Easter A 2017

 
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Check Previous Posts:
2012: http://www.tkayala.com/2012/04/easter-sunday-sermon-2012.html
2013: http://www.tkayala.com/2013/03/easter-2013-homilies-and-stories.html
Stories: http://www.homilystories.in/2014/04/easter.html
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EASTER MESSAGE: SHARE THE LORD’S RESURRECTION

1.     The Gospels never tell us HOW the resurrection took place.  It is historically certain that the Apostles, led by Peter, began to experience that Jesus was alive and that they were sent to share this with as many people as possible. Our Easter celebration is not replay to recall and thank God for what happened on Easter morning, nearly 2000 ago. 
2.     Jesus’ resurrection is a dynamic event. At our baptism we were grafted to the risen Christ and began to participate in the mystery of dying and rising with Him. In Him and with Him we have become life-giving grains of wheat which in their dying bear in many and various ways fruit to improve the quality of life of all people and to make our ruthless and competitive world more human. All men and women are invited to join in this process of making God’s plan of love a reality. 

3.     The risen Christ lives and is alive among us, in our midst, in:   

Ø   the young man who forgets himself and enables his girlfriend to grow into her fullest and  richest self  

Ø  the mother who sacrifices her own health and aspirations in her concern for husband and children 

Ø  the doctor who serves with all his knowledge and strength there, where the preciousness of life suffers its foulest defeats  

Ø  the politician who dirties his hands and name in the struggle for justice, because he serves those who are victimised most by the oppressive structures of our society 

Ø  the religious, who forgets herself to make all the members of her community grow and do all she can to enable her community to give life to those most in need. 

4.     The mystery of Christ's dying and rising has innumerable shapes and countless dimensions: 

Ø  listening to a lonely person 
Ø  risking one's life for a just cause  
Ø  challenging the distorted public (semi-public) opinion 
Ø  a smile, a few words, a simple gesture may mean new life, resurrection for the other.
 
5.     Whenever or wherever we give life in one way or other, we partici­pate in the paschal mystery of death and resurrection. We begin to live the `new order', inaugurated by Christ. We prove that life is stronger than death. Love, radical self-giving, has already defeated death and whoever joins Christ in loving as he loved lashes fatal blows to death and evil.   

6.     Accept Christ’s challenge, become adventurous, and dare to be a pilgrim, a member of Christ's pilgrim community. Join God in his concern for life in all its fullness; then you will experience the richness of the resurrection. Then you will live what we celebrate in the Eucharist. Then you will experience that it is better to give than to receive, that life becomes more beautiful, when you give it away for the sake of others than when you desperate cling to your own life. 

7.     Dare to die and you will live. Dare to die in order to live to the full!   

He (Jesus) said unto those that believe
that nothing dies in the realm of God
- neither seed, nor drop, nor dust, nor man.

Only the past dies or the present,
but the future lives for ever.
And, I'm the future of man,
To me, being and non-being
were always one.
I was and never was!

(Gopal Singh, The man who never died, p.77)
 
Fr. Gerwin van Leuween, ofm 


Michel de Verteuil
Textual notes
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.

Scripture reflection
Your experience will help you interpret how Mary responded. Did she run in confusion? Or in fear?

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.

Prayer reflection
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
Empty tomb 2
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.
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Thomas O’Loughlin
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.

Homily notes
Jeus Resurrection is his promise for the rest of us.
1. 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.
2. 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
3. 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.
4. 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.
Jesus rises5. 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
6. 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.’
7. 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.
8. 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.
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John Litteton
Gospel Reflection
_Jesus_appears_to_the_disciples_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.
empty tombIn 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.
For meditation
Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead. (Jn 20:9)
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Fr Donal Neary, S.J
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.
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Alleluia,
May all the joys of Easter be yours!
Praise the Lord and pass round the Eggs
Alleluia !
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 From the Connections:

Easter Vigil

THE WORD:
In his Gospel, Matthew presents Jesus’ resurrection as a great intervention by God, inaugurating a new order throughout creation and history.  The empty tomb is surrounded by miraculous phenomena: the earthquake, the angel whose appearance resembles a “flash of lightning” with garments as “dazzling as snow,” the rolled back stone and the collapse of the guards.
In Matthew’s account, Mary Magdalene and the “other” Mary come to the tomb for no other reason than to mourn (the guards, no doubt, would have prevented any attempt to go near the body for additional anointing).  The disciples, meanwhile, are nowhere to be seen.  The women’s courageous and compassionate presence is rewarded by their being the first to hear the astonishing news of the Resurrection.  The angel explains that Jesus has been “raised up” exactly as he foretold on three occasions in Matthew’s Gospel (16: 21, 17:23 and 20:19).  The two women then become “apostles to the apostles,” sent to tell the others what they have seen.
On their way, the Risen One appears to them.  In bidding the two Marys peace and in calling the cowering disciples his “brothers,” Jesus offers the forgiveness and reconciliation that are hallmarks of the Easter promise.
 
HOMILY POINTS:
In the Easter miracle, God re-creates the world.  It is the night and day of the second Genesis.  Death is no longer the ultimate finality but the ultimate beginning.  The Christ who taught forgiveness, who pleaded for reconciliation, who handed himself over to his executioners for the sake of justice and mercy, has been raised up by God.  We leave behind in the grave our sinfulness, our dark side, our selfishness, our pettiness -- the evil that mars God's first creation.
In the light of Easter morning, we realize unmistakably the depth of God’s love for us and understand the profound truth of Jesus’ Gospel of compassion, love, forgiveness, reconciliation and selflessness for the sake of others.  God’s ”raising up” of his Son affirms our redemption through the power of the Gospel spirit of love; the empty tomb of Easter is the ultimate victory of the Gospel over humanity’s sad tendency toward despair, isolation, prejudice and selfishness. 
With Easter faith, we can transform the darkness of Good Friday hatred into the light of Easter’s Alleluia; we can awaken the promise of the empty tomb in every place and moment and heart we encounter on our journey to Easter's fulfillment in our own lives.

First light
While it is still dark, Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb of the Jesus who healed her, who taught her, who accorded her the respect and love she never thought herself worthy of. 
The Easter story begins in the early morning darkness.  This is always how our discovery of the risen Christ begins: in darkness.
For many, this was a week of darkness:
Earlier this week, someone received terrible news from a physician. 
Earlier this week, someone suddenly lost his job. 
Earlier this week, someone heard the words “I don’t love you anymore.” 
Earlier this week, someone’s hope was crucified. 
And the darkness is overwhelming.
No one is ready to encounter Easter until he or she has spent time in the early morning darkness where hope cannot be seen.  In such darkness, Easter is the last thing we are expecting.  And that’s why Easter terrifies us.  We dread the darkness — but we fear even more what is beyond it.  Sometimes the darkness we know is preferable to what we don’t know — we have learned at least to function and exist in the darkness; we find a distorted solace in the fact that darkness means that nothing more can disappoint or hurt us.
Easter’s first light illuminates those dark places we have become used to; it focuses our vision and attention on what we have never seen before; it dares us to imagine possibilities beyond our limited understanding of what is possible.
Easter is not about bunnies, springtime and girls in pretty dresses. 
Easter is about more hope than we can handle.
[Adapted from a sermon by M. Craig Barnes.]
 
