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Easter Sunday (C) 04-08-07

Scripture Readings
First Acts 10:34a, 37-47
Second Colossians 3:1-4
Gospel John 20:1-9

Prepared by: Br. James Cuddy, O.P.

1. Subject Matter
• Christ’s victory over death opens for us the way to eternal life (Opening Prayer).
• Thanksgiving to our Paschal Victim, the Lamb of God who has redeemed the lost sheep (cf.
Sequence Victimae Paschali Laudes)
• Rebirth and renewal of baptismal graces

2. Exegetical Notes
• The scene at the empty tomb is the second pairing of Peter and the disciple whom Jesus
loved in the Fourth Gospel (cf. 13:21-30). “The full range of discipleship has been embodied
by Peter: confession of faith, misunderstanding and misplaced enthusiasm, denial. The
disciple whom Jesus loved is singularly identified with the events of Jesus’ hour” (G.R.
O’Day, NIB Commentary, Vol. 9).
• The initial confusion on the lips of Mary Magdalene is resolved gradually: first the stone has
been removed, then the discovery of the burial cloths, then the witness of the empty tomb.
• “The cloth that had covered his head” (v. 7): The word soudarion is also used in the
description of Lazarus’ burial garb (cf. 11:44). But when Lazarus emerges from the tomb, he
is still wrapped in the cloth; he needs Jesus’ command (“Untie him and let him go.”) to break
the bonds of death. Christ needs no such command.
• The presence of the cloths suggests that the body was not stolen, since robbers would not
have reason to remove them.
• Luke also uses the word soudarion to describe the cloth in which the wicked servant buries
the master’s gold coin in the ground.
• To this point, these three disciples have not encountered the Risen Christ; they have only
seen that he is no longer there. The Beloved Disciple “saw and believed” (v. 8) without an
overwhelming amount of evidence. While there may be much more to come (post-
resurrection meetings, Ascension, Pentecost), the empty tomb is enough for this disciple to
believe that Christ had conquered death.

