(See the readings for the Easter Vigil, Saturday, April 20 and Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019.)
The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia, alleluia!
“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.”
The darkness that enveloped Mary and the other disciples was not just the night, but the grief of the Lord’s passion and death. The loss of him whom they loved was deep. In her sorrow and grief, Mary comes to the tomb to pay her respects. When she sees the open tomb, she runs back to find Peter and tells him that someone took the body of the Lord.
Peter and the beloved disciple, John, run to the tomb. John arrives first, peers in and sees the burial cloths but waits for Peter to enter. When he arrives, he goes in and sees the cloth that covered Jesus’ head. The other burial cloths were rolled up separately. When the beloved disciple entered the tomb, “he saw and believed.” The darkness is now lifted. The Lord is risen!
Jesus conquers the darkness of sin and death through his passion, death and resurrection. Death has no hold on him who died and is now risen. Later he will appear to the apostles and disciples many times, but this first awareness of the Resurrection is a call to faith. Mary, Peter and John see no body, but are invited nonetheless into the glory of the Resurrection. They enter this glory through faith.
For the three years of his public ministry, Jesus actively called people to faith. The call began in that synagogue in Nazareth where Jesus read from the Isaiah scroll: “The spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”
After reading this passage, Jesus says: “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” The liberty he proclaims is accomplished through his passion, death and resurrection. The call to faith continues throughout his ministry as he gathers disciples to himself :“Come, follow me.” The same invitation to faith reverberates in the silence of the empty tomb.
We celebrate the Lord’s victory in faith. The victory is one of love over indifference, mercy over sin, good over evil, charity over selfishness, kindness over hate, patience over anger and life over death.
At the Easter Vigil, men and women throughout the world profess their faith and are baptized into the lifegiving waters of Jesus’ death. They are anointed with chrism and join the communion of the faithful around the altar sharing in the Eucharist. All of those already initiated into the paschal mystery once again profess our faith in the renewal of our baptismal promises. The profession of faith both in mind and heart leads to the living profession, a living sacrifice of praise, through word and deed sharing in the lifegiving mission of Christ Jesus.
Coming to the altar, we remember God’s love in faith. God is love. Father, Son and Spirit united in the perfect relationship of love have opened his life of love for us. Through baptism, we are united with Christ Jesus and become sons and daughters of our one heavenly Father. We enter into the mystery of that perfect love.
That love permeates our lives. It allows us to live in peace. It offers healing through mercy. It offers strength through compassion. It offers friendship through communion. It offers hope through resurrection. It offers life through death.
The faith we celebrate in Jesus’ resurrection calls us to rejoice and to proclaim once again with renewed vigor and in one voice: “The Lord is risen, he is risen indeed. Alleluia, alleluia!”
Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.
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