April 5, 2015 – The Resurrection of the Lord/The Mass of Easter Day
“He saw and believed.” With those few words St. John, in his Gospel on this glorious and joyful Easter Sunday, summed up the significance of Christ’s Resurrection. It is essential that we comprehend what is really written. In the original Greek John wrote that “He saw” using the Greek word eido for the word “saw.” Eido means much more than to just see; it means to fully understand, to recognize the significance of something. John saw; John knew; and John believed.
We will see the term “empty tomb” many times over on Easter. However, it is well for us to realize that Jesus’ followers did not proclaim “The tomb is empty.” They announced “Jesus is risen.” The Resurrection is the reason we celebrate today. That is the reason we exclaim “Alleluia!” Knowledgeable Catholics know that we do not include “Alleluia” in our liturgies during Lent. We wait for this day, Holy Easter, to shout this word of praise, which means “Praise God.” In fact throughout our Easter season we will assert “Alleluia” many times. “Alleluia” is one of the ultimate things we can say in thanksgiving, joy, and triumph. That one word sums up our feelings on this wonderful and holy day.
All of our readings on Easter Sunday point to Resurrection and hope. The first reading comes from the Acts of the Apostles. St. Peter may have denied Christ but he was also the one identified by the Lord to found the Church. Peter becomes the voice, the witness, to that hope found in Christ. “He (Jesus) commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God.” Peter declared the truth to all, Gentiles and Jews. The attitude of Jews toward Gentiles at that time was dramatic. For example, if a Jew married a Gentile, the Jewish family would have a funeral for the lost Jew. A Jew began each day with a prayer thanking God that he or she was not a Gentile. Thus, Peter is pointing out to us the significance of what occurred on Easter — Jesus arose to save us all.
St. Paul, in the second reading from his letter to the Colossians, provides us with our motivation and reasoning for hope on this Easter Sunday: “Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.” As much as we may be burdened and cognizant of our life on earth, Easter gives us that freedom, that release to look beyond our earthly existence. Our hope is in the Lord because of the ultimate sacrifice He made for us. Through Him we are saved and through Him we rejoice. It is not just that we will see Christ’s glory. We will share it.
The Gospel is a firsthand account from St. John of the discovery of Christ’s Resurrection. Women discover that the tomb appears to be empty and Mary of Magdala rushes to report the fact to the Apostles. Peter and John literally run to the tomb to investigate. John, in an act of humility, only says that Peter “and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.” Of course, John is not so humble that he fails to report that he ran faster than Peter and arrived there first. It is difficult to imagine the emotions which were rushing through them both though. As is usually the case, there are some subtleties within this Gospel which may be overlooked. It is important that it was women who discovered that Christ was no longer in the tomb. In those days the testimony of women was less regarded than that of men. If someone were going to fabricate a story, they would not have used women as the first witnesses.
It is also of consequence to note that the tomb was heavily guarded. There is no question that Christ leaving the tomb was supernatural in effect. Jesus arose and through that Resurrection we can all be saved. Truly our hope is in the Lord.