Easter Sunday – 27th March 2016

“Remember how he told you”

Scripture Reading – Luke 24:1-12

On the first day of the week, at the first sign of dawn, they went to the tomb with the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb, but on entering discovered that the body of the Lord Jesus was not there. As they stood there not knowing what to think, two men in brilliant clothes suddenly appeared at their side. Terrified, the women lowered their eyes. But the two men said to them, ‘Why look among the dead for someone who is alive? He is not here; he has risen. Remember what he told you when he was still in Galilee: that the Son of Man had to be handed over into the power of sinful men and be crucified, and rise again on the third day?’ And they remembered his words.

When the women returned from the tomb they told all this to the Eleven and to all the others. The women were Mary of Magdala, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James. The other women with them also told the apostles, but this story of theirs seemed pure nonsense, and they did not believe them.

Peter, however, went running to the tomb. He bent down and saw the binding cloths but nothing else; he then went back home, amazed at what had happened.

Gospel reading – Courtesy of Universalis Publishing Ltd. – www.universalis.com

REFLECTION

“Remember how he told you”

by Sr Bridget O’Connell FMA

On the first day of the week, at early dawn, the women who had come with Jesus from Galilee came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in, dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. (Luke 24:1-10)

Remember – Easter invites to “remember how he told you”.

After Good Friday there is a pause and a stillness as the extent of the loss sinks in.   T S Eliot speaking in his Four Quartets says: “Wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing.”  The not knowing what to hope for was very much the experience of the disciples on that morning. They had been so confident until the events of the previous week.

There was no rushing towards Easter Sunday, but on that dawn there was a reminder of a different reality for the disciples. They began to remember that this is what Jesus had told them. Good Friday will not be the end -Jesus is Risen. Remembering his life, his words and the experience of being in his presence enabled the women to cope with their fear and to bring the message of his Resurrection to the others. This is Easter.

When we remember, we find reminders that Easter surrounds us in every circumstance of life.

Easter does not change our reality but it is an invitation to awareness of another kind of reality and way of living.  Every aspect of human living is a gift and also a responsibility, a promise and an uncertainty. Life experiences can rock us back and forth between total trust and the deepest despair. We live between the threshold of faith and doubt, between joy and sadness.  The invitation of Easter is to remember that Jesus is Risen in each of those experiences.

In birth and in new life, Jesus is Risen

When the night is dark, we know the dawn will bring the morning, Jesus is Risen

In our world so full of suffering, the people of hope, who reach out and give time and energy to ease the pain they see, Jesus is Risen.

In a time of grief when a wave of loss surrounds us and then there comes a moment of peace, Jesus is Risen

When there is forgiveness in the face of hurt and disappointment, Jesus is Risen

These Easter days are a time to remember all that “He has told us” in our own life stories.

INTRODUCTION TO LECTIO DIVINA

The gospel account covers the first moments of the paschal experience. It describes how the empty tomb led to faith in the Resurrection. Not all, indeed only one, of those who found the tomb empty, came to faith. Neither Mary nor Peter saw and believed – they were so sure of the death of their master that they could not understand that God had restored him to life, a life without death or shroud. Only the beloved disciple knew that Jesus was alive, when he saw that he was no longer in the tomb and no longer had need of a shroud.  Peter and the beloved disciple were alarmed by what Mary said. Together they ran the same road, but only the beloved disciple believed. Knowing that we are loved by Jesus is still the way to know that he is alive.

LECTIO DIVINA

Read: understand what the text is saying, focussing on how it says it

The synoptics emphasize the proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus (Mk 16, 6; Mt 28, 6-7; Lk 24,5-6.34). John tells instead of the personal meetings that took place with Jesus in Jerusalem, on the first day of the week (20, 1.19). John 20 is divided into two scenes. The first takes place at dawn, at the tomb (20, 1-18). It speaks of the disappearance of the corpse (20, 2.13.15). The second took place that evening in a particular house (20, 19-29) when the Risen Lord appeared (20,18.25.29). Jesus dominates the account – he is mentioned fourteen times.

Our passage recalls the first episode (20, 1-9) of the scene around the empty tomb (20, 1-18). It was still dark when Mary and Peter arrived at the tomb which was open and empty. The account is true to life but it is especially a story of faith. Seeing is a necessary step before we can believe (20, 8), but seeing does not necessarily lead to faith (20, 1.7). Finding an empty tomb and a discarded shroud is not sufficient to make one believe that the man who was crucified is alive.

