Easter 2014


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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 

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. 

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.

John Litteton
Gospel Reflection

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.

Homily notes

Jesus 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 re-incarn­ation 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.

5. 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.

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

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.

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.



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. 


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 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 Risen One.

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. 

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 opened, yielding new life that has taken flight.

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 take flight 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 take flight 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.] 

2.     Andrew Greeley: 


Most of the Gospels during Easter time are taken from St. John, a literary genius if the world has ever known one. Father John Shea has suggested that John's Gospel may be the greatest book ever written. Its author has an astonishing ability to take a perhaps dim memory of an incident which happened in the life of Jesus, retell it with vivid and life-like detail, and then wrap the story in deep and mystical symbolism which makes it a story for all times.   

 Thus in today's story we can see the younger disciple outrunning Peter and then waiting respectfully for him. We can understand the chauvinist skepticism of the apostles, we can imagine the growing excitement among the followers of Jesus, their sense that something was happening, something astonishing, indeed beyond belief. And we are impressed, though we hardly notice it consciously by the act that the burial robes of Jesus have been put aside and neatly folded. Not only do we have life triumphant, we have the extraordinary occurring in orderly fashion.  

Once upon a time there was a little boy by the name of Brendan. Brendan loved all kinds of stories but he especially liked the children’s versions of Biblical stories. He would tell visitors about the deeds of the Old Testament leaders, sometimes mixing up his facts a bit. He was fairly accurate when telling the story of Christmas and the childhood of Jesus. His favorite stories were the miracle stories and some of the parables. He definitely did not like the Holy Week stories. He didn’t like it when anyone would read the stories of Jesus’ passion and death. He would never repeat them, claiming he didn’t remember them. 

 One day his mother asked Brendan why he didn’t try to remember them. Brendan said it was very sad that people would put Jesus on a cross when he had been so good. He said he didn’t like the cross, that it was a terrible thing. He didn’t like to think about the cross. He didn’t even like to look at it. And he would never want to have one in his room or his house. His mother thought and thought about how she might address Brendan’s anxiety about the cross. Finally she explained to Brendan that sometimes things seemed really, really bad, like that people would put Jesus on a cross. But the cross is also a sign of how much Jesus loved all of us and the cross isn’t the end of the story. If it were it would be a great tragedy. That is why we never tell the story of the cross without also telling the story of Easter where we learn that goodness wins over all the evil things people might do. We need the end of the story for it to make any sense. That Easter Brendan’s mother found him telling his younger siblings and his cousins his version of the Holy Week/Easter tale. Palm Sunday, he said was a big parade.

 Then later in the week Jesus and his disciples had a big party but some of the folks at the party didn’t act right and let some bad outsiders take Jesus away. Jesus was real brave because he loved everyone and knew that if you loved people you could never really be hurt, except for a short time. And Jesus proved that was so by not staying dead for very long. Now we know that we don’t have to be afraid of bad things. 

3.     John Conley, s.j. 

Easter Glory: Before and After

Purpose: At Easter we celebrate the central mystery of the faith: the Resurrection of Our Lord from the dead.  The Scripture readings for Easter point to the transformation which the first apostles, and the entire Church, must undergo in the light of the Resurrection. 

With her dramatic genius, the Church sets the celebration of Easter in a visual and audial setting of life overcoming death.  As spring yields to a harsh and snowbound winter, the breezes and flowers and longer days witness to the perennial triumph of light over darkness. The stripped altar, and empty sanctuary of Good Friday, surrenders to gold vestments, sprays of flowers, clouds of incense and repeated “Alleluias.”  Trumpets and drums join the unsilenced organ to lead the assembly’s joyful noise, replacing the sober silence of Lent.  Even the commercial frills of the season, such as the Easter egg in a million Easter morning baskets, point to a bursting fertility and upsurge of life that goes far beyond the norm.