3. References to the Catechism of the Catholic Church


• CCC 640: “‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.’ The
first element we encounter in the framework of the Easter events is the empty tomb. In itself it
is not a direct proof of Resurrection; the absence of Christ's body from the tomb could be
explained otherwise. Nonetheless the empty tomb was still an essential sign for all. Its
discovery by the disciples was the first step toward recognizing the very fact of the
Resurrection. This was the case, first with the holy women, and then with Peter. The disciple
‘whom Jesus loved’ affirmed that when he entered the empty tomb and discovered ‘the linen
cloths lying there’, ‘he saw and believed’. This suggests that he realized from the empty
tomb's condition that the absence of Jesus’ body could not have been of human doing and
that Jesus had not simply returned to earthly life as had been the case with Lazarus.”
• CCC 655: “Christ's Resurrection - and the risen Christ himself is the principle and source of
our future resurrection: ‘Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who
have fallen asleep . . . For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.’ The
risen Christ lives in the hearts of his faithful while they await that fulfillment. In Christ,
Christians “have tasted . . . the powers of the age to come” and their lives are swept up by
Christ into the heart of divine life, so that they may ‘live no longer for themselves but for him
who for their sake died and was raised.’”
• CCC 1002: “Christ will raise us up ‘on the last day’; but it is also true that, in a certain way,
we have already risen with Christ. For, by virtue of the Holy Spirit, Christian life is already
now on earth a participation in the death and Resurrection of Christ: ‘And you were buried
with him in Baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of
God, who raised him from the dead . . . If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the
things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.’
• CCC 1003: “United with Christ by Baptism, believers already truly participate in the heavenly
life of the risen Christ, but this life remains ‘hidden with Christ in God.’ The Father has
already ‘raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ
Jesus.’ Nourished with his body in the Eucharist, we already belong to the Body of Christ.
When we rise on the last day we ‘also will appear with him in glory.’”
• CCC 793: “Christ unites us with his Passover: all his members must strive to resemble him,
‘until Christ be formed’ in them. ‘For this reason we . . . are taken up into the mysteries of his
life, . . . associated with his sufferings as the body with its head, suffering with him, that with
him we may be glorified.’”
• CCC 1225: “In his Passover Christ opened to all men the fountain of Baptism. He had
already spoken of his Passion, which he was about to suffer in Jerusalem, as a "Baptism"
with which he had to be baptized.22 The blood and water that flowed from the pierced side of
the crucified Jesus are types of Baptism and the Eucharist, the sacraments of new life.23
From then on, it is possible "to be born of water and the Spirit"24 in order to enter the
Kingdom of God.
• CCC 1681: “The Christian meaning of death is revealed in the light of the Paschal mystery of
the death and resurrection of Christ in whom resides our only hope. The Christian who dies
in Christ Jesus is ‘away from the body and at home with the Lord.’”
• CCC 1067: “‘The wonderful works of God among the people of the Old Testament were but a
prelude to the work of Christ the Lord in redeeming mankind and giving perfect glory to God.
He accomplished this work principally by the Paschal mystery of his blessed Passion,
Resurrection from the dead, and glorious Ascension, whereby ‘dying he destroyed our death,
rising he restored our life.’ For it was from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death
upon the cross that there came forth ‘the wondrous sacrament of the whole Church.’ For this
reason, the Church celebrates in the liturgy above all the Paschal mystery by which Christ
accomplished the work of our salvation.”
• CCC 1068: “It is the Paschal mystery of Christ that the Church proclaims and celebrates in
her liturgy so that the faithful may live from it and bear witness to it in the world.”
• CCC 1340: “By celebrating the Last Supper with his apostles in the course of the Passover
meal, Jesus gave the Jewish Passover its definitive meaning. Jesus’ passing over to his
father by his death and Resurrection, the new Passover, is anticipated in the Supper and
celebrated in the Eucharist, which fulfills the Jewish Passover and anticipates the final
Passover of the Church in the glory of the kingdom.”
ABOUT THE EUCHARIST: THE SACRIFICAL MEMORIAL OF CHRIST’S PASSOVER
• CCC 1362: “The Eucharist is the memorial of Christ’s Passover, the making present and the
sacramental offering of his unique sacrifice, in the liturgy of the Church which is his Body. In
all the Eucharistic Prayers we find after the words of institution a prayer called the anamnesis
or memorial.”
• CCC 1364: “In the New Testament, the memorial takes on new meaning. When the Church
celebrates the Eucharist, she commemorates Christ’s Passover, and it is made present the
sacrifice Christ offered once for all on the cross remains ever present. ‘As often as the
sacrifice of the Cross by which ‘Christ our Pasch has been sacrificed’ is celebrated on the
altar, the work of our redemption is carried out.’”
• CCC 1365: “Because it is the memorial of Christ’s Passover, the Eucharist is also a sacrifice.
The sacrificial character of the Eucharist is manifested in the very words of institution: ‘This is
my body which is given for you’ and ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the New
Covenant in my blood.’ In the Eucharist Christ gives us the very body which he gave up for
us on the cross, the very blood which he ‘poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’”
• CCC 1366: “The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the
sacrifice of the cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit”
• CCC 1367: “The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice:
‘The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who
then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.’ ‘And since in this
divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in
a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner
. . . this sacrifice is truly propitiatory.’”
4. Patristic Commentary
• St. John Chrysostom: “Let us celebrate this greatest and most shining feast with joy, and in
equal measure with devotion. For the Lord has risen, and together with him he has raised the
whole world . . . Consider how great a gift this is and treasure the greatness of the gift!”
• St. Ambrose: “See where you are baptized, see where Baptism comes from, if not from the
cross of Christ, from his death. There is the whole mystery: he died for you. In him you are
redeemed, in him you are saved.”
• St. Thomas Aquinas: His passion and death were on display for all to see. Why should his
Resurrection have been manifested to only a few? Some divinely revealed things are
manifest immediately by God to higher persons. “His Resurrection was not manifested to
everyone, but to some, by whose testimony it could be brought to the knowledge of others.”
• St. Thomas Aquinas: Because the women whose love for our Lord was more persistent – so
much so that when even the disciples withdrew from the sepulcher, they did not depart – they
were the first to see Him rising in glory.