The empty tomb discovered at dawn points to the darkness in the heart of Mary, one of the women who assisted as the death of Jesus (21, 1. 19, 25). No indication is given as to what prompted Mary to go to the tomb. (Compare Mk 16, 1; Lk 24, 1: the women brought perfume to anoint the body; and Mt 28, 1: they went to visit the sepulchre). Mary of Magdala (20, 16.18), was the first to witness the triumph of Jesus over death, but she still did not believe. She imagined, “logically” that the body has been stolen and, again logically, she ran to tell Peter and the other disciple.

There is a double theological significance in this reaction of Mary. On the one hand, seeing the open empty tomb does not, by itself, lead to faith in the resurrection (20, 10). On the other hand, the fact that the first person to go to the tomb finds it already open excludes, without saying so explicitly, the theft of the body (cf. Mt 27, 64; 28, 11-15).

Following this first fruitless visit we are told of the haste with which the two disciples competed to be first to arrive at the tomb (20, 3-4). Peter is mentioned first and is first to enter the tomb (20, 6). He sees only the cloths (20, 6-7). The unnamed disciple (19, 25-26) is the first to arrive at the tomb (20, 4) He sees the cloths (20,5; 19 40) and, most importantly, he comes to believe (20,8). Those who saw or entered the tomb were struck by the absence of Jesus. Those who had lived with him and had assisted at his passion (18, 15-16), can confirm only the disappearance of the body. Here the disciples, and not the women (as in Lk 24, 24), are witnesses of his death (20, 5-6).

But only one of them saw and believed. He was the one who arrived first at the tomb but did not enter (20, 8), the one who was known as the beloved disciple (20, 2). He saw what Peter had seen, an empty tomb and some cloths laid aside, but he believed that the Absent One had conquered death. In John’s gospel, unlike the synoptics, the disciple who is first to believe in the Risen Lord is the one who believes that he is the most loved. The first believer in the Risen Lord is the one most loved. Love leads to a particular and profound form of recognition. Only the one among the disciples who loves is capable of seeing without proof, or better, capable of believing that his beloved Lord is alive, when in fact all he saw was the shroud. The beatitude at the end of the fourth gospel applies especially to the beloved disciple, since he began to believe without needing to see (20, 8.29).

An editorial note for the benefit of the reader concludes the account. It expresses a very ancient Christian conviction. Scripture alone did not lead to faith in the resurrection, even though it had been foretold in Scripture. The understanding of the scriptures came, not before but after the paschal experience (20, 9. Cf. Lk 24, 25-27.44-45). Peter and Mary went back home knowing that Jesus was not in the tomb (20, 10). They did not know where the body might be. They went away without knowing that he was alive. So far, they are witnesses only of his disappearance. Only the one who knew that he was loved by Jesus came to know that he was alive.

Meditate: apply what the text says to life

This gospel reading comes from the very beginning of the paschal experience. God was ahead of the early risers and restored Jesus to life. Indeed God was active so early that Easter morning that he caught even the earliest of the disciples unawares. They were so preoccupied with a corpse that they never suspected that God was already busy giving life, before even their day began. The open empty tomb was a silent witness to God’s action, but one that alarmed them. The power of death was shattered and defeated, but the disciples continued to search the graves, unable to believe it.

We still experience some of that early uncertainty and sadness that befell the disciples. We are conscious of the loss of Jesus and of being left orphans by his departure. We are lost in our world without him, and we make the same mistake as the disciples. We go looking for him among the dead, instead of among the living. We take it for granted that he’s gone but we don’t know where. We continue to act like those well-intentioned grave-searchers when, all the time, what Jesus needs is courageous witnesses to his resurrection. This may well be the impression we give to those who see us concerned about many things that are not the things of God.