But all the sights and sounds are mere background for the truth we celebrate at Easter: that Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, has risen from the dead, and that in his resurrection, we reach the heart of Christian faith and Christian hope.  The Scripture readings appointed for Easter Sunday provide a before-and-after picture of this truth, as we view the disciples’ first recognition of this truth, and then see how they were transformed by the truth of this glory, and by the presence of the risen Lord in his Church.

St. John shows us the first glimpse of the resurrection on the first Easter morning.  The first sign is the empty tomb.  Mary Magdalene discovers that the heavy stone has been removed from the tomb.  She is only confused that the Lord’s body has been moved.  St. John takes a closer look, and sees that burial cloths remain in the tomb, but not Jesus himself.  St. Peter penetrates into the tomb, and notices how the various burial cloths have been stored, but finds no trace of the body of Jesus himself.  The puzzling empty tomb is only the first step in recognizing the resurrection of Christ.  “They did not yet understand the Scripture that he (Jesus) had to rise from the dead.”  As the disciples personally encounter the risen Christ in subsequent days, they hear the testimony of others who have seen and heard him, and they ponder the Scriptures more deeply on this humanly inexplicable event—the glory of Christ risen becomes the center of their lives, and of their mission to proclaim the Gospel, and build the Church.

The Acts of the Apostles provide a portrait of the disciples transformed by Christ risen from the dead, and by the Holy Spirit dwelling within them.  The confused have become wise.  The cowardly, once quaking behind bolted doors, have become courageous.  St. Peter boldly announces the Gospel.  The resurrection is the centerpiece of the good news.  “This man (Jesus) God raised on the third day, and granted that he be visible, not to all people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.”  Peter not only announces Christ, dead and risen, to free us from sin; he announces the shape of the Church at its birth.  The apostles, and their successors, have a special role in announcing and interpreting the Gospel to the world.  Christ will be met in the Eucharist, and not only in personal prayer.  The Church will minister “forgiveness of sins through his (Christ’s) name” as we await the Lord’s return “as judge of the living and the dead.”

The mystery we celebrate today is something far greater than the natural exuberance of spring, gardens, and fertility.  It is the astonishing truth that Jesus Christ has conquered death forever, in his own person; and, that he offers the Resurrection as a gift outright to those who hear and keep his word—as a disciple in this life, and as a saint in the next.  The signs of this Easter faith in our life go beyond the new dress, or suit, we wear, or the gold baskets that await us on the dining room table.  It is found in our serious Church life, as we attend the Eucharist to “break the bread” of the Lord’s Passover, in our fidelity to the apostolic teaching of the Church on matters of faith and morals, in our joyous proclamation of the Gospel to a skeptical age, and in the giving and receiving of forgiveness through the power of the Holy Spirit. 


You probably do not remember the name Nikolai Ivanovich Bukharin. During his day he was as powerful a man as there was on earth. A Russian Communist leader he took part in the Bolshevik Revolution 1917, was editor of the Soviet newspaper Pravda (which by the way means truth), 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 on the subject of atheism. Addressing the crowd he aimed his heavy artillery at Christianity hurling insult, argument, and proof against it.

An hour later he was finished. He looked out at what seemed to be the smoldering ashes of men's faith. "Are there any questions?" Bukharin demanded. Deafening silence filled the auditorium but then one man approached the platform and mounted the lectern standing near the communist leader. He surveyed the crowd first to the left then to the right. Finally he shouted the ancient greeting known well in the Russian Orthodox Church: "CHRIST IS RISEN!" En masse the crowd arose as one man and the response came crashing like the sound of thunder: "HE IS RISEN INDEED!"

I say to you this morning: CHRIST IS RISEN! (congregational response should be: HE IS RISEN INDEED!). I am convinced! I have faith that Christ was dead and he was buried. That I believe. But, this too I accept as true: He rose from the dead and will come again in glory.

This is Easter. And to stand here on this day in this pulpit and proclaim this word. . . I cannot begin to tell you how this defines all that I am.

But, you will say to me, how do you know that the resurrection is real? How do you know that it is really valid?... 
Christ is Alive!
He has Risen Indeed!
He has Risen from the Dead, Hallelujah!
"I know that my Redeemer lives."  