Easter calls us out of the darkness that shrouds our lives and into the light of possibility, of healing, of re-creation.  In his rising from the dead, Christ enables us to bring into our own lives all that he lived and taught and gave: the love, compassion, generosity, humility and selflessness that ultimately triumphs over hatred, prejudice, despair, greed, and death.  The empty tomb is the sign of perfect hope: that in Christ all things are possible, that we can live our lives with meaning and purpose, that we can become the people God created us to be become.  May we not fear or shrink from Easter morning’s first light but embrace that light and the hope it promises in the Risen One who is forever in our midst, shattering the darkness.     

Easter Day

THE WORD:
 
John’s Easter Gospel says nothing of earthquakes or angels.  His account begins before daybreak.  It was believed that the spirit of the deceased hovered around the tomb for three days after burial; Mary Magdalene was therefore following the Jewish custom of visiting the tomb during this three-day period.  Discovering that the stone has been moved away, Mary Magdalene runs to tell Peter and the others.  Peter and the “other disciple” race to get there and look inside.  Note the different reactions of the three:  Mary Magdalene fears that someone has “taken” Jesus' body; Peter does not know what to make of the news; but the “other” disciple – the model of faithful discernment in John's Gospel – immediately understands what has taken place.  So great are the disciple's love and depth of faith that all of the strange remarks and dark references of Jesus now become clear to him.

HOMILY POINTS:
While the Easter mystery does not deny the reality of suffering and pain, it does proclaim reason for hope in the human condition.  The empty tomb of Christ trumpets the ultimate Alleluia – that love, compassion, generosity, humility and selflessness will ultimately triumph over hatred, bigotry, prejudice, despair, greed and death.  The Easter miracle enables us, even in the most difficult and desperate of times, to live our lives in hopeful certainty of the fulfillment of the resurrection at the end of our life's journey.
The Risen Christ is present to us in the faithful witness of every good person who shares the good news of the empty tomb, who seeks to bring resurrection into this life of ours: to rise above life’s sufferings and pain to give love and life to others, to renew and re-create our relationships with others, to proclaim the Gospel of the empty tomb.
Today we stand, with Peter and John and Mary, at the entrance of the empty tomb; with them, we wonder what it means.  The Christ who challenged us to love one another is risen and walks among us!  All that he taught – compassion, love, forgiveness, reconciliation, sincerity, selflessness for the sake of others – is vindicated and affirmed if he is truly risen.  The empty tomb should not only console us and elate us, it should challenge us to embrace the life of the Gospel.  With Easter faith, we can awaken the promise of the empty tomb in every place and moment we encounter on our journey through this life.

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Fr. Jude Botelho:

The first reading from the Acts, is part of an early sermon of St. Peter on the feast of Pentecost, his very first after the resurrection. He tells us how he is a witness of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Without the resurrection Jesus' life and ours would be a total failure, with the resurrection every moment of His ministry has a new meaning and every moment of our own can take on a new significance. Peter in this sermon reminds his listeners that Jesus is Lord of all and that his message is a message of hope and peace. He emphasizes that every believer is called to be a witness of the Lord's life, death and resurrection. We are called to be witnesses of the resurrection, but the glory of the resurrection is realized in us only when we have accepted the many crosses that come our way leading us to new life.

Broken and made more beautiful
A story is told of an eastern village that, through the centuries, was known for its exquisite pottery. Especially striking were its urns; high as tables, wide as chairs, they were admired around the globe for their strong form and delicate beauty. Legend has it that when each urn was apparently finished, there was one final step. The artist broke it - and then put it back together with gold filigree. An ordinary urn was then transformed into a priceless work of art. What seemed finished wasn't, until it was broken
Steve Goodier

The Gospel begins with Mary Magdalene coming to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus. She knows the stone has to be rolled away, and she also knows that she cannot do it by herself. Maybe she believes that the Lord will provide and he will take care of it all- and he does! Maybe Mary's attitude should be a great encouragement for us all. We can't remove the boulder that blocks us and prevents us from bursting forth into new life. But the Lord is there for us and He will do it for us! She saw but she did not believe. The Apostles would not accept the conclusion that Jesus must have risen from the dead. It takes wonderful news a long time to seep into our consciousness, and convince us that Jesus has risen from the dead. Peter and John did not believe but ran to the tomb to check out for themselves and remained baffled in their unbelief. Finally, they both went into the tomb, they began to understand the scriptures, they saw and they believed. The Gospel
tells us that Mary stood outside the tomb, weeping and looking into the tomb to see where they had laid his body. She sees Jesus but still does not recognize him. Finally Jesus reveals himself to her as he calls her by her name: "Mary!" This narrative of the resurrection reminds us that we come to the full understanding of the resurrection not through our intelligence but purely through the gift of the Spirit. Left on our own we look for the Lord in the wrong places, among the dead. Even when the Lord comes to us we are sometimes so caught up in our own world that we fail to recognize him. But the good news is that the Lord does not give up on us. He will reveal himself to us and call us by name so that like Mary we can say: "I have seen the Lord!" and once we have experienced the power of the resurrection nothing will ever be the same again.

My son is alive!
There was a Russian Cossack, who had two sons in the First World War. Their names were Peter and Gregory. One day the father got a letter from the front. Being unable to read he handed it to his daughter. It was from Gregory's commanding officer and began like this: "I regret to inform you that your son Gregory was killed in action on July 10th. Gregory was an excellent soldier and died the death of the brave. You have every reason to be proud of him, etc." The effect of this news on the father was immediate and alarming. He seemed to wilt visibly. In a matter of days he aged, turning grey almost overnight. His memory began to fail and even his mind was affected. He began to drink to excess. He kept the letter under an icon in the kitchen. Each day he would take it down and ask his daughter to read it to him once more. After the local priest had offered a Requiem Mass for his son he felt a little better, only a little. Twelve days went on like this. On
the thirteenth day a second letter arrived from the front. It contained a fantastic piece of good news. His son wasn't dead after all! He had been wounded and left for dead on the battlefield. Next morning he had come to and crawled four miles back to his own lines, dragging a wounded officer with him. He was to be raised to the rank of a corporal, and had been awarded the Cross of St. George in recognition of his bravery. Right now he was recovering in hospital, and they could expect a visit from him in a month's time. Once again the effect on the father was immediate, except this time it was for the better. He was a sight to see. He was scalded with joy. He grabbed the letter and went into the village with it. He stopped everyone he met. "What do you think?" he would ask. "My son is alive! He's been awarded the St. George's Cross for bravery!" -This story should give us some idea of the joy the disciples experienced on Easter Sunday morning. At the Resurrection the Father as it were cries out: "My son is alive!" As we celebrate this same resurrection we also can cry out: "He is alive! I have seen him! I have experienced His power! We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song!
Flor McCarthy in 'Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies'

