Easter Sunday Resurrection of the Lord (Cycle C)
Readings: Acts 10 34a.37-43; Col 3: 1-4; Jn 20: 1-9.
With the celebration of Easter Sunday the Paschal Triduum, which is a unit that cannot be separated, is completed. Good Friday cannot be understood except in the light of Easter Sunday. The cross, suffering, pain and death, are meaningless without hope in the resurrection.
For the followers of Jesus Good Friday meant a harsh blow to their faith, from which they would not have been able to recover without opening up to the hope of the resurrection and without the intervention of the Risen One himself. The Gospel accounts reflect the state of mind of the disciples after the events of Good Friday; they were totally discouraged, their hopes dashed. They did not expect the resurrection of Jesus because they “did not understand the Scripture that He had to rise from the dead” (Jn 20: 9). It is the encounter with the Risen One that revives faith.
Faith in the resurrection of Jesus is not the result of some ‘hallucination’ on the part of the disciples without which they would not have been able to overcome the trauma caused by the death of Jesus on the cross. It does not respond to a visionary temperament or self-deception of the disciples. New Testament Biblical texts relate clearly that it was on the initiative of the Risen One that the disciples renewed their faith and hope in Jesus after the dramatic events of Good Friday.
In the first reading (cf., Acts 10 34a.37-43) the apostle Peter emphasizes that faith in the resurrection is based on a real experience, not a hallucination; faith in the resurrection has an historical foundation. Jesus of Nazareth is an historical figure, his life and works are well known; but Peter goes far beyond that. His testimony is not confined to the earthly life of Jesus but, as a witness of the Risen One, he makes a categorical statement: “We ate and drank with him after the resurrection” (Acts 10, 41). With these words Peter meant that the encounter with the Risen cannot be reduced to a purely internal or psychological experience. This is a real encounter. The nature of this meeting is difficult to determine because it is the encounter with the Risen One, not with a man who has returned to earthly life as in the case of Lazarus who, strictly speaking, was not raised from the dead but was revived and returned to earthly life to die again. Jesus, however, can no longer die again, but lives forever and is accessible to every believer.
The Gospel (cf. Jn 20: 1-9) tells us that some devout women (Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome), go early on the first day of the week (Sunday), carrying perfumes, to fulfill the pious duty of embalming the body of Jesus after the manner of the Jews, for the Lord’s body had been buried very quickly after his crucifixion on Good Friday because of the proximity of the celebration of the Sabbath (cf. Mk 16 1 ff). It is evident that those who go to the tomb expecting to find a corpse cannot even imagine that Jesus had risen; that explains their amazement and astonishment at finding the empty tomb. The first thing that occurred to them, using their common sense, was that “they have taken the body of Jesus.” The Gospel of Luke recounts that “men in dazzling apparel,” said the pious women: “Why are you looking among the dead for one who lives? He is not here, but has risen “(Lk 24: 5S).
We believe that the Risen Christ also lives in our midst. Our faith plays a mediating role that allows us to encounter him. The Lord’s resurrection, as taught by the Church, is the foundation of our faith, for if Christ had not risen, as pointed out by the apostle Paul, our faith would be vain, our preaching lacking all foundation (cf. 1Cor 15, 14). If Christ has not been raised, insists Paul, no one could resurrect, everything would end with death.
The Resurrection of Jesus, on the other hand, is a fact of faith, that is, we cannot expect to reach the resurrection through scientific evidence. We should not be looking for evidence of the resurrection in order to believe, such as the ’empty tomb’, the ‘Shroud of Turin’. The empty tomb is not a proof of the resurrection but a symbol or sign of it. The greatest proof of the resurrection is the encounter with the Risen One. Indeed, if we can find Jesus today it is because He has risen; it is He who takes the initiative to step out to meet us, as with the disciples of Emmaus (cf. Lk 24, 13ff).
The resurrected Jesus is the same as the crucified one; such is the sense of the stories of apparitions that highlight his corporeality, traces of his crucifixion. Obviously the resurrection cannot be understood as the resuscitation of a corpse, as was the case of the raising of Lazarus (regardless of the historicity of this person). The resurrection is not a return to earthly life, but the way to a glorious life, for which our mortal bodies must be transformed. We do not know how it will be, but we know that we will contemplate God face to face, not only with our soul but as a unity of body and soul, with our glorified bodies.
Faith in the Risen One necessarily has practical consequences in the life of the believer; a ‘proof’ that Jesus is risen is precisely the radical change that occurred in the community of believers, as told by the Book of the Acts of the Apostles (Cf. Acts 2, 42 ss, 4, 32ff). The life of the early Christians, their enthusiasm and missionary zeal cannot be explained except by their experience of encounter with the Risen One.
The second reading (cf. Col 3: 1-4), emphasizes that faith in the resurrection must have practical consequences. We cannot say that we believe in a resurrected Jesus if that is not evident in our lives, if we are not looking for the “things from above”. A person who in their life demonstrates an exclusive concern, and sometimes an obsessive one, for the “things of the earth”, who sees things as ends in themselves, who is not in solidarity with the brother who suffers, cannot be a believer in the resurrection of the Lord. The believer recognizes that their definitive homeland is beyond this land that is subjected to servitude.
The resurrection also has a cosmic scope: this earth and the whole of creation, “groaning in travail” have to be renewed (cf., Rom 8: 21ff). We await a new heaven and a new earth. The materialistic vision of human existence, unbridled consumerism, insensitivity to those excluded from society, are proof that they do not really believe in the resurrection.
Easter should make us reflect on the meaning and scope of our faith in the resurrection of the Lord. We cannot remain with Good Friday. Jesus is not a character from the past but also the present; but not because he lives only in our memories, but because he really is present. His presence is not like that of the great figures of the past who live in the collective memory of a people, because however great their works have been, or how very heroic their actions, they do not cease to be dead. In the case of Jesus, He is not only present in the collective memory but actually, precisely because He has risen. The resurrection allows him to overcome the limitations of space and time: He can be simultaneously in all places, be in the present and in the future, can reach out to the man of today, as he went to meet the disciples of Emmaus. Therefore, we cannot search among the dead for the living. Jesus lives in our midst, He is present to us in different ways: in the face of the suffering brother, in the sacraments (especially the Eucharist), in reading and meditating on His Word, in the events of our lives. It is faith that enables us to recognize that presence. Jesus himself said: “I am with you all days until the end of the world” (Mt 28, 20).