Sunday Sermon for March 31, 2013, Easter Sunday, Year C
Readings: Acts 10:34a, 37-43; 1Cor 5:6b-8; Jn 20:1-9
Today all of creation rejoices because Christ, our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed and death has been defeated in Him. If there is more rejoicing in Heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine righteous people, imagine the rejoicing when the Righteous One rose from the dead, obtaining the grace necessary to effect the repentance and forgiveness of every person who would profess their faith in Jesus.
This faith is seen on the day of the resurrection when Peter and John run to the tomb which Mary Magdalene proclaimed to be empty. It is a natural human response to get up and investigate; although if they would have thought about it for a minute they would have realized that there was nothing they could do. Thankfully they reacted impulsively and went to the tomb. We are told that the Beloved Disciple went into the tomb after Peter, he saw and believed. In the next line we are told that they did not yet understand the Scripture that He had to rise from the dead.
This is a real act of faith because they are presented with something they do not understand, yet they believe. Even more astounding is that Mary Magdalene assumed herself and reported to the Apostles that someone had taken the Lord’s body; in fact, after the Apostles left the scene, the Lord appeared to Mary Magdalene who thought He was the gardener and asked were he had laid the body. Clearly the faith St. John professed at that moment was not yet shared by all.
There was really nothing present that could have made St. John believe any differently than St. Mary Magdalene at that moment, but he was able to make an act of faith in a reality he did not understand. The rest, with the exception of St. Thomas, would believe by the end of the day, but they still would not have understood.
In the first reading we hear St. Peter preaching on Pentecost. By that time he had heard our Lord explain to them all of the Scriptures that referred to Him and explicitly reprimanded them about their slowness to believe that the Christ had to rise from the dead. With a few weeks to ponder these truths, St. Peter was able to demonstrate a greater understanding of the mystery of the resurrection, although it cannot be fully understood.
Peter’s preaching required an act of faith on the part of those who heard him. In many ways this act of faith would be even greater than that made by St. John at the Tomb on Easter Sunday. After all, the Apostles had heard our Lord speak of His death and resurrection at least three times and Peter, James and John were with Him at the Transfiguration where the Lord told them to remain silent until after He had risen from the dead.
The people who received the Apostles’ teaching had none of the above mentioned benefits. They had to make an act of faith based on what they heard from the men making these bold proclamations. You and I are in a similar situation. Most of us have heard about these truths since we were children, but we still have to make an act of faith in something we have never seen or experienced.
St. Paul tells us that Jesus, our Paschal Lamb has been sacrificed. This, too, requires several acts of faith on our part: that the events in Egypt really happened, that the faith passed on by the Jewish people was correct, and that Jesus would be the Lamb our Father sacrificed for us so that we could live. Without faith, all of this would seem ridiculous.
How could the blood of a lamb cause death to pass by the homes where the blood was sprinkled? How could God made man be a Lamb as well? How could the shedding of His Blood take away my sins? How could He rise from the dead and how could His resurrection bring eternal life to my soul?
All of this is dependent upon Jesus being the Messiah as foretold in Scripture. Without the resurrection there would be no reason to think His death was any different from any other. The resurrection ties everything together and provides a context for us to believe in Who He is, what He taught and what He did. His resurrection causes all of creation to be made anew.
All of these points require faith on our part. Faith in Jesus and His loving mercy brings about gratitude and profound repentance. This act of faith, in turn, brings about the forgiveness of our sins, as St. Peter attests in the second reading. Our repentance and the gift of the forgiveness of our sins brings about immense joy on the part of the angels in Heaven.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.