– 04–4–2021 –
Gospel reading: John 20:1-9
vs.1 It was very early on the first day of the week, and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb
vs.2 and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb” she said “and we don’t know where they have put him.”
vs.3 So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb.
vs.4 They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first;
vs.5 he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go it.
vs.6 Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground,
vs.7 and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself.
vs.8 then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed.
vs.9 Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
We have four sets of homily notes to choose from. Please scroll down the page for the desired one.
Michel DeVerteuil : A Trinidadian Holy Ghost Priest, Specialist in Lectio Divina
Thomas O’Loughlin: Professor of Historical Theology, University of Northampton.
John Littleton: Director of the Priory Institute Distant Learning, Tallaght
Donal Neary SJ: Editor of The Sacred Heart Messenger
Michel de Verteuil
Lectio Divina with the Sunday Gospels –
John’s account of the resurrection is in two stages:
– verses 1-2 are about Mary of Magdala’s experience;
– verses 3 to 10 tell us about the experience of the two disciples.
In verses 1 and 2 you might like to focus on the symbolism of it being “still dark” and yet a “first day” of a new time. The large stone symbolizes all the forces, human and other, that keep God’s grace in the bondage of the tomb.
The story of Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved can be read from various points of view. You can take them together as experiencing the resurrection, focusing on the details, especially the cloths lying on the ground, useless now since Jesus was alive, but also on the fact that until they saw the empty tomb they did not believe the teaching of the scriptures.
St John makes a point of contrasting the two apostles. If you would like to meditate on this aspect of the story, see Peter as symbol of the Church leader, while “the other disciple” is the one who, while having no position of authority, is specially loved by Jesus and, perhaps as a result, is first in faith.
Lord, we thank you for moment of grace.
We had been in a situation of death
– a relationship that meant a lot to us seemed dead
– an addiction held us in its grip
– our country was locked in civil strife.
Then the day came that would turn out to be the first of a new era.
We were mourning as usual,
Like Mary of Magdala making a routine visit to the tomb of Jesus,
But saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb.
Naturally, we looked for some simple explanation,
“they have taken the Lord our of the tomb and we don’t know where they have put him,”
but it wasn’t anything like that,
it was what the scriptures teach us, that your work must always rise again.
“They can kill a bishop, but they cannot kill the Church which is the people.” …Archbishop Romero, some days before he was martyred.
Lord, we thank you for people of faith.
They believe the teaching of the scriptures
That your work may lie in the tomb for some days
But it must rise again.
“When the underprivileged unite and struggle for justice, is that not a sign of the presence and action of God in our time?”
….Musumi Kanyaro, Committee of Women in Church and Society, Lutheran World Federation
Lord, as we look around the world today
we see what Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved saw as they entered his tomb.
Cloths are lying on the ground that we can recognise for what they are
– attitudes of passivity that look like fine linen but in fact kept your chosen ones in the tomb.
Whereas you have once more fulfilled what you taught us in all the scriptures
and we had not really believed until this moment:
that you will always raise up your chosen ones when the world imprisons them in a tomb.
Lord, we pray today for those who were baptised last night,
Today they have enthusiasm, for them you are alive and present;
But there will certainly come a time when they will experience you absent,
When prayer will be like Mary of Magdala going in the gloom of early morning
To visit the tomb of Jesus.
In fact they will be like people who mourn for a spouse or a child
Without even having the comfort of the dead body to look at.
This is the way they will have to pass
because until they have had experiences like this they will not really believe
the teaching of the scriptures that your grace cannot be overpowered by evil
and that your presence within us must always,
like Jesus, rise again from the tomb.
Something new has happened here-
a new era has begun.
Lord, we like to feel that we have you within our grasp:
– that our prayers are always answered;
– that we are living in a way that is pleasing to you;
– that the times, gestures and words of our prayers are just right.
Teach us that we must be prepared to lose that security
and experience being abandoned, until we live in trust only
and see all those things that we considered important
like the cloths in the empty tomb of Jesus –
fine linen cloths, but they were keeping him in the tomb.
Now we see them on the ground and also the cloth that had been over his head
not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself.
Liturgical Resources for the Year of Luke
Introduction to the Celebration
Every Sunday we gather to recall that Christ rose from the dead and has given us new life, but today is special as it recalls the original Sunday. This is our great annual feast proclaiming that death has been conquered and our sins forgiven. This is the great day of Christian joy: Christ is risen.
