Acts 10, 34.37-43
Then Peter addressed them, 'I now really understand', he said, 'that God has no favourites,
You know what happened all over Judaea, how Jesus of Nazareth began in Galilee, after John had been preaching baptism.
God had anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and because God was with him, Jesus went about doing good and curing all who had fallen into the power of the devil.
Now we are witnesses to everything he did throughout the countryside of Judaea and in Jerusalem itself: and they killed him by hanging him on a tree,
yet on the third day God raised him to life and allowed him to be seen,
not by the whole people but only by certain witnesses that God had chosen beforehand. Now we are those witnesses -- we have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection from the dead-
and he has ordered us to proclaim this to his people and to bear witness that God has appointed him to judge everyone, alive or dead.
It is to him that all the prophets bear this witness: that all who believe in Jesus will have their sins forgiven through his name.'
Eternal is the mercy of the Lord.
Give thanks to the Lord for he is good,
for his love endures for ever.
Let the sons of Israel say :
'His love endures for ever.'
Let the sons of Aaron say :
'His love endures for ever.'
Let those who fear the Lord say :
'His love endures for ever.'
I called the Lord in my distress;
he answered and feed me.
The Lord is at my side; I do not fear.
What can man do against m?
The Lord is at my side as my helper:
I shall look down on my foes.
It is better to take refuge in the lord
than to trust in men:
It is better to take refuge in the lord
than to trust in prices.
The nations all encompassed me;
in the lord's name I crushed them.
They compassed me, compassed me about;
in the Lord's name I crushed them.
They compassed me about like bees;
they blazed like a fire among thorns.
In the Lord's name I crushed them.
I was thrust down, thrust down and falling
but the Lord was my helper.
The Lord is my strength and my song;
he was my saviour.
There are shouts of joy and victory
in the tents of the just.
The Lord's right hand has triumphed;
his right hand raised me.
The Lord's right hand had triumphed;
I shall not die, I shall live
and recount his deed.
I was punished, I was punished by the Lord,
but not doomed to die.
Open to me the gates of holiness :
I will enter and give thanks.
This is the Lord's own gates
where the just may enter.
I will thank you for you have answered
and you are my saviour.
The stone which the builders rejected
has become the corner stone.
This is the work of the Lord,
a marvel in our eyes.
This day was made by the Lord;
we rejoice and are glad.
O Lord, grant us salvation;
O Lord, grant success.
Blessed in the name of the Lord
is he who comes
We bless you from the house of the Lord;
the Lord God is our light.
Go forward in procession with branches
even to the altar.
You are my God, I thank you.
My God, I praise you.
Give thanks to the Lord for he is good;
for his love endures forever.
Colossians 3, 1-4
Since you have been raised up to be with Christ, you must look for the things that are above, where Christ is, sitting at God's right hand.
Let your thoughts be on things above, not on the things that are on the earth,
because you have died, and now the life you have is hidden with Christ in God.
But when Christ is revealed -- and he is your life-you, too, will be revealed with him in glory.
Reading of the Gospel
John 20, 1-9
It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb
and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. 'They have taken the Lord out of the tomb,' she said, 'and we don't know where they have put him.'
So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb.
They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in.
Simon Peter, following him, also came up, went into the tomb, saw the linen cloths lying on the ground
and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself.
Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed.
Till this moment they had still not understood the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
We reached Easter after having followed Jesus through the last days of his life. Last Sunday we joyfully waved our palm branches to welcome him as he entered Jerusalem. We then followed him through the last three days: he welcomed us in the upper room with a yearning desire for friendship so great that he lowered himself to wash our feet and give himself as bread that is ""broken"" and blood that is ""poured out."" Then he wanted us to be with him in the Garden of Olives when sadness and anguish oppressed his heart so much that he sweated blood. His need for friendship, more pressing than ever, was not understood; his three closest friends first fell asleep and then abandoned him like everyone else. The next day we find him on the cross, alone and naked. The guards had stripped him of his tunic and yet, in reality, he had already stripped himself of life. He truly gave all of himself for our salvation. The Sabbath was a sad and empty day for us, too. Jesus was on the other side of the heavy stone. And yet, even while lifeless, he continued to give of his life by ""descending into hell,"" that is, to the lowest possible place. He wanted to carry his solidarity with humanity to its furthest limit.