If I were to change the end of that last statement by only two letters, a "th" for a "s" so it would be "I know that my Redeemer liveth," you have immediately thought of a song, perhaps the most famous Easter song of all time.  

What is it? . . . . Handel's "Messiah."

We may know nothing about George Frederic Handel, but we know the "Messiah" (1741).  

Oh, we may know that next door to where Handel lived and composed for 36 years almost three centuries ago, a more recent musician called home.  

George Frederic Handel lived at No.25 Brook Street, Mayfair, London (from 1723 to 1749).

His neighbor to the left, at No.23 Brook Street? Jimi Hendrix.  

Oh, we may be aware that most of the pieces Handel composed expressly for Christian worship no choir ever sings and no congregation ever hears. But we know the "Messiah."  

In the Victorian era, "Messiahs" performed at Hyde Park, London's Crystal Palace at its three yearly Handel Festivals had 3000 performers and tens of thousands in the audience. As the English music historian (Charles Burney) wrote even earlier of Handel's majestic "Messiah:" "It has fed the hungry, clothed the naked, fostered the orphan, and enriched succeeding managers off the oratorios, more than any single production in this or any other country." Some say it is the best known choral work in Western music.

 But as well as we think we know Handel's defining Easter sound, "The Messiah," do we really? 
 Ongoing Easter

Ongoing Easter gets us finally home at last, for life is not an endless circle but life is moving to an end point. The crowning achievement of the risen Lord is to bring us finally home together with the whole family of God in that transition from time into eternity. It is a great privilege to witness that transition in the lives of people and I think of one this Easter day. Her name was Augusta. She lived 100 years, raised in the prairies of South Dakota, faced every manner of hardship and heartache, but was buoyant and lived on the resurrection side of the cross, raised a family. In the last hour of her life standing with her daughters around her in the hospital room, I heard her bless her daughters. Being a mother to the very end and with a twinkle in her eye, looked at the faces of her daughters around her and pointed to them each one and said, "Too much lipstick," and then closed her eyes in peaceful death.

That is the goal toward which the ongoing Easter draws us and transforms our dark, gloomy mornings into a shining doxology. We say with all the faithful of all of the ages, blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. By His great mercy, we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to an inheritance that is imperishable, unfailing and undefiled, kept in heaven for you. Though you must go through various trials, all this is so that your faith may redound to the praise, glory and honor of Jesus Christ. Without having seen Him, we love Him, and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. The outcome of your faith is the salvation of your souls. 

F. Dean Lueking, Ongoing Easter
Recently, Billy Graham responded to someone who shouted out "God is dead! God is dead!" Dr. Graham with tenderness replied, "That's strange because I just talked to Him in prayer a few minutes ago." Yes, the day you believe in the resurrection is the day you change the universe, and most importantly, you can reflect that transforming truth.

Eric S. Ritz,

 The Legend of the Touchstone

Do you remember the Legend of the Touchstone? It's a great story to recall on Easter Sunday morning. According to that ancient legend, if you could find the touchstone on the coast of the Black Sea and hold it in your hand, everything you touched would turn to gold. You could recognize the touchstone by its warmth. The other stones would feel cold, but when you picked up the touchstone, it would turn warm in your hand.

Once a man sold everything he had and went to the coast of the Black Sea in search of the touchstone. He began immediately to walk along the shoreline picking up one stone after another in his diligent and intentional search for the touchstone. He was consumed with this dream. He wanted desperately to find this miraculous stone. However, after several days had passed, he suddenly realized that he was picking up the same stones again and again. So he devised a plan... pick up a stone; if it's cold, throw it into the sea. This he did for weeks and weeks.

Then one morning he went out to continue his search for the touchstone. He picked up a stone; it was cold... he threw it into the sea. He picked up another stone - cold! He threw it into the sea. He picked up another stone... it turned warm in his hand, and before he realized what he was doing... he threw it into the sea!

