Theme: Good new
We journeyed Jesus Christ since Ash Wednesday, through Palm Sunday to Holy Thursday, Good Friday to the JOY of Easter Sunday. Tradition holds that after the crucifixion his and hasty burial, members of the Sanhedrin received shocking news that the itinerant teacher and healer was alive and his after his tomb had been found empty. Others spread the news that they had experienced his risen presence. At that, Jewish official sighed inaudibly. The resurrection marked a new beginning. By virtue of his victory over sin and death, humanity was offered a new perspective. In the reality of Easter God was not simply up above or the totally transcendent but with us. With every Easter celebration we affirm that life begins when it seems to end.
First reading: Acts 10:34, 37-43
When Luke wrote Acts of Apostles in the mid to late 80s AD, his key protagonists Peter and Paul had already died. But he chose narrate on the two heroes as if they were still alive because of their intact influence on faith. Calling Luke the first ‘historian’ of the Church, Josephus suggested that his literary style aligned him with the likes of Flavius and Tacitus who wrote true history as established by Herodotus five centuries before. Like them, Luke presented ‘an orderly account’ of the events pertinent to the early Church offering an insight into God’s plan of salvation for all people. Luke confirmed that Jesus’ death was in accord with God’s foreordained plan and was raised from death as foretold in scripture and witnessed by many including Peter and Paul saw him in his risen state.
Similarly Luke portrayed Peter in uncharacteristic posture of preaching to gentiles with an intention of recognizing him as the head of the universal Church in which gentiles were permanent members. For Luke both Jews and Gentiles were united by faith in Christ, so no one could despise them due to their ethnic differences or rules of clean/unclean. Likewise, Peter’s actions support Jesus’ plan documented by Luke to preach the Gospel to “all nations” Luke 24:47 without discrimination. The fact of Jesus’ resurrection obliged Peter and other Jewish Christians to realize and accept that salvation was intended for all in that “everyone who believes in him has forgiveness of sins through his name” Acts 10:43. This challenge became visible in the unexpected conversion of the gentile soldier called Cornelius and of his whole household. This Cornelius event became landmark point of reference for the Jews who had been prejudiced that pagans were not capable of embracing the good news. The universal implication of Jesus’ resurrection had stated a non stop revolution of uniting humanity asserting that what matters in life is genuine love and conviction; not who we are and where one originates from.
Second reading: Colossians 3:1-4
Due to the advances in medical science, particularly in the latter half of the twentieth century, a phenomenon known as the ‘near death experience’ has become compliant. Victims of heart attacks and serious physical trauma who would otherwise have died, can now be resuscitated and go on living normal life. Many, who have survived such an encounter with death testify that their lives were radically altered by the experience making relationships more important than things. While writing to Colossians St Paul gave a similar consideration about their life in Christ. Through baptism they had died and rose with Christ to a new life of grace. This experience radically altered their previous life-style attaching them “on what pertains to higher realms and things above rather than things of earth” Colossians 3:1, 2. Unfortunately, these same Colossian who had earlier been baptized were now being pulled into wrong directions.
Epaphras who had co founded the Church with Paul at Colossae, Laodicea and Hierapolis traveled to inform Paul of the worrying developments and asked him to intervene and save the young community from clashing. Even if Paul was respected and had strong connections with Philemon and Archippus; still false preachers plagued Colossae by attacking both the supremacy of Christ and his true humanity substituting false doctrine combining pagan astrology and a peculiar form of Jewish mysticism. Lest they be swayed by these errors, St. Paul reminded them that their baptism required a daily renewal in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Only the resurrection of Christ can offer a sustainable conviction to keep believing.
Gospel: John 20:1-9
One of the key doctrines of the Christian faith, the resurrection of Jesus is also one of its greatest mysteries. Fortunately, St John the evangelist has offered a guide to help understand this mystery. The beloved disciple was not just a historic person but a symbol of the true disciple who remained close to Jesus. He was the first to believe in his resurrection. He was well known in royal circle of Jerusalem cf. John 18:16. The beloved disciple was nearest to Jesus at the Last Supper and remained under the Cross with Mary where he was entrusted with her care. He was with Simon Peter when Mary of Magdala brought news of the empty tomb.
First to arrive at Jesus tomb, he saw and understood what Mary had not. While she thought that Jesus’ body had been taken, the beloved disciple realized, by the orderly arrangement of the burial cloths, that Jesus’ body had not been stolen but that he was indeed risen. He believed. It is as if his faith was less a result of human effort but an effect of Christ love in him. Later, while fishing with Peter, the beloved disciple would recognize his resurrected Lord standing on the shore and point him out to Peter.
Ending his gospel, St John identified the disciple Jesus loved as the authoritative source of his work. Like the angel interpreters in Matthew 22:5, Mark 16:5 and Luke 24:4 of the synoptic resurrection narratives, the beloved disciple helps us to sort out the mystery of Jesus’ resurrection and come to faith. The lesson for us is that love for Jesus gives one the insight to detect his presence. The Beloved Disciple, here as elsewhere sets an example for all who want to follow. As our model and Easter guide, this loved disciple calls us to consider and rejoice with him in the mystery of God’s love for us incarnate, crucified and risen. For Jesus we need to be the loved disciple. For this to happen, we need to leave our tombs empty. Corruption, embezzlement of public funds, wild political ambitions, and materialism should be no more because the tomb is empty. Addictions, false attitudes, wrong choices, attachment to evil have to end. We must let the tomb that hold Ugandans hostage empty.
To reinforce the reassurance of the empty tomb, I conclude with an ancient story. After committing suicide for betraying Jesus, Judas found himself in pitch-black darkness at the bottom of an endlessly deep pit. After weeping for a thousand years in sorrow for his sinful betrayal, and now empty of tears, he looked up to see a tiny speck of light way up at the top of the pit. After hundreds of years of contemplating that tiny glimmering glow, he attempted to climb up toward the light. For many more years he struggled to scale the slimy, slippery walls of that pit. Finally, after several more lengthy attempts, he was able to crawl inch-by-inch all the way up to the rim at the top. Climbing out of the dark pit, he found to his surprise that he was in a luminously brilliant room where twelve men were seated at a long table. ‘We’ve been waiting for you, friend Judas, said Jesus, who was seated at the far end. We could not begin to eat until you have come’. The risen Lord is eagerly waiting for all of us; let us march joyfully towards him.
Fellow people of God, this Easter Jesus waits for all of us with much patience and healing love. All we need is the conviction of Cornelius and family to live as baptized people. No matter how stubborn are our weaknesses, the resurrection of Jesus Christ grant us support to live a better life. Today the Lord grants total amnesty that defies death breaking open all kinds of tombs that have been holding us hostage; we must grab the opportunity and be fully alive once again. The rising of Jesus guarantees our full and unconditional forgiveness. Today is our day to climb towards the light of our life where Jesus is waiting for us saying, peace be with you.
Have a happy and peaceful Easter