The resurrection is the source of Christian hope: our lives are lot circumscribed by life as we know it now, but can open onto a new life in the presence of God. This is the mystery beyond words, yet somehow today it has to be the subject of our preaching. However, there are two widely held misconceptions which prevent people hearing what the liturgy says about the resurrection today in its symbols, prayers, and readings. A useful task in the homily is to draw attention to these mistaken ideas. The first is that it was some sort of resuscitation, a trick to prove that Jesus was right, an event which you either believe happened or did not happen back then. This misconception distracts from a hope in a resurrection in the future. The resurrection is not about resuscitation, but our future transformation. The second, and far more widespread notion, is that resurrection is just a fancy terms for a belief in an afterlife of some sort or other – the number of practising Christians who think that reincarnation can be squared with Christian faith is an indication of this confusion’s prevalence. Our faith is not about some kind of post mortem survival, but in God’s gift of the fullness of life.
1. So, the first point is to avoid ‘explaining’ the mystery as if it were a series of ‘facts’ that can just be acknowledged as having happened so-and-so many years ago. In earlier times each item in the resurrection accounts was studied like the clues in a detective story with the aim of building an apologetic that would explain the ‘how’ of the resurrection and the ‘what’ of the risen body of Jesus. But the kerygma of the resurrection lies not in the details of ‘the first Easter,’ but in the reality that those who join their lives with the Christ shall share a fuller, glorious, transformed life as the gift of the Father. We can inherit the Father’s gift of glory as the final fulfilment of human life. It is worth pointing out that the disciple today must not be distracted by the ‘how’ and ‘what’ questions of ‘the first Easter’ from remembering that Christian faith strains onward to the future: the cost of discipleship now and tomorrow is worth it for the path of righteousness does not end with a grave. Many wonder whether or not they ‘can believe’ in the empty tomb, but this misses the point. Belief in the resurrection is seen when someone, even in the face of still follows the of love with
2. Second, belief in the resurrection is not some christianised version of a belief in the immortality of the soul. A belief in immortality is a human sense that a bit, some sort of spiritual residue, can survive without a body. The belief in the resurrection is that we are each creatures willed by God, in whose histories God is interested as the loving Father, and into whose history he has sent his Son sharing our humanity, and therefore whose whole existence’ spirit, soul, and body’ can be transformed to become part of his Son’s glorious body. Easter is not a celebration of a ‘survival factor’ in humanity, but of the Father’s love so that nothing good shall perish, but be given even fuller life.
3. To believe in the message of Easter is not a matter of tombs long ago in Palestine, but having the conviction that it is worthwhile to seek to bring light in darkness, to oppose lies with truth, to work for justice in the face of human corruption, and to say that death does not have the last word.
4. When we profess our faith in the resurrection of Jesus we are not setting out something with the intention that our understandings should grasp it and comprehend it. Jesus has been transformed to a new kind of existence by the Father beyond our understanding and we can only express it in symbols such as that of the empty tomb – tombs, after all, are designed to hold their remains indefinitely. By contrast, the proclamation ‘Jesus is Risen’ is an invitation to share in a new way of seeing God and the universe, and it is only from within this new vision (faith) that it makes sense. Hence, the ancient theological dictum, based in Isaiah 7:9, ‘unless you believe, you will not understand.’ The message of Acts and the gospel is that we are invited to live, to live in a new way, to live in Christ – and that in living in this way we discover in that the Father will raise us
5. If we join with those who accept the invitation Christ, which is what we say we are doing in accepting baptism and renewing our baptismal promises, we become part of a new people. The Christian ‘thing’ is about being part of a people, not about individualist survival or a privately-defined relationship with ‘the Wholly Other’, and as such it
commits us to a way of living. The early followers were referred to as being on ‘The Way’ (see Acts 9:2; 18:26; 19:9 and 23; 22:4,14 and 22) and our oldest extant teaching manual (The Didache) begins by contrasting ‘The Way of Life’ (to be followed by disciples) with ‘The Way of Death.’
6. The thought of resurrection may fill us with joy, but the lifedemands that accepting it makes on us can be great: we must do as we would be done to (cf Didache 1:2; Mt 7:12; Lk 6:31), we must practice the forgiveness we desire from the Father (cf the ‘Our Father), and we must act with gentleness. Only in constant effort to live life in this way can we glimpse the truth of the empty tomb.