That's a good parable for Easter, isn't it? Because that can so easily happen to us. We can come upon a miraculous moment like Easter... we can feel it turn warm in our hands... but then (so dulled by the routine) before we realize what we are doing... we throw it away. Absentmindedly, mechanically, nonchalantly... we toss it aside and miss the miracle of Easter.

James W. Moore, Lenten Series on Mark,
Humor: The Gospel Has Been Proclaimed

A first year student in a Catholic seminary was told by the dean that he should plan to preach the sermon in chapel the following day. He had never preached a sermon before, he was nervous and afraid, and he stayed up all night, but in the morning, he didn't have a sermon. He stood in the pulpit, looked out at his classmates and said "Do you know what I am going to say?" All of them shook their heads "no" and he said "Neither do I. The service has ended. Go in peace."

The dean was not happy. "I'll give you another chance tomorrow, and you had better have a sermon." Again he stayed up all night; and again he couldn't come up with a sermon. Next morning, he stood in the pulpit and asked "Do you know what I am going to say?" The students all nodded their heads "yes." "Then there is no reason to tell you" he said. "The service has ended. Go in peace."

Now the dean was angry. "I'll give you one more chance; if you don't have a sermon tomorrow, you will be asked to leave the seminary." Again, no sermon came. He stood in the pulpit the next day and asked "Do you know what I am going to say?" Half of the students nodded "yes" and the other half shook their heads "no." The student preacher then announced "Those who know, tell those who don't know. The service has ended. Go in peace."

The seminary dean walked over to the student, put his arm over the student's shoulders, and said "Those who know, tell those who don't know. Today, the gospel has been proclaimed."
Steven Molin, Four Truths and a Lie
 More Hope than We Can Handle 

Earlier this week, an old couple received a phone call from their son who lives far away. The son said he was sorry, but he wouldn't be able to come for a visit over the holidays after all. "The grandkids say hello." They assured him that they understood, but when they hung up the phone they didn't dare look at each other.

Earlier this week, a woman was called into her supervisor's office to hear that times are hard for the company and they had to let her go. "So sorry." She cleaned out her desk, packed away her hopes for getting ahead, and wondered what she would tell her kids.

Earlier this week, someone received terrible news from a physician. Someone else 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 ever ready to encounter Easter until he or she has spent time in the dark place where hope cannot be seen. Easter is the last thing we are expecting. And that is why it terrifies us. This day is not about bunnies, springtime and girls in cute new dresses. It's about more hope than we can handle.

Craig Barnes, Savior at Large, article in The Christian Century, March 13-20, 2002 p. 16.
 Yes, There Is Hope
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: Is there any hope?

Bill Self, Is There Any Hope?  
 Graveyard Wreaths 

If you had been living in the Roman Empire in the first century, you would have noticed a strange custom practiced by the Christians. They would go out to their graveyards with laurel wreaths, the wreaths that had been used in Greek and Roman culture to crown the victors of athletic contests. They would take those laurel wreaths and place them on the graves. If you had asked them why, they would say, "Because we believe that in Jesus Christ we have received victory over the power of death."

Mark Trotter, Collected Sermons,
I've Peeked at the Back of the Book

A new pastor was visiting one of his church members who was in the hospital. The pastor was a young man, fresh out of seminary and still wet behind the ears as a minister. He was visiting this elderly man named Joe, and Joe was extremely ill. He wanted to talk to his pastor about his funeral service and the pastor wanted to talk about anything else - the weather, football, politics, or anything else he could think of.

Finally, the pastor asked, "Joe, doesn't it bother you? Aren't you frightened?" Joe smiled and said, "Preacher, I know I'm not going to make it, but I'm not afraid. I have a confession to make. I've taken a peek at the back of the book."

"What do you mean?" the minister asked.

Joe said, "You didn't know me 10 years ago when I had my first heart attack. They called it cardiac arrest. I can remember the medical team thinking I was dead. I can also remember the tremendous feeling of being surrounded by God's love. I was revived by the doctors, but ever since that day I have been unafraid to die. I've been there and it doesn't frighten me. I know that one day soon I am going to go to sleep and I believe that when I awaken, I will, once again, be surrounded by God's love."