Witness to the Resurrection
In the darkest days of Stalinist Russia a special League of the Godless was established to stamp out the last vestiges of religion from people's lives. One Easter morning the Commissar of this League addressed a huge rally in Moscow's Red Square. He ranted along his usual lines that religion was the instrument of the bourgeoisie and the opium of the proletariat. At the end of his harangue he generously offered the mike to anyone who wished to debate with him. Nobody wanted a one-way ticket to Siberia until one old man made his way forward. He surveyed his huge audience, cleared his throat and began to sing: "The Lord has risen." It was the traditional Orthodox Easter greeting. Moved by the old man's courage, voices from the square swelled up in reply: "He has truly risen." Religion in Russia was not dead as long as belief in the Resurrection of Christ was not dead in people.
Sylvester O'Flynn in 'The Good News of Mark's Gospel'

From death to life
Movie director Cecil B. DeMille was drifting in a canoe on a lake reading a book. He glanced from the book momentarily and saw a water beetle crawling up the side of the canoe. When it got halfway up, the beetle stuck the talons of its legs to the wood of the canoe and died. DeMille returned to reading his book. Three hours later he happened to look down at the beetle again and what he saw amazed him. The beetle had dried up, and its back had started to crack open. As he watched something began to emerge from the opening: first a moist head, then wings, then a tail. It was a beautiful dragonfly. As the dragonfly flew away, DeMille took his finger and nudged the dried-out shell of the beetle. It was like a tomb. -This beautiful death-resurrection experience from nature helps us to appreciate better what happened on Easter Sunday.
Mark Link in 'Sunday Homilies'

Risen from the dead
Roger Bolduc was a victim of cancer. Until he died in 1977, he never ceased to believe that his illness was a precious gift from God. Shortly before his death he wrote: "Many things upon which I placed importance in the past seem so trivial now, they just don't seem to matter anymore. This has become precious. God has become so real. I can feel his power - it's always there. I feel that God has answered my prayers." Bolduc concluded by saying that he always knew God loved him, but he had no idea God loved him so much. -This is a beautiful example of the power of the risen Jesus at work in someone's life today. Roger Bolduc literally died and rose spiritually. And so we don't have to wait until we die to share in the risen life and risen power of Jesus. We can share in it right now, at this moment.?
Mark Link in 'Sunday Homilies'

All that God does he does well
Rabbi Moshe took a trip to a strange land. He took a donkey, a rooster, and a lamp. Since he was a Jew, he was refused hospitality in the village inns, so he decided to sleep in the woods. He lit his lamp to study the holy books before going to sleep, but a fierce wind came up, knocking over the lamp and breaking it. The rabbi decided to turn in, saying, "All that God does, he does well." During the night some wild animals came along and drove away the rooster and thieves stole the donkey. Moshe woke up, saw the loss, but still proclaimed easily, "All that God does, he does well." The rabbi then went back to the village where he was refused lodging, only to learn that enemy soldiers had invaded it during the night and killed all the inhabitants. He also learned that these soldiers had traveled through the same part of the woods where he lay asleep. Had his lamp not been broken he would have been discovered. Had not the rooster been chased, it would have
crowed, giving him away. Had not the donkey been stolen, it would have brayed. So once more Rabbi Moshe declared, "All that God does, he does well!"
Anonymous

Jesus gives us Hope
Michael Faraday was a famous scientist. One day his servant came into his drawing room, dropped his silver vessel on the ground and broke it into pieces. Michael collected all the pieces of the vessel and put them into a chemical solution and made one mass of it and then shaped a beautiful cup from the same material. This new creation was much more beautiful than the earlier one. It was the same silver that appeared in a different form. The Resurrection of Christ tells us that our earthly bodies will be transformed into a new life.
Elias Dias in "Divine Stories for Families"
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That old man knows the Shepherd
A group of men sat around debating good and bad memories. As a result of the discussion, an impromptu contest began, to test their memories. One young man, with some artistic talent and training in voice production, recited Psalm 23, 'The Lord is my Shepherd'. His rendition was very effective, and it drew thunderous applause, so he had to recite the psalm a second and a third time. The second 'contestant' was difficult to hear every word as he, too, recited 'The Lord is my Shepherd'. When he was finished, there was total silence in the room. Something strange had happened. Unconsciously, many people felt a sense of inner stirring, and a few began to whisper a quiet prayer. The young man, who recited the psalm first time around, stood up and explained the different reception to the two recitals of the same psalm. 'I know the Psalm,' he said, 'but it is obvious that old man knows the Shepherd.'

Jack McArdle in 'And that's the Gospel truth'

 
In today's gospel love is portrayed as mutual knowledge -the Father knowing the Son and the Son knowing the Father. Likewise, Christ the Good Shepherd knows his sheep and his sheep know him. Of course the knowledge talked of here is not mere intellectual knowing but knowledge that comes from love and leads to care and concern for the other. The good shepherd has laid down his life so that all might hear his voice.
 

Recognizing the Master

One of the memories I have of the home of my birth was a dog we had, called Roxy. We lived on a fairly quiet road but, as the years went by, the number of cars increased. Irrespective of how many passed by, Roxy was quite indifferent. Then, suddenly, the ears were at full stretch, up he sprang, and he raced at full speed along the road. There was no sign of anything coming, but we all knew that my mother was on her way, driving back from town, and was probably several hundred yards away. With all the cars, this is the sound that Roxy recognized from a distance. By the time he met the car, my mother had rolled down the window on the passenger side, slowed down slightly and, with the car still moving, Roxy sprang right into the front seat and accompanied her on the latter part of the journey. I'm sure most of us have known unique relationships between animals and humans.

Jack McArdle in 'And that's the gospel truth'

 
In the final part of this gospel Jesus invites those who are touched and saved by the love of the Shepherd, to shepherd and care for others. "There are other sheep that are not of this fold and these I have to lead as well." Though he cares for his own, he does not discriminate and ultimately dies because he cares for all peoples. He also reminds his followers that whatever he suffered he did not endure out of a sense of obligation but because he wanted to do so out of love. Whenever we care and go out of the way for others we should not do so because of a sense of obligation but joyfully out of love.
 
"I lay down my life for my sheep." He here vows that he is prepared in every way to fight and face danger on behalf of his friends and kindred; confirming by the emphatic repetition of his intention that he is indeed the good shepherd. For they who abandon the sheep to the wolves are rightly named cowards and hirelings. But he is prepared to defend them, so that he does not falter even in the face of death, is with just reason called the good shepherd.......... We must keep in mind that Christ did not suffer death for us unwillingly; rather he seemed to walk towards it of his own will, though he could with ease have avoided suffering had he wished not to suffer. Therefore, in that he freely and of his own will suffered for our sakes, we behold the greatness of his love and goodness towards us." - St. Cyril of Alexandria, The Good Shepherd
 
In the first book of Samuel, David, who volunteers to fight Goliath, describes to the king how he takes care of his sheep: "Your majesty, I take care of my father's sheep. Any time a lion or a bear carries off a lamb, I go after it, attack it, and rescue the lamb. And if the lion or bear turns on me, I grab it by the throat and beat it to death. I have killed lions and bears, and I will do the same to this heathen Philistine." 1Sam 17:34-36
 

Does anyone care?

