gradually instructed this people. .. All these things, however, happened as a preparation for and figure of that new and perfect covenant which was to be ratified in Christ. .. the New Covenant in his blood; he called together a race made up of Jews and Gentiles which would be one, not according to the flesh, but in the Spirit.”19
CCC 995 To be a witness to Christ is to be a “witness to his Resurrection,” to “[have eaten and drunk] with him after he rose from the dead.”20 Encounters with the risen Christ characterize the Christian hope of resurrection. We shall rise like Christ, with him, and through him.
CCC 1289 Very early, the better to signify the gift of the Holy Spirit, an anointing with perfumed oil (chrism) was added to the laying on of hands. This anointing highlights the name “Christian,” which means “anointed” and derives from that of Christ himself whom God “anointed with the Holy Spirit.”21 This rite of anointing has continued ever since, in both East and West. For this reason the Eastern Churches call this sacrament Chrismation, anointing with chrism, or myron which means “chrism.” In the West, the term Confirmation suggests that this sacrament both confirms and strengthens baptismal grace.
1 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3,18,3: PG 7/1, 934.
2 Acts 10:38; Jn 1:31.
3 Mk 1:24; Jn 6:69; Acts 3:14.
4 Cf. Mt 1:20; 2:1-12; Lk 1:35; 2:8-20; Jn 1:3 1-34; 2:11.
5 Acts 10:38.
6 Cf. Mk 15:11; Acts 2:23, 36; 3:13-14; 4:10; 5:30; 7:52; 10:39; 13:27-28; I Th 2:14-15.
7 Cf. Lk 23:34; Acts 3:17.
8 Mt 27:25; cf. Acts 5:28; 18:6.
9 NA 4.
10 Mk 16:19.
11 Cf Lk 24:31; Jn 20:19, 26.
12 Cf. Acts 1:3; 10:41; Mk 16:12; Lk 24:15; Jn 20:14-15; 21:4.
13 Cf. Acts 1:9; 2:33; 7:56; Lk 9:34-35; 24:51; Ex 13:22; Mk 16:19; Ps 110:1.
14 1 Cor 15:8; cf. 9:1; Gal 1:16.
15 Jn 5:22; cf. 5:27; Mt 25:31; Acts 10:42; 17:31; 2 Tim 4:1.
16 Cf. Lk 21:12; Jn 15:19-20.
17 Cf. Jn 3:17; 5:26. 588 Cf. Jn 3:18; 12:48; Mt 12:32; I Cor 3:12-15; Heb 6:4-6; 10:26-31.
18 Acts 10:35; cf. LG 9; 13; 16.
19 LG 9; Cf. Acts 10:35; 1 Cor 11:25.
20 Acts 1:22; 10:41; cf. 4:33.
21 Acts 10:38.
Ps 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23.
(24) This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Israel say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.
“The right hand of the LORD has struck with power;
the right hand of the LORD is exalted.
I shall not die, but live,
and declare the works of the LORD.”
This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.
The stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the LORD has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes.
This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.
Brothers and sisters:
If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.
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.
Children at boarding schools draw up calendars and mark off each day which brings them one day nearer to the end of the term. Finances mark off the months, the weeks, the days that separate them from, the great day when they will be united forever, they say, to their beloved one. Seminarians count the years, months, weeks to the great day when they will be ordained and say their first Masses. Parents look forward anxiously to the day when their children will be educated and safely settled in life. In fact, we are all always looking forward to a happier day which is to come some time. All this is very natural and very human, because our present life is not our permanent life; our present home, this earth, is not the real home destined for us by our loving Creator.
We were created for unending happiness in heaven, and it is only when we get there that our desire and our quest for some greater happiness will end. From then on, we will always enjoy and possess that all-satisfying happiness.
Today, Easter Sunday, St. Paul reminds us that we have this happiness within our grasp. We are moving steadily and more quickly than we realize toward it. The Holy Trinity, God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, have already done, and are daily continuing, to do for us, all within their power. All that is needed is that we do the little that is asked of us.
St. Paul tells us we must “mind the things that are above not the things that are on earth.” We must never let the “things of earth,” the pleasures, the power, the possessions which we can or could, have in this life, block or impede us on our upward journey. Does this mean that we must all return to the deserts of Egypt, as some early Christians did? By no means. We are not forbidden to have the lawful pleasures of life. We are not forbidden possessions or power if they are used justly. All we are forbidden is the unlawful use of the things of this world.
And as regards minding the things that are above, this is not something calling for extraordinary self-sacrifice or unnatural mental activity. All we are asked to do is to try to stay in God’s grace, and do our daily chores whatever they be, as well and as diligently as we can. We are expected to recognize our natural weakness and to turn to God frequently for pardon and for help.