This is the message of the first Easter and every Easter since. The tomb is empty. Christ is risen. Jesus is alive. And because of this, we too, shall live!

Robert L. Allen, His Finest Days: Ten Sermons for Holy Week and the Easter Season, CSS Publishing Company

An Enormous Answer

John Dunne writes of the impact of the resurrection upon humankind: "The Resurrection is an enormous answer to the problem of death. The idea is that the Christian goes with Christ through death to everlasting life. Death becomes an event, like birth, that is lived through."

What a magnificent statement of faith. Death is merely another event in the ongoing process of life--something one lives through with Christ. The resurrection of Jesus reinforces these words from The Wisdom of Solomon: "The souls of the just are in God's hand, and torment shall not touch them...they are at peace."

Frank Lyman, April Sky   

From Fr. Tony Kadavil:

Introduction:   Significance of Easter: Easter is the greatest and the most important feast in the Church for three reasons: 1) The resurrection of Christ is the basis of our Christian faith.  It is the greatest of the miracles, for it proves that Jesus is God.  That is why St. Paul writes: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain; and your faith is in vain” (I Cor 15: 14). “Jesus is Lord, he is risen” (Rom 10: 9), was the central theme of the kerygma (or 'preaching'), of the Apostles because Jesus prophesied His Resurrection as a sign of His Divinity:  “Tear down this temple and in three days I will build it again” (Jn 2: 19). The founder of no other religion has an empty tomb as Jesus has.  2)  Easter is the guarantee of our own resurrection.  Jesus assured Martha at the tomb of Lazarus: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me will live even though he dies” (Jn 11: 25-26). 3) Easter is a feast which gives us hope and encouragement in this world of pain, sorrows and tears.  It reminds us that life is worth living.  It is our belief in the Real Presence of the Risen Jesus in our souls, in His Church, in the Blessed Sacrament and in Heaven that gives meaning to our personal as well as our communal prayer, strength to fight against temptations and freedom from unnecessary worries and fears.  
Life Messages:

1) Let us live the lives of Resurrection people:  Easter gives us the joyful message that we are a “Resurrection people.”  This means that we are not supposed to lie buried in the tomb of our sins, evil habits, dangerous addictions, despair, discouragement or doubts.   Instead, we are expected to live a joyful and peaceful life, constantly experiencing the living presence of the Risen Lord in all the events of our lives and amid the boredom, suffering, pain and tensions of our day-to-day life.  2) We need to live new, disciplined lives in the Risen Jesus. Our awareness of the all-pervading presence of the Risen Lord in and around us, and the strong conviction of our own resurrection, help us to control our thoughts, desires, words and behavior.  This salutary thought inspires us to honor our bodies, keeping them holy, pure and free from evil habits and addictions. Our conviction about the presence of the Risen Lord in our neighbors and in all those with whom we come into contact should encourage us to respect them and to render them loving, humble and selfless service. 3) We need to become transparent Christians: We are called to be transparent Christians, showing others through our lives the love, mercy, compassion and spirit of self-sacrificing service of the Risen Jesus living in our hearts.  4) We need to live lives of love in the power of Jesus’ Resurrection: Each time we try to practice Christian charity, mercy and forgiveness and each time we fight against temptations, let us recall that we share in the Resurrection of Jesus here and now. 
Anecdote: 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.
Significance of Easter: Easter is the greatest and the most important feast in the Church. It marks the birthday of our eternal hope.  "Easter" literally means "the feast of fresh flowers."  We celebrate it with pride and jubilation for three reasons: 