The Gospel of Easter begins at this furthest point, in the darkness of night. The evangelist John writes that ""it was still dark"" when Mary Magdalene came to the tomb. It was dark outside, but it was even darker in Mary’s heart (as in the hearts of all those who loved the prophet who ""had done everything well""). It was dark because she had lost the one person who had understood her: not only had he told her what was in her heart, but more importantly he had freed her from what had oppressed her more than everything else - Luke writes that she was freed from seven demons. It was with a sad heart that Mary came to the tomb. Perhaps she was thinking about the last few days before the Passion, when she dried Jesus’ feet after having anointed them with precious ointment, and the few but intense years during which she had spent with the prophet.
Jesus’ friendship is always fascinating; we might say that it is impossible to follow him from a distance, as Peter did over the last few days. The moment always comes when we must settle our accounts and choose a definitive relationship with Jesus. Jesus’ friendship is a friendship that leads people to think of others more than themselves, as Jesus himself said: ""No one has a greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends"" (Jn 15:13). Mary Magdalene experienced this personally that morning when it was still dark. Her friend had died because he had loved her and all of the disciples, including Judas.
As soon as she reaches the tomb Mary sees that the stone that covered the entrance - a slab as heavy as death and loss always are - has been rolled away. She does not even go in. She immediately runs to Peter and John and breathlessly cries out ""They have taken the Lord out of the tomb."" They do not even want him dead, she thinks, and sadly adds: ""We do not know where they have laid him."" Mary’s sadness at the loss of the dead body of the Lord is the opposite of our coldness and forgetfulness of the living Jesus. Today this woman is a great example for all believers and for each one of us. The risen Lord can only be encountered by those who have her feelings in their hearts.
It was Mary and her desperation, in fact, that moved Peter and the disciple whom Jesus’ loved. They immediately ran to the empty tomb. After having begun to follow the Lord together during his Passion (Jn 18:15-16), even if from afar, they now find themselves ""running together"" to be closer to him. Their running expresses well the eagerness of every disciple, of every community, that searches for the Lord. Maybe we need to start running again. Our going has become too slow, perhaps because we are weighed down by our love for ourselves and our fear of slipping and losing something of ourselves. Perhaps we move slowly because we are afraid of having to get rid of our old, fossilized habits. We need to try to run again; we need to leave behind the upper room and its closed doors and run towards the Lord. Part of Easter is about hurrying. The disciple of love reached the tomb first: love makes people run faster. But Peter’s slower pace also got the apostle to the threshold of the tomb, and they both went in. Peter went in first, and he saw that everything was in perfect order: the linen wrappings were lying in their place, emptied of Jesus’ body, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head was ""rolled up in a place by itself."" The body had neither been touched nor stolen: it was as if Jesus had freed himself. No one had to undo his wrappings as they had done for Lazarus. The other disciple came in and ""saw"" the same scene. ""He saw and believed,"" the evangelist notes. The two disciples found themselves in front of the signs of the resurrection, and they let their hearts be touched.
As yet the evangelist writes, they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. This is often the story of our lives, lives with no resurrection or Easter, resigned in the face of the great pain and tragedy of humanity and closed in by the sadness of our habits. Easter has come, the heavy stone has been rolled away, and the tomb has been opened. The Lord has defeated death and lives forever. We can no longer stay closed, as if the Gospel of the resurrection had never been communicated to us. The Gospel is resurrection and rebirth to new life. And it needs to be shouted from the roof tops and communicated to people’s hearts in order to open them to the Lord. This Easter cannot pass in vain; it cannot be an unchanging rite that we grow weary of repeating every year. Easter needs to change the heart and life of every disciple, of every Christian community. And this means throwing open the doors to the Risen One who is coming among us, as we will read over the next few days in the accounts of his appearances to the disciples. Jesus places the breath of resurrection in the heart of every man and woman and infuses it with the energy of peace and the power of the Spirit that renews all things. The apostle Paul writes: For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:3). Our life is tied up with the risen Jesus and made a part of his victory over death and evil. And the whole world, with all of its pain and expectations, will enter into our hearts alongside the Risen One. Jesus shows us the wounds of his body just as he showed them to the disciples, so that we will work with him in creating a new heaven and a new earth, where there will no longer be mourning nor tears, nor death, nor sadness, because God will be all in all.