We should return to our origins, go back to proclaiming what we know – that He is not among the dead but that He is alive forever, that He does not belong in any grave for He is risen. We should exchange our sadness for joy and speak to others of our experience. Wherever the Lord’s absence is felt today, there is need of Christians who will proclaim that He is present and alive. Where He is lost, we, as Christians, offer others a chance to find Him. Where people believe that He is dead or has disappeared from our world, we must find courage and enthusiasm, and the right words to proclaim that He is risen. The witness we have to give the world must not be limited to mere words. His new life is proclaimed when we life a new life, a life that is not guided by the criteria that condemned him to death, a life that is understandable only on the basis the He is truly alive. How do we come to the conviction that He is risen, that He is really alive? By following the same road travelled on the day of Resurrection by Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved. Both of them were alarmed by what Mary said. They ran together to the tomb, in great haste and great uncertainty, unable to believe what the woman had told them and incapable of imagining what God had done.  They ran together, unashamed of their anxiety and incredulity, companions in haste and in bewilderment. They arrived together at the tomb and found it open and empty – death was overcome, but the body was missing, only the cloths remained. They both saw the same things, but only one of them believed, the disciple whom Jesus loved. The one who was loved most was first to arrive at faith. Knowing that he was loved led him to recognise the one who loved him.

To become witnesses of the Risen Christ we, like the one who was first to believe, must know that we are loved by Him. He was first to arrive at the conviction that Jesus was alive, not because he was first to arrive at the tomb, but because he knew that he was still loved by Jesus. Love sees more in the emptiness, is less put off by appearances, is quicker to overcome despair, is first to comprehend the darkness, and banishes doubt with greater conviction. Just as at dawn on the first Easter Day, Jesus is alive today in those who know they are loved by Him, in whom no doubt lingers, in those who feel loved and are sustained by love.  Faith in the Resurrection is not so much an option that is taken, contrary to all the evidence, but an affirmation of what is not seen, an acceptance of gratuitous love, an affirmation of what we have already experienced. If we are certain of being loved we don’t need to see Him in order to believe, nor to find Him personally to know that we are personally loved.

We have to go against those who would wish in any way – and there are thousands of ways – to bury Jesus anew. We count on the love that He has for us. We have to be courageous enough to declare that all death has been conquered, and every tomb opened, because Jesus is risen. Nobody has a right to stay silent about the new life of the Risen Jesus.  That would be denying our right to feel loved by Him. We must accept that God continues to anticipate our sadness and our death, as He did that first day of Easter. We must again proclaim what we know – that His tomb is empty because our heart is full of Him.  Those who proclaim this are the witnesses to Christ that God and the world need today. When we say what we know, that Jesus is alive, we will know that we are His beloved witnesses.

It is not difficult, therefore, to become witnesses to Christ. All we have to do is to say what we know – that God still rises earlier than any of those who search among the graves, that the tomb of Jesus is empty, and that death has been defeated. We cannot be silent about it because we would lose our sense of being loved and we would lose the life without end that is ours after death. We risk too much if we do not feel that we are loved by the living Christ.   He lives today to love us, and it is to love Him that we will live forever.

Pray: desire that what you have heard be done in you

I praise you, Risen Lord. Your victory over death fills my mortal life with hope. Give me strength to proclaim that you are alive, even where all, myself included, feel your absence. Come to me when I am surrounded by death and desolation. Let your empty tomb be the cradle of my faith, and the place of rebirth of your Church. Grant that I may feel your love even though I do not enjoy your physical presence. In that way I will be able to see the proofs of your death, to feel your absence and still believe that you are alive. If you allow me to feel loved by you, I will proclaim that you are risen. I praise you, Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, that you were up early that first day of the week to keep your Son from experiencing corruption, even though He had suffered death, and what a cruel death! Waking early that morning, before the dawn visit of the disciples, you recovered Jesus for yourself… and you did not leave us alone in this world.  Grant that I may perceive your presence in the darkness and solitude when I am faced with death, my own and that of my loved ones. Help me to understand that death is but a passing stage that I must go through, with hope that one day I will become the companion forever of your Son, my Lord.

PRAYER

On this day, Lord God,
you opened for us the way to eternal life
through your only Son’s victory over death.
Grant that as we celebrate the feast of his resurrection
we may be renewed by your Holy Spirit
and rise again in the light of life.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

AUDIO

“Remember how he told you”
by Sr Bridget O’Connell FMA

SR_2016.03.27_EasterSunday_BridgetOConnellFMA.m4a     
Music: “Immersed” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

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RememberHowHeToldYou

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