The Broadway musical 1776 dealt with those critical days and weeks in our history when our forefathers debated the Declaration of Independence. At one point in the debate, the fate of our great nation was like a pole standing in wet sand. It could fall either way: backwards into the past and continued domination by England, or forward into the future and newfound freedom. One night John Adams, one of the freedom fighters, was terribly worried about the outcome. Standing all alone in the darkness of Independence Hall, where the great debate was being held, he began to sing in words like these: "Is anyone out there? Does anyone care? Does anyone see what I see?" -These are the same words Jesus is singing in our darkened world. He is singing all alone, hoping greathearted people will hear him: "Is anyone out there? Does anyone care? Does anyone see what I see?"

Mark Link in 'Decision'

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As Vice President, George Bush represented the U.S. at the funeral of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. Bush was deeply moved by a silent protest carried out by Brezhnev's widow. She stood motionless by the coffin until seconds before it was closed. Then, just as the soldiers touched the lid, Brezhnev's wife performed an act of great courage and hope, a gesture that must surely rank as one of the most profound acts of civil disobedience ever committed: She reached down and made the sign of the cross on her husband's chest. There in the citadel of secular, atheistic power, the wife of the man who had run it all hoped that her husband was wrong. She hoped that there was another life, and that that life was best represented by Jesus who died on the cross, and that the same Jesus might yet have mercy on her husband.
Gary Thomas, Christian Times, October 3, 1994, p. 26.

Well over three hundred verses are concerned with the subject of Jesus' resurrection in the New Testament. We are told that this event is a sign for unbelievers (Matthew 12:38-40); cf. John 20:24-29) as well as the answer for the believer's doubt (Luke 24:38-43). It serves as the guarantee that Jesus' teachings are true (Acts 2:22-24; 1 Corrinthians 15:12-20) and is the center of the gospel itself (Romans 4:24-25, 10:9; 1 Corrinthians 15:1-4). Further, the resurrection is the impetus for evangelism (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 10:39-43), the key indication of the believer's daily power to live the Christian life (Rom. 6:4-14, 8:9-11; Phil. 3:10) and the reason for the total commitment of our lives (Rom. 7:4; 1 Cor. 15:57-58). The resurrection even addresses the fear of death (John 11:25; 1 Cor. 15:54-58; cf. Hebrews 2:14-15) and is related to the second coming of Jesus (Acts 1:11; Revelation 1:7). Lastly, this event is a model of the Christian's resurrection from the dead (Acts 4:2; 1 Cor. 6:14; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) and provides a foretaste of heaven for the believer (Philippians 3:20-21; 1 Peter 1:3-5). For a popular treatment that addresses these and other aspects, see Gary R. Habermas, The Centrality of the Resurrection.
Gary R. Habermas & J.P. Moreland, Immortality - The Other Side of Death, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1992, p. 245.

In one of his lighter moments, Benjamin Franklin penned his own epitaph. He didn't profess to be a born-again Christian, but it seems he must have been influenced by Paul's teaching of the resurrection of the body. Here's what he wrote: The Body of B. Franklin, Printer Like the Cover of an old Book Its contents torn out, And stript of its Lettering and Guilding, Lies here, Food for Worms, But the Work shall not be wholly lost: For it will, as he believ'd, Appear once more In a new & more perfect Edition, Corrected and amended by the Author.
Source Unknown.

Little Philip, born with Down's syndrome, attended a third-grade Sunday School class with several eight-year-old boys and girls. Typical of that age, the children did not readily accept Philip with his differences, according to an article in leadership magazine. But because of a creative teacher, they began to care about Philip and accept him as part of the group, though not fully.
The Sunday after Easter the teacher brought L'eggs pantyhose containers, the kind that look like large eggs. Each receiving one, the children were told to go outside on that lovely spring day, find some symbol for new life, and put it in the egg-like container. Back in the classroom, they would share their new-life symbols, opening the containers one by one in surprise fashion. After running about the church property in wild confusion, the students returned to the classroom and placed the containers on the table. Surrounded by the children, the teacher began to open them one by one. After each one, whether a flower, butterfly, or leaf, the class would ooh and ahh.
Then one was opened, revealing nothing inside. The children exclaimed, That's stupid. That's not fair. Somebody didn't do their assignment."
Philip spoke up, "That's mine."
"Philip, you don't ever do things right!" the student retorted. "There's nothing there!"
"I did so do it," Philip insisted. "I did do it. It's empty. the tomb was empty!"
Silence followed. From then on Philip became a full member of the class. He died not long afterward from an infection most normal children would have shrugged off. At the funeral this class of eight-year-olds marched up to the altar not with flowers, but with their Sunday school teacher, each to lay on it an empty pantyhose egg.
Source Unknown.

The home of Paul Laurence Dunbar, noted poet, is open to the public in Dayton, Ohio. When Dunbar died, his mother left his room exactly as it was on the day of his death. At the desk of this brilliant man was his final poem, handwritten on a pad.
After his mother died, her friends discovered that Paul Laurence Dunbar's last poem had been lost forever. Because his mother had made his room into a shrine and not moved anything, the sun had bleached the ink in which the poem was written until it was invisible. The poem was gone.
If we stay in mourning, we lose so much of life.
Henry Simon, Belleville, Illinois.

Why We Believe Jesus Rose from the Dead:
If Jesus did not rise from the dead, the Christian faith is a foolish fantasy. However, if the resurrection of Christ did occur, it confirms His life, message, and atoning work. It is the basis of our hope of life beyond the grave. Christ is alive, and the evidence is overwhelming. Here are some of the reasons we can be so sure.
1. Jesus predicted His resurrection (Matt 16:21; Mark 9:9-10; John 2:18-22).
2. The Old Testament prophesied it (Psalm 16:10; compare Acts 2:25-31; 13:33-37).
3. The tomb was empty and the grave clothes vacant. if those who opposed Christ wished to silence His disciples, all they had to do was produce a body, but they could not (John 20:3-9).
4. Many people saw the resurrected Christ. They looked on His face, touched Him, heard His voice, and saw Him eat (Matt. 28:16-20; Luke 24:13-39; John 20:11-29; John 21:1-9; Acts 1:6-11; 1 Cor. 15:3-8).
5. The lives of the disciples were revolutionized. Though they fled and even denied Christ at the time of His arrest, they later feared no one in their proclamation of the risen Christ (Matt 26:56, 69-75).6. The resurrection was the central message of the early church. The church grew with an unwavering conviction that Christ had risen and was the Lord of the church (Acts 4:33; 5:30-32; Rom. 5:24).
6. Men and women today testify that the power of the risen Christ has transformed their lives. We know that Jesus is alive not only because of the historical and biblical evidence but also because He has miraculously touched our lives.
Kurt E. DeHaan.