1) The resurrection of Christ is the basis of our Christian Faith.  The Resurrection is the greatest of the miracles -- it proves that Jesus is God.  That is why St. Paul writes:  “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain; and your faith is in vain…  And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is a delusion and you are still lost in your sins…  But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (I Cor 15: 14, 17, 20).  If Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, then the Church is a fraud, and faith is a sham. But if He really did rise from the dead, His message is true! Without the Resurrection, Jesus would have remained forever a good person who had met a tragic end.  People would remember some of his teachings, and a handful of people might try to live according to them. All the basic doctrines of Christianity are founded on the truth of the Resurrection.  “Jesus is Lord; He is risen” (Rom 10: 9) was the central theme of the kerygma (or "preaching"), of the Apostles.     In fact, the seventeenth-century philosopher, John Locke, some of whose ideas were incorporated into the Declaration of Independence, wrote, "Our Savior’s Resurrection is truly of great importance in Christianity, so great that His being or not being the Messiah stands or falls with it." 
2)  Easter is the guarantee of our own resurrection.  Jesus assured Martha at the tomb of Lazarus: “I am the Resurrection and the life; whoever believes in Me will live even though he dies” (Jn 11: 25-26).  Christ will raise us up on the last day, but it is also true, in a sense, that we have already risen with Christ.  By virtue of the Holy Spirit, our Christian life is already a participation in the death and Resurrection of Christ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1002, 1003).
3) Easter is a feast which gives us hope and encouragement in this world of pain, sorrows and tears.  It reminds us that life is worth living.  It is our belief in the Real Presence of the Risen Jesus in our souls, in His Church, in the Blessed Sacrament and in Heaven that gives meaning to our personal, as well as to our common, prayers.   Our trust in the all-pervading presence of the Risen Lord gives us strength to fight against temptations and freedom from unnecessary worries and fears.  The prayer of St. Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland, reads: “Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ within me, never to part.”
Reasons why we believe in the resurrection of Jesus
(1) Jesus himself testified to His Resurrection from the dead (Mark 8:31; Matthew 17:22; Luke 9:22).
(2) The tomb was empty on Easter Sunday (Luke 24:3). Although the guards claimed (Matthew 28:13) that the disciples of Jesus had stolen the body, every sensible Jew knew that it was impossible for the terrified disciples of Jesus to steal the body of Jesus from a tomb guarded by an armed, 16-member Temple Guard detachment.
(3) The initial disbelief of Jesus’ own disciples in His Resurrection, in spite of His repeated apparitions.  This serves as a strong proof of His resurrection. It explains why the Apostles started preaching the Risen Christ only after receiving the anointing of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.
(4)  The transformation of Jesus’ disciples: The disciples of Jesus were almost immediately transformed from men who were hopeless and fearful after the crucifixion (Luke 24:21, John 20:19) into men who were confident and bold witnesses of the resurrection (Acts 2:24, 3:15, 4:2).
(5) The Jews and the Romans could not disprove Jesus’ Resurrection by presenting the dead body of Jesus.
(6) The Apostles and early Christians would not have faced martyrdom if they were not absolutely sure of Jesus’ Resurrection.
(7)  The Apostle Paul’s conversion from a persecutor of Christians and his zealous preaching of Jesus support the truth of Jesus’ Resurrection (Galatians 1:11-17, Acts 9:1,  Acts 9:24-25,  Acts 26:15-18).
(8) The sheer existence of a thriving, empire-conquering early Christian Church, bravely facing and surviving three centuries of persecution, supports the truth of the Resurrection claim.
(9) The New Testament witnesses do not bear the stamp of dupes or deceivers. The Apostles and the early Christians were absolutely sure about the Resurrection of Jesus. Anglican bishop and New Testament scholar N.T. Wright has commented incisively that if Jesus had not been raised bodily from the dead, Christianity would never have survived as a Messianic movement. Wright says that the clearest indication to a first-century Jew that someone was not the Messiah would be his death at the hands of the enemies of Israel. That the Church of Christ endured as a Messianic religion is possible only on the assumption that the Crucified One was, nevertheless, objectively alive.


