Sunday Gospel & Homily Notes by Fr. Joe Harris, C.S.Sp.
Easter Sunday (A)
24th April 2011
Gospel: Jn 20: 1-9
taken from the Antilles Episcopal Conference website: http://www.aecrc.org/joomla/
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.
This year we will celebrate Easter again, as we did last year and God willing as we will do next year and the following. Yes the parish may try something new as we did last year and we wonder if it will have the same impact as what we tried last year did. Parishioners remember our celebration from last year and no doubt lives were impacted in some ways, on the individual level perhaps but was there any real impact on the societal level so that it could be said that the celebration of Easter brought about some change. Do we as a people or as a Church really understand Easter?
Easter came after the most devastating experience the disciples had ever experienced. They had been enthused by Jesus whose words had moved their hearts in so many ways. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you; love those who persecute you!” The disciples had believed that it was possible and then it had all come crashing down. The master had been arrested, had been whipped scoured and crucified. He had been true to his teaching to be sure for when the ear of the servant of the high priest had been cut off, he had healed the man. Yet in the face of that continuing kindness and love he had still been executed. To them it must have seemed to have been a waste of time. There was nothing left for them except the ridicule of persons whom they knew of fishing colleagues they had left behind to follow Jesus and of course the possibility of persecution by the chief priests and the Pharisees. And then the news comes to them, brought by the women. He is alive. He is not dead. He is Risen.
If as I told you last week, the cross is the opening through which we see, and experience and come to understand, as far as mystery can be understood, the life of God, the Resurrection also tells us that LOVE never dies. Easter reminds us that LOVE lives through rejection, pain, suffering and death. We are reminded the God is Love and that Love conquers all even the certainty of death.
The Gospel account of the “third day” shows us two people who did not believe and a third who believed because he loved. Of all the male disciples he was the only one who stood firm at the foot of the cross with Mary, the mother of Jesus and the other women.
What is interesting is that shortly before this they had seen another resurrection. They had seen Lazarus being raised from the dead by Jesus through the power of the Father. Yet now they were loath to believe “for they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” After having witnessed the raising to life of Lazarus, they must have admitted the possibility of resurrection, yet they would not admit the possibility of resurrection for Jesus.
It must have been that their disappointment was too great. The only one who believed, loved so much that he stood by Jesus to the bitter end, and because he stood there to the bitter end, he could accept with gratitude that his master and friend had risen from the dead. He believed in the possibility of life, in spite of apparent and real death.
That is the experience of love; True love makes us stand with the other to the very end and when that happens we are often privileged to see transformation.
While for all of us the final resurrection will come on the last day when the Lord will change our mortal bodies into glorious bodies like his own, there are other resurrections taking place daily around us. People do change and change radically. We witness these changes and in fact often generate these changes through our unconditional love which makes us stand to the bitter end with those who are on the path of destruction, just as the unconditional love of the Father raised Jesus to life again.
Today as we celebrate and thank God for the resurrection of Jesus, we also remember and thank God for those who show us that unconditional love can in fact bring about earthly resurrection even now. We thank God for parents whose unconditional love for an errant daughter or son has brought about radical change and gives the lie to the expression, “People do not change!”
We thank God for saints like John Bosco, whose unconditional love for street children turned them from raging wolves into gentle lambs and for Mother Teresa and her sisters who unconditional love has transformed the lives and deaths of so many living and dying destitute on the streets of our great cities. We thank God for organizations like Servol in Trinidad which have transformed the lives of so many young people who were otherwise destined for lives of crime.
They all show us that belief in the Resurrection, that belief in the power of unconditional love can indeed transform death into life.
All powerful and ever-loving God, after the apparent defeat of the cross, Easter tells us that Love can never be defeated, that Love can never die because You are Love itself. Your love changes apparent defeat into triumph and New Life. Help us to love so that what appears to be death around us may be changed into Life. Many believe that change and transformation is impossible in our land, that we are too far gone. Help us to believe in the power of Love so that transformation may come and our Land begin to live again in new and better ways. We ask this through the intercession of Mary and St. John who stood at the foot of the cross to the bitter end and through Jesus who rose from the dead. Amen