Whilst there are saints in heaven who lived lives of extreme self-mortification and did extraordinary things for God and for their neighbor, it is an encouraging and consoling thought that there are millions of unknown saints in heaven who lived normal lives, unnoticed by the world and maybe even by themselves. They are people who kept in God’s friendship all their lives, or got back quickly to it, if they sometimes forgot or offended their heavenly Father.
What millions of others have done, I can do too. We are aided by God’s grace as they were. God wants us in heaven. He has an Easter resurrection planned for us.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 655 Finally, Christ’s Resurrection – and the risen Christ himself is the principle and source of our future resurrection: “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. .. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”1 The risen Christ lives in the hearts of his faithful while they await that fulfillment. In Christ, Christians “have tasted. .. the powers of the age to come”2 and their lives are swept up by Christ into the heart of divine life, so that they may “live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”3
CCC 1002 Christ will raise us up “on the last day”; but it is also true that, in a certain way, we have already risen with Christ. For, by virtue of the Holy Spirit, Christian life is already now on earth a participation in the death and Resurrection of Christ:
And you were buried with him in Baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. .. If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.4
CCC 1003 United with Christ by Baptism, believers already truly participate in the heavenly life of the risen Christ, but this life remains “hidden with Christ in God.”5 The Father has already “raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”6 Nourished with his body in the Eucharist, we already belong to the Body of Christ. When we rise on the last day we “also will appear with him in glory.”7
CCC 1420 Through the sacraments of Christian initiation, man receives the new life of Christ. Now we carry this life “in earthen vessels,” and it remains “hidden with Christ in God.”8 We are still in our “earthly tent,” subject to suffering, illness, and death.9 This new life as a child of God can be weakened and even lost by sin.
CCC 2772 From this unshakeable faith springs forth the hope that sustains each of the seven petitions, which express the groanings of the present age, this time of patience and expectation during which “it does not yet appear what we shall be.”10 The Eucharist and the Lord’s Prayer look eagerly for the Lord’s return, “until he comes.”11
CCC 2796 When the Church prays “our Father who art in heaven,” she is professing that we are the People of God, already seated “with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” and “hidden with Christ in God;”12 yet at the same time, “here indeed we groan, and long to put on our heavenly dwelling.”13
[Christians] are in the flesh, but do not live according to the flesh. They spend their lives on earth, but are citizens of heaven.14
1 I Cor 15:20-22.
2 Heb 6:5.
3 2 Cor 5:15; cf. Col 3:1-3.
4 Col 2:12; 3:1.
5 Col 3:3; cf. Phil 3:20.
6 Eph 2:6.
7 Col 3:4.
8 2 Cor 4:7; Col 3:3.
9 2 Cor 5:1.
10 1 Jn 3:2; Cf. Col 3:4.
11 1 Cor 11:26.
12 Eph 2:6; Col 3:3.
13 2 Cor 5:2; cf. Phil 3:20; Heb 13:14.
14 Ad Diognetum 5: PG 2, 1173.
On the first day of the week,
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture
that he had to rise from the dead.
As we said above, the accounts of the resurrection of Christ differ in many details in the different writings of the New Testament, but the fact of the resurrection stressed in all of them, was the basis of the new Christian Faith. Had it not happened, Christianity would have been stillborn. It would have disappeared from Jerusalem and the world on that first Easter Sunday. Peter and his companions would have returned to their fishing-nets and boats on Lake Genesareth, and Christ the good and the kind man who had helped so many, would have been forgotten in half a generation.
But Christ was no mere man of kindly acts and words of wisdom. He was the Messiah, promised for centuries. He was the suffering servant foretold by Isaiah, whose perfect obedience to his Father had led him to the Cross and the grave. But above all, he was the Son of God who had emptied himself (St. Paul) of his divine glory in order to be the perfect human servant of the Father, and who was now raised by the Father with his divine glory restored, and his glorified resurrected body sharing in that glory. This was the divine plan of God for mankind, through Christ, and because of Christ’s (the new Adam’s) perfect obedience, all mankind would be made worthy of divine sonship, and worthy of one day rising like Christ from the grave in glorified bodies.
Is all this too good to be true? It is, if we make God to our image and likeness, as so many opponents of Christianity do. He is God and his love is infinite and incomprehensible to us. What God can see in me and my fellowman will always be mystery to me, but then I have not the mind of God. All I know and all I need to know is that I have sufficient proofs that God loves all men. The Incarnation, death and resurrection of his Divine Son for man’s sake is the greatest proof of love for us that even the omnipotent God could give. He has given it. As a necessary consequence from this act of divine love, we are guaranteed our resurrection from the dead to a life of unending happiness and glory if we do not, in extreme folly, reject God’s offer.
