First Reading Acts 10:34, 37–43
Psalm Psalm 118:1–2, 16–17, 22–23
Second Reading 1 Corinthians 5:6–8
Gospel Mark 16:1–7
Psalm 118:1–2, 16–17, 22–23
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his steadfast love endures forever!
Let Israel say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
the right hand of the Lord is exalted;
the right hand of the Lord does valiantly.”
I shall not die, but I shall live,
and recount the deeds of the Lord.
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
Reading the Word
Acts 10:34, 37–43
Peter began to speak to them: “That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
1 Corinthians 5:6–8
Do you not know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”
Hearing the Word
Easter Sunday is the “Sunday of Sundays”. Focused fully on the resurrection of Jesus, today’s liturgy celebrates the most important event in human history and the beginning of the new creation.
Peter’s speech in the first reading comes from the Acts of the Apostles. It was delivered in the house of Cornelius, a Roman officer from the town of Caesarea. Even though Cornelius was not a Jew, the Scripture describes him as “a devout man who feared God with all his household; he gave alms generously to the people and prayed constantly to God” (Acts 10:2). This was a man who sought the true God, without knowing exactly whom and what he was seeking. His prayers and devout life eventually led to a vision in which he was commanded to invite Peter, a man he did not know, into his house (Acts 10:1-8). In the meantime, Peter also had a puzzling vision which he did not understand at the time (Acts 10:9-17). When Peter and Cornelius eventually met, the meaning of their respective visions became clear and their meeting changed the course of Christian history. Both understood that God intends for the Gospel to spread beyond the Jewish people and be addressed to the Gentiles, with the offer of full membership in the community of God’s people. It was an offer of salvation.
In his short speech to the household of Cornelius, Peter first outlined what Jesus did during his public ministry in Galilee. He summarized Jesus’ mission in two phrases saying that Jesus went around “doing good” and “healing all who were oppressed by the devil”. The first phrase directly links Jesus’ work with creation of the world. Everything God created is described by the creator himself as “good” (cf. Gen 1:10.12). By freeing the possessed from the power of the devil Jesus restored them to God and to the community, reinstating them to their right place in God’s creation. Already during his Galilean ministry Jesus made the world as it should be.
Peter followed this with the proclamation of Jesus’ death and resurrection. He testified that the resurrection really happened by alluding to Jesus’ appearances, which he and other disciples witnessed. This proclamation of the foundations of the Christian faith is known as kerygma. In his resurrection Jesus conquered death. The defeat of death was yet another act of restoration of the world because death was not originally a part of it. Death entered the world through human sin. Conquering death, Jesus overcame the effects of sin. Peter emphasized that in his speech, stating that “everyone who believes in him [Jesus] receives forgiveness of sins”. Thanks to the resurrection, the believer receives forgiveness of sin and is thus restored to the right place in creation. Through Jesus, God ensured that his creation would be re-made into what God intended it to be. For this reason, “God was with him” and “raised him on the third day”. The apostles became privileged witnesses to his resurrection in order to carry the message of restoration and salvation to the whole world. Cornelius and his household believed the message and were baptized. They became a part of the world re-created by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, a part of the new creation.
Writing to the Corinthians, Paul attempted to deal with numerous problems in the life of the young community. Moral delinquency among its members was one of them. Apparently, one of the Christians there was living in an incestuous relationship with his mother, enjoying the quiet approval of other community members (cf. 1 Cor 5:1-5). Addressing the issue Paul uses the language drawn from the observance of the Jewish Passover feast. To commemorate the Exodus from Egypt, the Israelites were required to remove all yeast from their households and eat only the unleavened bread for seven days before the feast (Exod 13:7). In Paul’s view, his Christians were cleansed from the polluting yeast and became like the unleavened bread – cleansed and united with their Lord. Metaphorically, their life becomes an ongoing Passover celebration of Jesus’ sacrificial death as the paschal lamb. However, their lives can truly be this on-going Passover only if they clean all the “old yeast”, that is immorality, malice and evil out from their midst. Paul is concerned that the Corinthians live their life as a “new batch” – a new creation cleansed from the polluting effects of sin and living in harmony with God in “true righteousness and holiness” (cf. Eph 4:24). We must remember, that such life was made possible only because Jesus is the paschal lamb, slaughtered but made alive by God with the intent of restoring his creation through the defeat of sin and death.
The Gospel passage from Mark reports the scene at the empty tomb. We read it last in today’s sequence of reading. Even though read last, this passage lays the foundation for the other two readings. The evangelist briefly describes what happened on that “first day of the week”. This, in fact, was the day of new creation. Even though “the sun had risen”, the women approaching the tomb of Jesus were still in the night. They came concerned with death, their intention was to anoint the dead body. Their only preoccupation was the very large stone which blocked the tomb. Mark highlights the size of the stone to emphasize that human power alone could not move it.