Order of the Events of the Resurrection
Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome start for the tomb, Lk 23:55-24:1
They find the stone rolled away, Lk 24:2-9
Mary Magdalene goes to tell the disciples, Jn 20:1-2
Mary, the mother of James, draws near and sees the angel, Mt 28:1-2
She goes back to meet the other women following with spices
Meanwhile Peter and John arrive, look in and depart, Jn 20:3-10
Mary Magdalene returns weeping, sees two angels, then Jesus, Jn 20:11-18
The risen Christ bids her tell the disciples, Jn 20:17-18
Mary (mother of James) meanwhile returns with the women, Lk 24:1-4
They return and see the two angels, Lk 24:5; Mk 16:5
They also hear the angel's message, Mt 28:6-8
On their way to find the disciples, they are met by the risen Christ, Mt 28:9-10
Post-resurrection Appearances
To Mary Magdalene Jn 20:14-18; Mk 16:9
To the women returning from the tomb Mt 28:8-10
To Peter later in the day Lk 24:34; 1 Cor 15:5
To the disciples going to Emmaus in the evening Lk 24:13-31
To the apostles (except Thomas) Lk 24:36-45; Jn 20-19-24
To the apostles a week later (Thomas present) Jn 20:24-29
In Galilee to the seven by the Lake of Tiberias Jn 21:1-23
In Galilee on a mountain to the apostles and 500 believers 1 Cor 15:6
At Jerusalem and Bethany again to James 1 Cor 15:7
At Olivet and the ascension Acts 1:3-12
To Paul near Damascus Acts 9:3-6; 1 Cor 15:8
To Stephen outside Jerusalem Acts 7:55
To Paul in the temple Acts 22:17-21; 23:11
To John on Patmos Rev 1:10-19
Merril F. Unger, The New Unger's Bible Handbook, Revised by Gary N. Larson, Moody Press, Chicago, 1984, pp. 397-398.

 
The day of resurrection?
Earth, tell it out abroad;
The Passover of gladness,
The Passover of God.
From death to life eternal,
From this world to the sky,
Our Christ hath brought us over
With hymns of victory.
Now let the heavens be joyful,
Let earth her song begin;
Let the round world keep triumph,
And all that is therein;
Let all things seen and unseen
Their notes in gladness blend,
For Christ the Lord hath risen,
Our Joy that hath no end.
John of Damascus.
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The film Amadeus ends showing the funeral of the great musician Mozart. He died at the age of 35. A genius, he never re-copied his compositions. He never had to make corrections, so the first draft was also the final copy. A genius, he started playing several instruments at the age of four, wrote several symphonies by the age of eight and created at least 528 musical compositions before he died at age 35. He was a genius, whom one authority calls "one of the brightest stars in the musical firmament." What a waste, that he should have died so young! It makes you wonder: is this life all there is? Imagine a beloved spouse, a darling parent or grandparent, a close friend, lying cold in the coffin. Is this life all there is? We try to comfort ourselves with the doctrine of the resurrection. We say: the genius of people like Mozart is not going to be wasted. The love of dear ones - the squeeze of their hands and the music in their voices - that love will be enjoyed in even greater intensity. A Sadducee in Jesus’ time might say, "I don't believe it; the doctrine is absurd." That was the point the Sadducees wanted to make by challenging Jesus with  an absurd story of a woman who married seven husbands,  in today’s gospel. (From Tony Kadavil's collection)
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Fr. Tony Kadavil:

1: The phoenix bird:
The late Catholic Archbishop of Hartford, John Whealon, had undergone cancer surgery resulting in a permanent colostomy when he wrote these very personal words in one of his last Easter messages: "I am now a member of an association of people who have been wounded by cancer.  That association has as its symbol the phoenix, a bird of Egyptian mythology. The Greek poet Hesiod, who lived eight centuries before Jesus was born, wrote about this legendary bird in his poetry.  When the bird felt its death was near (every 500 to 1,461 years), it would fly off to Phoenicia, build a nest of aromatic wood and set itself on fire.  When the bird was consumed by the flames, a new phoenix sprang forth from the ashes.  Thus, the phoenix symbolizes immortality, resurrection, and life after death.  It sums up the Easter message perfectly.  Jesus gave up His life, and from the grave He was raised to life again on the third day.  New life rises from the ashes of death.  Today we are celebrating Christ's victory over the grave, the gift of eternal life for all who believe in Jesus.  That is why the phoenix bird one of the earliest symbols of the Risen Christ.  The phoenix also symbolizes our daily rising to new life.  Every day, like the phoenix, we rise from the ashes of sin and guilt and are refreshed and renewed by our living Lord and Savior with His forgiveness and the assurance that He still loves us and will continue to give us the strength we need."  Archbishop John Whealon could have lived in a gloomy tomb of self-pity, hopeless defeat, and chronic sadness, but his faith in the Risen Lord opened his eyes to new visions of life.

2: Bright light in the “black holes” of life:
Have you ever heard of a "black hole"? If you have ever watched movies or TV programs about travelling in outer space, like the TV series Star Trek, you will know what a black hole is. Roughly speaking, it is a spot in the vastness of space which astronomers believe is like a giant vacuum or whirlpool sucking everything around it into the hole. Using Newton’s laws, scientists first theorized black holes in the 1790s but it wasn't until 1994 that the Hubble Space Telescope discovered a massive supersized black hole – fortunately a long way from our own galaxy. There is also a black hole in our galaxy, the Milky Way. What if scientists said that it was not beyond the realms of possibility that one day our sun and everything around it would be sucked into this "black hole," and everything would be gone? "Black holes" are symbols of hopelessness, and the message of Easter tells us that there is something beyond those "black holes". Maybe this "black hole" includes grief for a loved one, anxiety over a work situation or what is happening in our family. Maybe it is a "black hole" of depression and stress, and we feel there is nothing we can do to change what is happening. Maybe it’s the "black hole" of sickness and pain. Maybe it’s the "black hole" of guilt and failure. Whether those "black holes" are right here and now or show up at some time in the future, Easter tells us there is hope, there is a living Saviour and Friend who will help us when we feel as if we have been sucked into the deepest darkness. Easter tells us that there is nothing to fear. We have a risen Saviour who promises never to leave us, to love us always, always to brighten our darkest paths, and to guide us from death to eternal life in Heaven. Even when we are in the middle of something deep and dark, our risen Saviour will always be there with us. “I am the Living One! I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever. I have authority over death and the world of the dead" (Revelation 1:8).          

3:  “He is not here.”
Egyptian pyramids are world-famous as one of the “seven Wonders” of the ancient world. But they are actually gigantic tombs containing the mummified bodies of Egyptian Pharaohs. Westminster Abby is famous, and thousands visit it  because the dead bodies of famous writers, philosophers and politicians are entombed there. But there is a Shrine of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, and pilgrims from all over the world visit a tomb there which is empty with a note at its entrance which says, “He is not here.” It is famous because Jesus Christ Who was once buried there rose from the dead, leaving an empty tomb, as He had told his disciples he would. Thus, He worked the most important miracle in His life, defying the laws of nature and proving that He is God. We rejoice at this great and unique event by celebrating Easter.

