Easter Sunday: The Resurrection of the Lord

First reading: 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.”

Second reading: Col. 3:1–4

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.

Gospel: Jn. 20:1–9

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.

In other words

by Fr. Dante Salces-Barril, SVD (Rome, Italy)

Pope Benedict XVI says: “The Christian faith stands or falls with the truth of the testimony that Christ is risen from the dead.” The Pope’s statement is based on what Paul told the Corinthians years ago: “And if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain” (1 Cor. 15,14). Paul was elite; he was a highly educated Pharisee a brilliant (read his letters) polyglot (he spoke Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, and probably Latin). Pope Benedict was “no scrub” either; it was said that the Pope’s intelligence is comparable to seven theologians combined! Yet both of them rely on the testimony of an uneducated fisherman, a nameless disciple, and a distraught woman about an event—the Resurrection—that has never happened before or since.

Paul, with his obvious personal gifts, could have easily founded his own church based on his “mystical encounter” with Christ (Acts 9,1–9)—but he did not. Instead, he became part of the community of witnesses that confirmed and strengthened his experience. The same with Cornelius—the man who together with his household are addressed by Peter in the First Reading—the centurion who was devout and God-fearing and vision-seeing (Acts 10,1–18) but had to be taught of the Resurrection by Peter, the fisherman. 

Some think and teach that the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead was spiritual and not physical: Jesus’ body rotted away somewhere; only, he came to life in the hearts and minds of his disciples! But if that was so there would have been no need for an extremely bright mystic like Paul to humbly submit himself to the Church to learn of the Resurrection, or, for a powerful centurion to listen to the Resurrection preaching of a lowly fisherman. Anyone could simply claim to have been inspired or to have seen a vision and established his/her church. But the Resurrection was specific and concrete: the time, the witnesses, the clothes, and most of all the Resurrected One—Jesus. The Church has testified to this specificity and concreteness from generation to generation.

The Resurrected Jesus “ate and drank” with the witnesses; he was as “concrete” and as “physical” as my friend who ate and drank with me the other day. But at the same time, there was something “spiritual” about Jesus and his Resurrection. And by spiritual we do not mean “invisible,” “mystical,” or “private and individual” but communal; for the Spirit is the “Lord of Communion.” The truth of the Resurrection hinges not on individuals, no matter how exemplary she/he may be the mystic Paul, the powerful Cornelius, or the bright Benedict—but on the Church, the Body of the Risen Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Scientifically, the Resurrection cannot be proven; the report of the first witnesses was sketchy at best. But Peter, Mary Magdalene, Cornelius, Paul, Benedict XVI, Lon, Timmy, i.e., the entire Church has been confessing the truth of the Resurrection throughout the ages. Ultimately, faith in the Resurrection lives on not because it is scientifically founded or because it has been proven beyond reasonable doubt, but because the Resurrected One is alive and experienced in the specificity and concreteness of his Body, the Church. The community who “seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Second reading) is not a utopian dream, but are you and me—us, right here, right now. We, the Church is the Body of the Resurrected One.

God could surely have appointed a “slickier” carrier of his living presence in the world today rather than the lumbering Church; the same way that he could have chosen a more “credentialed” roster of witnesses of the Resurrection instead of a fisherman, a nameless disciple, and a former demonically-possessed woman. But on the other hand, it is maybe the utter simplicity of the original witnesses and the unsophistication of today’s witness—the Church—that confound the world and perhaps attest to the truth of the Resurrection and the indwelling of Resurrected One by the power of the Holy Spirit in the Church where the faithful find meaning and purpose.

Our celebration today is called eucharistia (thanksgiving) and missa (mission). We thank (eucharistia) God for his indwelling in us, which makes us his Body, the Church. Our mission (missa) is to “go and glorify God by our lives” so that every nook and cranny of the world will be filled by his living and loving presence.

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