As they approached the tomb, the women found that somebody else had already accomplished what they could not. The stone had been moved. Then they encountered a messenger who announced to them that the dead man they sought, Jesus, no longer rests among the dead, he has been raised! Moreover, the risen Jesus wants the disciples to return to Galilee to meet him there. This surprising command is very significant. It means that the disciples are now to begin their life of discipleship anew, this time following not Jesus of Nazareth who died, but the risen Lord who will walk with them into the future. Their life of discipleship is now to be lived following the risen Lord with the full knowledge of what God had done through him. This is the beginning of the new discipleship, indeed the beginning of the new creation and of the Christian faith.
Since that first Easter the Risen Jesus continues to walk with every believer towards the fullness of the new creation. Through the work of Peter and other apostles this new creation was extended to include those who were not a part of the Israelite community. Paul reminds his Corinthians that they are now a part of this new creation and as a result, live by different standards than the rest of the society. Mark sees the resurrection of Jesus as a new dawn for creation and humanity. It is the beginning of the journey to Galilee to meet the Risen Lord, which symbolically means journey towards the heavenly home. All this is possible only because Jesus is truly risen! On such a day, what other words can be uttered but the words of the psalm: “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!”
Listening to the Word of God
When the pipe that brings water to our homes bursts, we instinctively think of a plumber. When a piece of furniture breaks, we think of a carpenter. When the heel of a shoe twists, we think of a cobbler. A “culture of maintenance” ensures that properties are not left to perish.
Well said, but then when we are knocked down by sin and evil, who should we turn to for restoration? When something goes wrong with us spiritually, who should we cry to? When creation falls apart who can restore it? When we seek a response to these questions, we are led to appreciate on a deeper level what the resurrection of Jesus means for humanity and the whole of creation. In the person of Jesus, we contemplate God’s way of restoring a fractured creation.
In recounting the public ministry of Jesus to Cornelius, Peter laid particular emphasis on the mission of Jesus to restore creation. According to Peter, the mission of Jesus was characterised by “doing good” and “healing all who were oppressed by the devil”. This salvific act of Christ is replicated by persons who accept the gift of new life. In other words, after I have experienced the goodness of Christ and I have been healed by him, I express goodness and bring healing to others. By so doing the principle of restoration and renewal is made operative in our world. As more hearts and lives are renewed, the whole of creation is renewed and restored. When we wholeheartedly receive the new life Christ offers us and tangibly express it in our lives, we have a positive impact on others. Conversely, when our lives are corrupted, we impact negatively on our environment and the people we live with.
The best proof of the resurrection of Jesus is the new life of those who profess faith in him. A transformed life speaks more powerfully than a thousand sermons. For example, when people see us extending love to people and walking in the footsteps of Christ, their consciences are awakened to the truth of the Gospel.
A new life, however, does not happen by chance; neither is it offered on a silver platter. A new life starts with dying to the old self. There is an African proverb which says, “A snake makes itself beautiful by shedding off its skin.” It can be a painful process when one has to shed off an old way of life. It is often characterised by letting go of certain behaviours that bring fleeting pleasures and immediate gratification and accepting a life of faith characterised by a lot of challenges. However, such a move is necessary if we aspire to live a new life.
Ultimately, a new life is exemplified by discipleship. When Christ restores us, he calls us to share his life and be part of him. Thus, in the Gospel, Jesus sent a message to his disciples via the women that he was going ahead of them to Galilee. Cornelius and his household would respond to the proclamation of the Gospel by accepting baptism, an expression of their readiness to share in the life and mission of Christ.
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is a definitive response to creation that has been stung by the bee of corruption. Jesus has accomplished what humanly speaking is impossible, namely, the cure of sin and the giving of life to our mortal bodies. In celebrating the resurrection of Christ, we celebrate the virtue of hope because now in Christ, we can face every challenge that comes our way including the reality of death itself.
“A snake makes itself beautiful by shedding off its skin.”
In what ways does my life attract others to follow Christ?
What are some behaviours or attitudes that might raise doubts in people’s minds about the truth of the Christian faith?
Response to God
With a contrite heart, I surrender to God that area of my life where the old yeast of corruption has tainted, and I open myself up for healing.
Response to your World
I will define one concrete way in which I can help someone to come to a better and fuller life.
As a group we determine what can we do in our environment that will show our care for God’s creation and help to restore the natural environment.
Eternal Father, the resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ fills us with joy and the hope of new life. Now, in Christ, we have come to believe that it is you and not death that has the final word. May the graces you shower on us daily make us true disciples of Christ. Amen
Scripture quotations from New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, © 1989, 1993. Used with permission.