22- Additional anecdotes:

1) "The Godfather of Fitness.”
You may recall years ago when fitness legend Jack LaLanne celebrated his seventieth birthday by towing 70 boats containing 70 people for a mile across Long Beach Harbor. Amazing! But wait. He did it by holding the rope in his teeth. Why? Well, he was handcuffed and wearing leg shackles! Unbelievable! LaLanne was still going strong in his nineties. But friends, this "The Godfather of Fitness” died on Jan 24, 2011, proving that this world is not our final destination. It is but a prelude to a grander production. This world is a preparatory school. Without the Resurrection, it is simply impossible to explain a world in which people suffer and die. But the Resurrection is real. Christ rose from the dead. Christ is still alive and He is available in our world today
2) The greatest comeback in history:   In its November 12, 2001 issue, Sports Illustrated ranked the 10 greatest comebacks in world history.  Among those making the list, the following names are to be specially noted.
1. Michael Jordan, 1995. Quits basketball to make his first triumphant comeback.

5. Muhammad Ali,
1974. Seven years after being stripped of his title and his boxing license, defeats George Foreman in Zaire to win back the belt.

8. Japan and Germany,
1950s. They were the former Axis Powers which rose from the ashes of World War II to become industrial superpowers.

10. Jesus Christ,
33 A.D. Defies Jewish critics and stuns the Romans with his Resurrection. It was the greatest comeback of all time. And He’s been specializing in comebacks ever since. 

3) “We believe you.”
There is a beautiful story told recently about a woman named Rosemary who works in the Alzheimer’s Unit of a nursing home. Rosemary and a colleague named Arlene brought the residents of the home together one Good Friday afternoon to view Franco Zeffirelli’s acclaimed production, JesusofNazareth. They wondered whether these elderly Alzheimer’s patients would even know what was going on, but they thought it might be worth the effort. When they finally succeeded in getting everyone into position, they started the video. Rosemary was pleasantly surprised at the quiet attention being paid to the screen. At last came the scene where Mary Magdalene comes upon the empty tomb and sees that Jesus’ body is not there. An unknown man, in reality the Risen Christ, asks Mary why she is looking for the living among the dead. Mary runs as fast as she can back to the disciples and tells Peter and the rest with breathless excitement, “He’s alive! I saw Him, I tell you! He’s alive.” The doubt in their eyes causes Mary to pull back. “You don’t believe me . . . You don’t believe me!” From somewhere in the crowd of Alzheimer’s patients came the clear, resolute voice of Esther, one of the patients. “WE BELIEVE YOU,” she said, “WE BELIEVE YOU!” [Rosemary Kadrmas in Jeff Cavins, et.al, Amazing Grace for the Catholic Heart (West Chester, PA: Ascension Press, LLC, 2003), pp. 211-212.]

4)The killers asked her if there was anyone [in the classroom] who had faith in Christ. 
A day after the terrible tragedy at Columbine High, CNN journalist Larry King did a live interview with a teenage girl named Mickie Cain, a student who had witnessed the massacre. Mickie was having a difficult time maintaining her composure and was able to blurt out only a few words before lapsing into uncontrollable sobs. Larry King was patient and gave her plenty of time to regain her composure. Mickie recounted the chilling story: “Let me tell you about my friend Cassie,” she said. “[Cassie] was amazing . . . She completely stood up for God when the killers asked her if there was anyone [in the classroom] who had faith in Christ. She spoke up [and said she did] and they shot her for it.” [Franklin Graham, The Name (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2002), pp. 14-15]. Such a testimony as Cassie made that day makes our witness look pretty pathetic, doesn’t it? The critical question is, would you make such a sacrifice for something that you knew was patently untrue? Of course not. And neither would those early disciples of Christ. They had met Christ, Risen from the grave, and they would not testify otherwise, even while being tortured. The witnesses are so credible, the change in their lives so dramatic, that their testimony cannot be disregarded.

5) Cape of Good Hope:
You may remember a geography lesson from elementary school in which you learned that the southernmost point of Africa is a point which for centuries has experienced tremendous storms. For many years no one knew what lay beyond that cape, for no ship attempting to round that point had ever returned to tell the tale. Among the ancients it was known as the "Cape of Storms," and for good reason. But then a Portuguese explorer in the sixteenth century, Vasco De Gama, successfully sailed East around that very point and found beyond the wild raging storms, a great calm sea, and beyond that, the shores of India. The name of that cape was changed from the Cape of Storms to the Cape of Good Hope. Until Jesus Christ rose from the dead, death had been the "cape of storms" on which all hopes of life beyond had been wrecked. No one knew what lay beyond that point until, on Easter morning, Jesus arose.   The ancient visions of Isaiah became the victory of Jesus over our last great enemy.  Like those sixteenth century explorers, we can see beyond human death to the hope of Heaven and eternal life with the Father. More than that, we dare to believe that we shall experience in our own human lives exactly what the Son of God experienced in His, for the Risen Christ says to us, "Because I live, you shall live also." This is the heart of our Faith.

6) “I choose death....by old age."
Long ago, there was an exceedingly clever court jester at the court of the Caliph of Baghdad. For years he'd never failed to amuse the court whenever they called him. But one day, in a split second of carelessness, he offended the caliph who ordered him put to death. "However," said the caliph, "in consideration of your many years of fine and faithful service, I'll let you choose how you wish to die." "Oh mighty Caliph," replied the jester. "I thank you for your great kindness. I choose death....by old age." Wouldn't we all! But that just delays the big question: Then what? What comes after you finally die at the age of 110 on the tennis court? Only Jesus has the answer. He says, "I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in Me, even though he die, will live with Me forever." (Msgr. D. Clarke)

7)He always whistled:
Have you heard the story of the man whose hobby was growing roses? When he worked in his rose garden, he always whistled. It seemed to everyone that he was whistling much louder than was needed for his own enjoyment. One day a neighbor asked him why it was that he always whistled so loudly. The man then took the neighbor into his home to meet his wife. The woman was not only an invalid, but was completely blind as well. The man, you see, was whistling, not for his benefit, but rather for the benefit of his wife. He wanted his blind wife to know that he was nearby, and that she was not alone. That story is a wonderful illustration of the significance of Easter Day. The affirmation, "Christ is risen!" reminds us that God is near, and the experiencing of His presence strengthens us in our weakness. (Living the Easter Faith, Donald William Dotterer).
 
8)And so the Iron Lady wept. 
Several years ago, when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of Britain, a terrorist's bomb exploded in the conference room where many of the government meetings were held. Margaret Thatcher survived this blast, but some of her cabinet members were killed. The following Sunday, Margaret Thatcher went to church as she always did. But that particular Sunday seemed different. As Margaret Thatcher sang the hymns, listened to the message, saw the candles upon the altar and the sunshine streaming through the stained-glass windows, she began to weep. She wept because everything around her had been changed by the loss of her friends. The familiar had now become strange. The goodness and beauty of the world around her seemed almost too much to bear. She knew she would not only miss her friends, but also the wonderful times they had had together. And so the Iron Lady wept. If we can relate to Maggie Thatcher's grief, maybe we can relate to the grief of Jesus' disciples and friends on that first Easter morning.