7. To live this life demands patience, a waiting for the good things to be revealed – the practice of the virtue of hope: we must always be of good courage … for we walk by faith, not by sight (cf 2 Cor 5:6f). Today is our day for rejoicing in the risen Christ, for thanking the Father for his love, and for reminding ourselves of that to which we have committed ourselves: The Way. Death has contended with Life, yet despite tombs and symbols of death all around us, we proceed to commit ourselves to life, confident that as the Father transformed the existence of Jesus, so he will transform the whole creation.
Journeying through the Year of Matthew
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead was a clear wake-up call to his disciples and all the other people who had ‘failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead’ (In 20:9). His resurrection challenged them to wake from the sleep of their disbelief and indifference. By going into hiding and even denying all knowledge of Jesus when he was arrested, they had obviously missed the central message of his preaching and teaching.
But when the reality of Jesus’ rising from the dead impacted on them, they began to understand that it was quite consistent with all that he had said and done before his death on the cross. So they must have asked themselves why they had not listened to him and recognised him for who he is: the Son of God and the Saviour of the world. As they thought back on the sayings, parables and miracles of Jesus’ ministry, they gradually understood the truth of his claim to be ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life’ (In 14:6).
The realisation that the risen Lord was in their midst changed their lives radically. His several post-resurrection appearances gave them a renewed sense of hope and they became witnesses to his teaching.
The same joy and enthusiasm are meant to apply to us. However, there is also an important difference. Unlike the first disciples, we have the advantage of two millennia of Christian tradition and reflection. We have many opportunities for faith formation that did not exist in the early Church. Yet, even with the benefit of hindsight, we are equally or sometimes even more hesitant than the first-century disciples to make the necessary leap of faith in Jesus who is risen from the dead.
The significance of what happened at Easter is well summarised in the first Preface of Easter which states that ‘by dying he [Jesus] destroyed our death; by rising he restored our life’.
This was what Simon Peter and John realised when they arrived at the empty tomb. Effectively, they saw and they believed.
In contrast, we did not see the empty tomb. So our Christian faith invites us to reverse the order by believing first and then, through our belief, seeing. Saint Thomas Aquinas taught that this is real faith: not to go looking for the evidence and then, when we satisfy ourselves that the necessary proof exists, to embrace the faith. Instead, it is the other way round: embracing God in faith and then seeking to deepen our knowledge and understanding.
Our belief in the risen Lord originates in the witness of those who accompanied him. We journey with him, but in a different way from those who met him and walked with him and ate with him and touched him after his resurrection from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is the definitive proof that physical death is not the end. There is life after death. And God invites all of us to use this earthly life to prepare for the next life.
With renewed faith and hope this day, let the words of the opening prayer for the Mass of Easter Sunday become our prayer: Let us pray that the risen Christ will raise us up and renew our lives. God our Father, by raising Christ your Son you conquered the power of death and opened for us the way to eternal life. Let our celebration today raise us up and renew our lives by the Spirit that is within us.
Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead. (Jn 20:9)
Fr Donal Neary, S.J
Gospel Reflections for the Year of Matthew
Alleluia – for singing, not for humming!
The reason for the joy of Easter is that Christ is risen – the women who came to the tomb found their joy in this. They may have found joy also in a beautiful dawn in the garden, or in their friendships, but the joy of Easter is a joy of faith, which nothing need take away.
The joy of the resurrection is a joy in giving the life we have received from God: ‘Life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort. Indeed, those who enjoy life most are those who leave security on the shore and become excited by the mission of communicating life to others’ (Pope Francis). The Alleluia is for singing, not for humming;
it is to be heard from
the voice of the heart,
and should lift the hearts of those who hear:
‘Jesus Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!’
We often see great joy in the middle of huge poverty: often the poor can live for the present moment and enjoy it to the full. Sometimes in the middle of illness we find a peace we don’t know from where it comes. The grace of the risen Jesus can touch our lives at any time. Let’s not be like Christians ‘whose lives seem like Lent without Easter’ (Pope Francis). Having lived through
the joyful season of Lent, our hearts are wholly lifted now in joy received and joy given.
Breathe in and out: on the inbreath echo the word ‘joy’;
on the outbreath echo the word ‘thanks’.
Risen Christ, raise our lives in joy.
May all the joys of Easter be yours!
Praise the Lord and pass round the Eggs