Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord
“He had to rise from the dead.” Entrance Antiphon: Ps 139(138): 18, 5-6 – “I have risen, and I am with you still, alleluia. You have laid your hand upon Me, alleluia. Too wonderful for me, this knowledge, alleluia, alleluia.” First Reading: Acts 10:34a, 37-43 – “We ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead.” Responsorial Psalm: Ps 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23 – “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.” Second Reading: Col 3:1-4 – “Seek what is above, where Christ is." Sequence: Victimae paschali laudes – "Christians, to the Paschal Victim offer your thankful praises!" Alleluia: 1 Cor 5:7b-8a – “Alleluia, alleluia, Christ, our Paschal Lamb, has been sacrificed; let us then feast with joy in the Lord.” Gospel: Jn 20:1-9 – “He had to rise from the dead.” Communion Antiphon: 1 Cor 5:7-8 – “Christ, our Passover has been sacrificed; therefore let us keep the feast with the unleavened bread of purity and truth, alleluia, alleluia.” First, on behalf of myself, as well as the staff of both the Parish and Saint Michael the Archangel Regional School, I’d like to welcome all of you to the beginning of our celebration of Easter, here at the Parish of Saint Michael the Archangel. Many, if not all, of you know that I love trivia … so here I go once again. (And I ask that, for right now, you keep your answer to yourself.) One of the Easter Gospels is referred to as the “Gospel of the Empty Tomb.” Which one is it? (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John?) I’ll give you a couple of hints … It’s the one where we accompany a heartbroken woman in the darkness as she goes to Jesus’ tomb, only to find it empty. In this Gospel, two of Jesus’ disciples investigate the empty tomb and they notice that the burial cloths are placed in a neat pile. And the final hint … we heard part of it this morning. Well, if you are still wondering … it is the Gospel of Saint John … and it would seem that today ... Jesus has kicked the covers off of death. And I think, “kicking off the covers of death,” is a good way to portray or describe the meaning of this day. Easter is a restless feast … a day of great energy. Just think about the Easter Egg hunts and children looking for what the bunny has left them. The weather is getting warmer, and everything is getting green. Tulips and daffodils, pansies and forsythia are busting out in color ... and we are here today ... in church ... celebrating the Church’s holiest and sacred time of the year after being shut away most of the last year due to COVID-19 ... Alleluia! So, let’s shift the scene of the Peter and John on their way back from the tomb a bit. Imagine for a moment that as they turn around and begin their way back home, they can’t believe their eyes. They see ... they encounter ... an enormous crowd on the way to the tomb … that crowd … all those people … are us. Remember, this is a huge day for the Church. This is our greatest feast … this should also be our biggest gathering. The news of Jesus’ resurrection has reached all the corners of the world. All things considered ... remembering last year ... look around. Isn’t this a great crowd? ... smaller than normal perhaps, but mighty! People of all ages … people of all walks of life are rejoicing at the resurrection of Jesus. And I’d like to think that your joy and the joy of everyone going to a church somewhere today is all the greater because you all should remember that Jesus Christ died for each one of you out of love. So perhaps Easter is such a crowd-pleaser and crowd-bringer because of what happened to Jesus and ultimately …it happens to us as well. Saint Paul puts all his Christian eggs in one basket: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile.” Jesus is, also in the words of Saint Paul, “the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” “Because I live,” Jesus said, “you also shall live.” Easter isn’t an “in-house” celebration of Jesus’ personal good fortune … He doesn’t come back just for His mother Mary and the disciples in that upper room … but rather the Resurrection is a proclamation of Good News to the entire world. Jesus’ Resurrection tells us that death is not the end but rather it is the doorway … resurrection tells us that death is not a final something we are all marching towards … because of Jesus and the love of God, death is something we are simply passing through … time isn’t running out … it is barely started because we follow Jesus ... because we are Christian … because of our faith we, too, will be resurrected and join the eternal banquet. Easter is our day, too. Easter shouts that Jesus lives. We shout by our lives that He lives in us. We, standing here today … believing in Jesus and the story of the next few days … are the proof of Easter that carries more weight than an empty tomb ... Don’t you feel proud that you outrank an empty tomb? Easter is not limited to good news about the future. I think it’s great to believe that death isn’t the end. It’s also great to believe that Easter gives us the power to overcome in the struggles that are part of daily living. Saint Augustine told the early Christians that they are “Easter” people and “Alleluia” is their song. As Easter people, our lives should be different, and our lifestyles should be also. Our actions should reflect this, and our language should also be transformed. So, consider this … the name of this new language, like the song of the Easter people is “Alleluia.” And it may be translated in various ways … For example … sometimes it sounds like … “Mom, that was great meal. Thanks” or “I sure admire the way you are always in a great mood” or “I sure admire the way you never let anyone get under your skin” or “I sure admire the way … and you fill in the blank ...” Other ways to translate it could be “Can I help?” or “I’m so proud of you.” or “I love you.” or “Thank you.” But how about to save time, you can abbreviate your message by saying “Alleluia” to Mom or Dad, Husband or Wife, Brother or Sister, or to the person standing next to you at the sign of peace later on during the liturgy. A Dutch navigator sailing the high seas in 1722 happened to come across an uncharted island in the Pacific. He was thrilled to land on it. And this discovery happened on Easter Sunday. Not surprisingly, the island was named “Easter Island.” A few years later, a well-known preacher used this bit of history to make a point. He pointed out that we make a huge mistake if we regard Easter merely as an island … a nice place to visit once a year and then spend the other 364 days back to the mainland. Rather, he stressed Easter belongs on the mainland. He stressed that after considering all the things that God did for us … sending us His only Son … becoming human and becoming like us in all things but sin … for His suffering and for His dying for all … and remembering that He did it all out of love … He did all of it in order to renew and restore our relationship with Him … considering all that, ask yourselves this … doesn’t He deserve a visit more than just once a year? Even now ... especially now ... in the face of the pandemic? One of Jesus’ Easter appearances was to surprise His disciples as they shared a meal together … It’s a story we will hear in two weeks. And so, as we begin the Liturgy of the Eucharist, Jesus joins His disciples of the twenty-first century ... us ... to share a meal with Him, now … in this moment … Alleluia! I wish you and your families a happy, healthy, safe Easter and Easter Season! May God bless each of you abundantly! May He continue to keep all of you safe and well!