9)“I want to see your Resurrection!”
Father Basil Pennington, a Catholic monk, tells of an encounter he once had with a teacher of Zen. Pennington was at a retreat. As part of the retreat, each person met privately with this Zen teacher. Pennington says that at his meeting the Zen teacher sat there before him smiling from ear to ear and rocking gleefully back and forth. Finally the teacher said: “I like Christianity. But I would not like Christianity without the Resurrection. I want to see your Resurrection!” Pennington notes that, “With his directness, the teacher was saying what everyone else implicitly says to Christians: You are a Christian. You are risen with Christ. Show me (what this means for you in your life) and I will believe.” [(http://www.stjohnslaverne.org/SermonReadingArchive/OmernickEasterSundaySermon20 06.rtf.) Marilyn Omernick.] That is how people know if the Resurrection is true or not. Does it affect how we live?
 
10) “Do you mean like Elvis?”
A father was explaining to his five-year-old son how Jesus died and then, on the third day, rose from the dead. “That’s what we believe,” the father said. “That’s how we know Jesus is the Son of God, because He came back from the dead just as He said He would.” “Do you mean like Elvis?” the boy replied. Well, no. Not exactly like Elvis. This is a new world. People nowadays believe just about everything, except that which is most true. We have to work a little bit harder in this new world to help people

11)From the empty tomb:
 It was a hot summer afternoon. The famous Hollywood film director Cecil B. DeMille was drifting in a canoe on a lake in Maine, reading a book. He looked away from the book momentarily, down to the lake. There a bunch of water beetles were at play. Suddenly one of the beetles began to crawl up the side of the canoe. When it got halfway up, it attached the talons of its legs to the wooden side of the canoe and died. DeMille watched for a minute; then he turned back to his book. About three hours later, DeMille looked down at the dead beetle again. What he saw amazed him. The beetle had dried up, and its back was starting to crack open. As he watched, something began to emerge from the opening: first a moist head, then wings. It was a beautiful dragonfly. DeMille sat there in awe. Then the dragonfly began to move its wings. It hovered gracefully over the water where the other beetles were at play. But they didn’t recognize the dragonfly. They didn’t realize that it was the same beetle they had played with three hours earlier. DeMille took his finger and nudged the dried-out shell of the beetle. It was like an empty tomb (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies)

12)Easter: surprising or amazing?
There is an old story about Noah Webster, who wrote the famous dictionary that bears his name. As you can imagine, he was a stickler for the precise use of language. He was also something of a womanizer. One day he was in the pantry kissing the maid when Mrs. Webster walked in on them. Mrs. Webster said, "Why, Noah, I'm surprised." Noah said, "No, my dear. We're surprised. You're amazed." [Mark Trotter, "Do You Amaze Anybody?" (May 22, 1988).] I think the story is apocryphal. I'm sure Mr. Webster was a stickler for the right word, but when you look in his own Webster's Dictionary he says surprise is a synonym for amaze. Amaze is the stronger word. Easter is both surprising and amazing. Here is God's ultimate act of love and power. It is an act of love that has gone to its limit in Jesus' gift of Himself on the cross. It is an act of power that burst the tomb, and announced to the world that Love is stronger than hate, Good prevails over evil, and Life is triumphant over death.

13)“Suppose he isn't in there!"
Two famous Broadway producers were pallbearers at the funeral of the great escape artist, Harry Houdini. As they lifted the beautiful and heavy casket to their shoulders, one of them turned and whispered to the other, "Suppose he isn't in there!" He was, of course. Only one man in human history has conquered the grave, and it is He Whom we call Lord. "Christ has been raised from the dead," writes St. Paul, "the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep" (I Corinthians 15:20). What deliriously Good News that is! No wonder our Church is full on Easter Sunday. That is news that turns the world upside down. Jesus Christ is risen!
 
14) Resurrection Bay: 
In the movie The Hunt for Red October, the opening scene was filmed in Resurrection Bay, Alaska. This dramatic setting received its name in 1792 when the Russian trader and explorer Alexandr Baranov was forced to find refuge there during a vicious storm on Easter Sunday. Resurrection Bay has the distinction of remaining ice-free even in the dead of winter. Even in squalls and storms, it provides safe harbor. As Christians, we anchor our souls in Resurrection Bay. The world may be caught in a thousand tempests, and storms may arise from all directions. But the empty tomb assures us of tranquility and a passageway to Heaven that will never ice over. Jesus died and rose again to give us peace with God and the peace of God -- life both eternal and abundant. We anchor our souls in the haven of rest.(Turning Point)

15) Many infallible proofs:
Albert L. Roper was a prominent Virginia attorney, a graduate of the University of Virginia and its law school, who eventually became mayor of the city of Norfolk. He once began a thorough legal investigation into the evidence for the Resurrection of Christ, asking himself the question: "Can any intelligent person accept the Resurrection story?" After examining the evidence at length, he came away asking a different question: "Can any intelligent person deny the weight of this evidence?" Even those who traveled for three years with Jesus experienced disbelief over His Resurrection, but Jesus showed Himself alive by many infallible proofs. We don't base our Faith on legends, myths, or fairy tales. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is well-documented, and many critics have been silenced (and even converted) when they've carefully investigated the evidence [Albert L. Roper, Did Jesus Rise From the Dead (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1965), foreword.] We have a Risen Savior! He offers Himself to us today with many infallible proofs.(Turning Point- 3/29/13)
16) Joke Saturday:  According to an ancient Russian Orthodox tradition, the day before Easter was devoted to telling jokes. Priests would join the people in telling their best jokes to one another (presumably “clean” jokes!!) The reason was to reflect the joke God pulled on the devil in the Resurrection. Satan thought he won on Friday, but God had the last laugh on Easter Sunday.

17) "He is risen indeed!":
You probably do not remember the name Nikolai IvanovichBukharin. Many years ago he was one of the most powerful men on earth. A Russian Communist leader, he took part in the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. He was the editor of the Soviet newspaper Pravda and was a full member of the Politburo. His works on economics and political science are still read today. There is a story told about a journey he took from Moscow to Kiev in 1930 to address a huge assembly of Communists.  The subject was atheism. Addressing the crowd, he attacked Christianity, hurling insults and arguments against it. When he had finished, he looked out at the audience. "Are there any questions?" he demanded. Deafening silence filled the auditorium, but then one man approached the platform and mounted the lectern.   After surveying the crowd, he shouted the ancient greeting of the Russian Orthodox Church: "CHRIST IS RISEN!"   The crowd stood up and shouted in a thundering voice:   "HE IS RISEN INDEED!"   Amazed and dejected, Bukharin left the stage in silence.  Perhaps he had learned the lesson that Faith in Christ’s Resurrection was deeply rooted in his Russian Orthodox Communist followers!