5. Examples from the Saints and Other Exemplars


• St. John Vianney: “Let us, therefore, dear brethren, celebrate this Easter festival with glad,
jubilant hearts. Let us, at the empty grave of the Redeemer, the Prince of Peace, extend to
one another the hand of pardon. He calls to us indeed: Peace be unto you! Let us break the
bonds of sin, let us live in God, let us swear fidelity anew today to the victorious flag of Jesus
Christ, let us stand fast in the faith! Then, yes then, we shall one day arise gloriously. We
shall be transformed, and we shall possess the kingdom which has been prepared for us
from the beginning. God grant it!”
• John Paul II: “We turn to you, Mary Magdalene, who, kneeling at the foot of the Cross kissed
the feet of the dying Christ. Moved by love, you hurried to the tomb and found it empty . . .
Rejoice, Mary of Magdala! Rejoice, Peter and John! Rejoice, O Church, for the tomb is
empty. Christ is risen! Where they had placed him there are only the linen cloths and the
shroud in which they had wrapped him on Good Friday. Proclaim with us and with the whole
of humanity: ‘Surrexit Christus spes mea – Surrexit Christus spes nostra!’”
• John Paul II: “On this radiant day, the Church sings with faith and joy: ‘Christ, my hope, has
risen!’ Yes, Christ has risen, and with him has risen our hope! Alleluia!”
• Christoph Cardinal Schönborn: “Our faith is without foundation if Christ died but did not rise
again. If Christ remained in death, then his Cross was a senselessly cruel death that has
redeemed us from nothing. Our love would have been directed toward a dead man, a corpse,
and our faith would be the remembrance of a man from the past, but not of him who has said:
“I am with you always, to the close of the age.” We could place our hope in this life alone and
would have to say: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
• Hans Urs von Balthasar: “On the basis of the grace of the Resurrection, there is the Church’s
faith, the faith of Mary; there is prayer at the grave, the faithful watching and waiting. It is a
lightly built bridge, and yet it suffices to carry us. What it spans, however, is not some
indifferent medium but the void of everlasting death.”
6. Quotations from Pope Benedict XVI
• “His resurrection becomes our resurrection, through baptism, which incorporates us into
him. Today the Creator’s promise is fulfilled. Today, even in this modern age marked by
anxiety and uncertainty, we relive the event of the Resurrection, which changed the face of
our life and changed the history of humanity. From the risen Christ, all those who are still
oppressed by chains of suffering and death look for hope, sometimes even without knowing
it.”
• “The Resurrection is not a thing of the past. The Resurrection has reached us and seized us.
We grasp hold of it, we grasp hold of the risen Lord, and we know that he holds us firmly
even when our hands grow weak. We grasp hold of his hand, and thus we also hold on to
one another’s hands, and we become one single subject. If we live in this way, we transform
the world. It is a formula contrary to all ideologies of violence. It is a program opposed to
corruption and to the desire for power and possession.”
• “What would it mean in Easter, the Resurrection of Jesus, had not taken place? If there were
no Resurrection, the story of Jesus would have ended with Good Friday. . . . But that would
mean that God does not take initiatives in history, that he is either unable or unwilling to
touch the world of ours, our human living and dying. And that in turn would mean that love is
futile, nugatory, an empty and vain promise . . . All this makes clear what Easter does mean.
God has acted. History does not go on aimlessly.”
• “Easter is not only a story to be told: it is a signpost on life’s way. It is not an account of a
miracle that happened a very long time ago: it is the breakthrough which has determined the
meaning of all history. If we grasp this, we too, today, can utter the Easter greeting with
undiminished joy: Christ is risen; yes, he has risen indeed!”
• “The Resurrection of Jesus gives us the certainty that God exists and that, as Father of
Jesus Christ, he is a God of human beings. The Resurrection of Jesus is the definitive
theophany and the triumphant answer to the question of which really reigns: death or life.
God exists: that is the real meaning of Easter. Anyone who even begins to grasp what that
means also knows what it means to be redeemed.”
• “In the Resurrection of Christ, it is not just the destiny of an individual that is called to mind.
He is now perpetually present, because he lives, and he gathers us up, so that we may live.
In the light of Easter, Christians see themselves as people who truly live. They have found
their way out of an existence that is more death than life. They have discovered real life.”

7. Other Considerations
• The season of Lent is filled with constant calls to repentance and return to the Lord. It is
through Christ’s Passover, celebrated today, that we are reconciled to the Father. “God, the
Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to
himself . . .” (cf. CCC 1449).
• Sacrosanctum Concilium 2: “For it is in the liturgy, especially in the divine sacrifice of the
Eucharist, that ‘the work of our redemption is accomplished,’ and it is through the liturgy
especially that the faithful are enabled to express in their lives and manifest to others the
mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church. (cf. CCC 1068, above)
Recommended Resources
Benedict XVI. Benedictus: Day by Day with Pope Benedict XVI. Yonkers, NY: Magnificat, 2006.
The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers. M.F. Toal, Editor. Swedesboro: Preservation Press,
1996.
Von Balthasar, Hans Urs. You Crown the Year with Your Goodness. San Francisco: Ignatius
Press, 1989.