Today, let us thank God once more for Easter and for all that it means for us. Our personal Easter mornings not far away from even the youngest among us. We have a few Calvaries to climb perhaps in the meantime but what are they when we see our glorious Easter on the horizon?
Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission of Franciscian Press.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 515 The Gospels were written by men who were among the first to have the faith1 and wanted to share it with others. Having known in faith who Jesus is, they could see and make others see the traces of his mystery in all his earthly life. From the swaddling clothes of his birth to the vinegar of his Passion and the shroud of his Resurrection, everything in Jesus’ life was a sign of his mystery.2 His deeds, miracles and words all revealed that “in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.”3 His humanity appeared as “sacrament”, that is, the sign and instrument, of his divinity and of the salvation he brings: what was visible in his earthly life leads to the invisible mystery of his divine sonship and redemptive mission
CCC 640 “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”4 The first element we encounter in the framework of the Easter events is the empty tomb. In itself it is not a direct proof of Resurrection; the absence of Christ’s body from the tomb could be explained otherwise.5 Nonetheless the empty tomb was still an essential sign for all. Its discovery by the disciples was the first step toward recognizing the very fact of the Resurrection. This was the case, first with the holy women, and then with Peter.6 The disciple “whom Jesus loved” affirmed that when he entered the empty tomb and discovered “the linen cloths lying there”, “he saw and believed”.7 This suggests that he realized from the empty tomb’s condition that the absence of Jesus’ body could not have been of human doing and that Jesus had not simply returned to earthly life as had been the case with Lazarus.8
CCC 2174 Jesus rose from the dead “on the first day of the week.”9 Because it is the “first day,” the day of Christ’s Resurrection recalls the first creation. Because it is the “eighth day” following the sabbath,10 it symbolizes the new creation ushered in by Christ’s Resurrection. For Christians it has become the first of all days, the first of all feasts, the Lord’s Day (he kuriake hemera, dies dominica) Sunday:
We all gather on the day of the sun, for it is the first day [after the Jewish sabbath, but also the first day] when God, separating matter from darkness, made the world; and on this same day Jesus Christ our Savior rose from the dead.11
1 Cf. Mk 1:1; Jn 21:24.
2 Cf Lk 2:7; Mt 27: 48; Jn 20:7.
3 Col 2:9.
4 Lk 24:5-6.
5 Cf. Jn 20:13; Mt 28:11-15.
6 Cf. Lk 24:3, 12, 22-23.
7 Jn 20:2, 6, 8.
8 Cf. Jn 11:44; 20:5-7.
9 Cf. Mt 28:1; Mk 16:2; Lk 24:1; Jn 20:1.
10 Cf. Mk 16:1; Mt 28:1.
11 St. Justin, I Apol. 67: PG 6, 429 and 432.
The Easter Flame
As we wait in the night-dark church for the Easter light to be struck, we should experience the consoling realization that God is fully aware of the night by which we are surrounded. In fact, he has already struck his light at the heart of it… The night enables us to appreciate what the light really is. It is brightness or luminousness that enables us to see; that shows the way and gives direction; that helps us to know both others and ourselves. It is warmth that strengthens and brings mobility; that consoles and gladdens. Finally, it is life, and this tiny quivering flame is an image of the wonderful mystery that we call “life” and that is in fact profoundly dependent on light… At this moment we are not only celebrating the Resurrection; we are also being given a distant glimpse of the second coming of the Lord, whom we are advancing to meet with lamps lit… Something of the joy that marks a wedding should be ours on this night so bright with candles. We should also ask ourselves the question: “Will I be one of those who sit at God’s table? Will my lamp have enough oil for the everlasting wedding feast?” But perhaps it is even more Christian to ask ourselves the right questions about the present. The world is indeed dark, but even a single candle suffices to bring light into the deepest darkness. Did not God give us a candle at baptism and the means of lighting it? We must be courageous enough to light the candle of our patience, our trust, our love. Instead of bewailing the night, we must dare to light the little lamp God has loaned us: “The light of Christ! – Thanks be to God!”
Pope Benedict XVI
help me to spread
Thy fragrance everywhere I go.
Flood my soul with Thy spirit and love.
Penetrate and possess my whole being
so utterly that all my life
may only be a radiance of Thine.
Shine through me and be so in me
that every soul I come in contact with
may feel Thy presence in my soul.
Let them look up and see no longer me
but only Jesus.
Stay with me and then I shall begin
to shine as you shine,
so to shine as to be
a light to others.
-Mother Teresa of Calcutta