18) He is no longer in the grave:
In 1887, twenty-two years after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, his coffin was dug up and opened because there were constant rumors that his body was not in the grave. So they dug it up and the body was there. The rumors continued so 14 years later they had to dig it up again. Both times witnesses were present who testified that Lincoln was still in the grave. Three days after the death of Jesus Christ, similar rumors began to spread throughout the land of Israel. Only this time there were no witnesses who could say that they had seen His body. In fact, to the contrary, many witnesses claimed to have seen him out of His grave and even talked with Him after the Resurrection. As great a man as Lincoln was, there were witnesses to prove he was still in the grave. If one of our Presidents or another leader in our government were to cry out today to Lincoln for help, there would be no response. If a scientist were to cry out to Einstein for help today there would only be empty silence. If someone were to call out to Mohammed or Buddha or Gandhi today there would be no help. But if you and I call out to Jesus Christ there is instant power available to us... power to change lives ...why? Because He lives! (Rev. David Henderson).

19 ) The parable of the butterfly:
As a butterfly soared overhead, one caterpillar said to the other, "You'll never get me up in one of those things!" Yet for every caterpillar the time comes when the urge to eat and grow subsides and he instinctively begins to form a chrysalis around himself. The chrysalis hardens and you'd think for all the world that the caterpillar was dead. But one spring morning the life inside the chrysalis will begin to writhe, the top will crack open, and a beautifully-formed butterfly will emerge. For hours it will stand stretching and drying its wings, moving them slowly up and down, up and down. And then, before you know it, the butterfly will glide aloft, effortlessly riding the currents of the air, alighting on flower after gorgeous flower, as if to show off its vivid colors to the bright blossoms. Somehow, the miracle of the butterfly never loses its fascination for us. Perhaps that is because the butterfly is a living parable of the promise of Resurrection. On Easter morning, the disciples saw Jesus' grave-clothes on the cold slab empty, but still lying in the wrapped folds that had gone round and round the corpse. Only the corpse was gone, much like an empty chrysalis deserted by a butterfly which has left it to soar free. "He is risen as He said," an angel told the incredulous disciples.

20) “Which one would you ask which way to go?'" 
Dr. Seamands tells of a Muslim who became a Christian in Africa. "Some of his friends asked him, 'Why have you become a Christian?' He answered, 'Well, it's like this. Suppose you were going down the road and suddenly the road forked in two directions, and you didn't know which way to go, and there at the fork in the road were two men, one dead and one alive--which one would you ask which way to go?'"
 
21) A real Easter egg:
A small chick begins the long journey to birth.  The not-yet-a-bird weighs little more than air; its beak and claws are barely pin pricks.  The bird-to-be is in its own little world: protected by the rigid shell, warmed by the mother hen’s body, nourished by the nutrients within the egg’s membrane. But then the chick begins the work of life.  Over several days the chick keeps picking and picking until it can break out from its narrow world — and into an incomparably wider one. But for this to happen, the egg has to go to pieces.  New life demands shattering the old. That is the real Easter egg.  Not a complete egg dyed and painted with so many designs and colors.  Not an egg that has been hardboiled, impossible to shatter.  Not an egg made of chocolate. The real Easter egg is shattered and destroyed.  The real Easter egg exists in broken pieces.  The real Easter egg is cracked and opened, yielding new life that has moved out to live in the open. For centuries, the world has marked the Resurrection of the Lord with eggs.  But the Easter meaning of the egg is found in the struggle of the chick to free itself from its confines so as to move into much bigger world beyond it.  We struggle to break out of a world that we perceive is going to pieces; we pick away at an existence that leaves us dissatisfied and unfulfilled.  The promise of the Easter Christ is that we can break out of our self-contained little worlds and move into a world where peace and justice reign, a world illuminated by hope and warmed by love, a world that extends beyond time and place into the forever of God’s dwelling place.   [From a meditation by Brother David Steindl-Rast, O.S.B.].

22)Yes, There Is Hope (Rev. Bill Self): 
In the early part of World War II, a Navy submarine was stuck on the bottom of the harbor in New York City. It seemed that all was lost. There was no electricity and the oxygen was quickly running out. In one last attempt to rescue the sailors from the steel coffin, the U.S. Navy sent a ship equipped with Navy divers to the spot on the surface, directly above the wounded submarine. A Navy diver went over the side of the ship to the dangerous depths in one last rescue attempt. The trapped sailors heard the metal boots of the diver land on the exterior surface, and they moved to where they thought the rescuer would be. In the darkness they tapped in Morse code, "Is there any hope?" The diver on the outside, recognizing the message, signaled by tapping on the exterior of the sub, "Yes, there is hope." This is the picture of our dilemma as we worship this glad Easter Day. Humankind is trapped in a dreadful situation. All around we are running low on hope, and we look for a word from beyond offering it to us. This world in which we live is plagued with war and famine, mounting debt and continual destruction. The more we try to rescue ourselves the more we seem to fall behind. We wonder.

***
Humor for Easter
cartoon courtesy of www.reverendfun.com

Nothing is certain except vat and taxes?!?


Lasting Palm Sunday Impressions
My wife planned an activity for our two and one-half year old daughter during the week following Palm Sunday. After having her cut and paste brightly colored construction paper coats and palm branches on a picture of Jesus riding into Jerusalem, she spread coats in our hallway, and the three of us walked over them, shouting, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" A couple of days later, we reminded Jamie that the following Sunday was Easter. "Do you know what that means?" her mother asked. "Yes!" Jamie chirped enthusiastically. "We're going to church, and Jesus is going to come and walk on our coats!"

Good Friday Humor
This is a true story, told to me by a Sunday School teacher: She was teaching the children about the meaning of Good Friday and asked the group if any of them knew what happened to Jesus on that day. "Sure," piped up a little boy, "he got hammered!"


The Gravestone Message
The following caption was found written on a gravestone...
"As I am now, you soon shall be, so be content to follow me."

Then someone taped the following note on that gravestone...
"To follow you I'm not content, until I know which way you went!"



This happened a couple of Easters ago.
He comes to church once a year--always on Easter. I'm glad to have this local rancher join us in worship and I shook his hand heartily as he left the church.
"Great to worship with you today!" I said.
"Really?" he responded.
"Sure. It's always good to have you with us on Easter," I said.
He scratched his head. "Well, maybe I'd come more often if you'd preach about something different!" -- Rev. E. Marie Gasau



The Show Must Go On
One Easter, a family (Mom, Dad, boy age 9) that seldom went to church, decided to go. After church the Mom said, "I thought the choir was a little off key." The Dad said, "Well, the preacher's message was bland, too." Whereupon the boy said, "I thought they put on a pretty good show for the nickel you put in the collection plate." BB-AL


Church Bulletin Blooper:
This being Easter Sunday, we will ask Mrs. Jones to come forward and lay an egg on the altar.

In the Secret Service
A gentleman was in front of me coming out of church one day. The preacher grabbed him by the hand, pulled him aside and said to him, "You need to join the Army of the Lord!"
My friend replied, "I'm already in the Army of the Lord, Pastor."
The Pastor questioned, "How come I don't see you except at Christmas and Easter?"
He whispered back, "I'm in the secret service. "