The Resurrection of Jesus had certain special features. First, Jesus prophesied it as a sign of His Divinity:  “Tear down this temple and in three days I will build it again” (Jn 2: 19).  Second, the founder of no other religion has an empty tomb as Jesus has.  We see the fulfillment of Christ's promise on the empty cross and in the empty tomb. The angel said to the women at Jesus’ tomb: “Why are you looking among the dead for one who is alive?  He is not here: he has been raised” (Luke 24: 5-6).  The third special feature is the initial disbelief of Jesus’ own disciples in His Resurrection, in spite of His repeated apparitions.  This serves as a strong proof of His Resurrection. It explains why the Apostles started preaching the Risen Christ only after receiving the anointing of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.  Proclamation and witness-bearing are the main themes of today’s readings. In the first reading, St. Peter shares his own experience of Christ’s Resurrection and its joy with the newly baptized members of Cornelius’ family. In the second reading, St. Paul, converted on the Damascus Road by Jesus from a persecuting Pharisee into a zealous apostle of Jesus, urges his converts to live the new life in the risen Christ to which they were raised by their conversion in order to share in the glory of Christ on His return. Today’s Gospel explains the empty-tomb-resurrection-experience of Mary Magdalene, Peter and John. Mary Magdalene proclaims her personal experience: “I have seen the Lord.”
Life messages:

1) We are to be Resurrection people:  Easter, the feast of the Resurrection, gives us the joyful message that we are a “Resurrection people.”  This means that we are not supposed to lie buried in the tomb of our sins, evil habits and dangerous addictions.  It gives us the Good News that no tomb can hold us down anymore - not the tomb of despair, discouragement or doubt, nor that of death.  Instead, we are expected to live a joyful and peaceful life, constantly experiencing the real presence of the Risen Lord in all the events of our lives.  “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad” (Psalm 118:24).
2) We need to seek our peace and joy in the Risen Jesus:  The living presence of the Risen Lord gives us lasting peace and celestial joy in the face of the boredom, suffering, pain and tensions of our day-to-day life.  “Peace be with you!” was His salutation to His disciples at all post-Resurrection appearances.  For the true Christian,  every day must be  an Easter Day, lived joyfully in the close company of the Risen Lord.
3) We are to be transparent Christians: We are called to be transparent Christians, showing others, through our lives of love, mercy, compassion and self-sacrificing service, that the Risen Jesus is living in our hearts.  

4) We need to live new, disciplined lives in the Risen Jesus:  Our awareness of the all-pervading presence of the Risen Lord in and around us, and the strong conviction of our own coming resurrection, help us control our thoughts, desires, words and behavior.  This salutary thought inspires us to honor our bodies, keeping them holy, pure and free from evil habits and addictions. Our conviction about the presence of the risen Lord in our neighbors, and in all those with whom we come into contact, should encourage us to respect them, and to render them loving, humble and selfless service. 
5) We need to remember Easter in our Good Fridays:  Easter reminds us that every Good Friday in our lives will have an Easter Sunday and that Jesus will let us share the power of His Resurrection.  Each time we display our love of others, we share in the Resurrection.  Each time we face a betrayal of trust, we share in the Resurrection of Jesus.  Each time we fail in our attempts to ward off temptations – but keep on trying to overcome them – we share in the Resurrection.  Each time we continue to hope – even when our hope seems unanswered – we share in the power of Jesus’ Resurrection.  In short, the message of Easter is that nothing can destroy us – not pain, sin, rejection nor death – because Christ has conquered all these, and we too can conquer them if we put our faith in Him.  
6) We are to be bearers of the Good News of Resurrection power. Resurrection is Good News, but at the same time, it’s sometimes painful because it involves death. Before the power of the Resurrection can take hold in our own lives, we’re called to die to sin, to die to self. We may even have to die to our own dreams, so that God can do what He wants to do with our lives. Resurrection is about seeing our world in a new way. Early that Easter morning, Mary did not find what she was looking for, the dead body of Jesus. But she found something better than she could have imagined: the Risen Jesus. Sometimes, the things we think we want most are not granted to us.  What we get instead is an experience of God’s new ways of working in the world. That’s the power of the Resurrection. When those moments come, we must spread the news--just as Mary did: We have seen the Lord!