Easter Sunday
March 31, 2024 – 10:30 AM
Saint Cecilia Catholic Community
Rev. David Justin Lynch
Acts 10:34A;37-42 | Psalm 118:1-2;16-17;22-23
Colossians 3:1-4 | John 20:1-9

+In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, AMEN.

Because I am a Priest, one of the questions I am frequently asked, both in person and online, is did a dead Jesus really wake up and walk out of his tomb? The physical world secular answer to that question is NO. In the overly rational secular world, once you’re dead, you’re dead. There is no waking up from death. Since most people today allow the physical world to define reality, that is a tough question indeed. The way I usually respond to that question is, “I really don’t know. I wasn’t there.”

Like so much about God, the Resurrection of Jesus is a mystery. How the resurrection happened is truly unknowable. The unfathomable character of the Resurrection, as perceived by the human mind, creates the impossibility of depicting it.

That is why there is an absence of any depiction of the actual moment of resurrection in traditional iconography.  Indeed, the Bible does not tell us explicitly that a dead and buried Jesus stood up and walked out of the tomb.

Yet, people saw visions of Jesus after he had died. What Jesus did was to assume a new reality. Jesus exchanged a physical reality for a spiritual reality. Jesus arose to a new and different kind of life.  The resurrection tests our faith, that is, our trust in God. In today’s Gospel, compare the Apostle Mary Magdalene and the Apostles Peter to John. The first two merely saw the absence of Jesus; John, however, “saw and believed.” That is, John experienced and trusted the reality of a new Jesus.
In the new reality of Jesus, humanity experiences hope, renewal, and redemption. That new reality is the triumph and joy of Easter.

Easter is the triumph of life over death. The resurrection of Jesus signifies that death is not the end but rather a passage to eternal life for everyone. Easter demonstrates the power of God to conquer death and offers hope to humanity for redemption and new life. By rising from the dead, Jesus not only validates his divine nature but also reveals the promise of resurrection to all of humanity. God is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living. As Jesus told Mary and Martha at the grave of Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live.”

What does it mean to “believe in Jesus?” The word “believe” in the Bible means more than simply agreeing in our minds that something might be true.

Here’s an example. Suppose you were walking along a path and you came to a bridge which crossed a deep canyon. You might look at it and believe that it would hold you, and you might even see other people walking across it so you know it would hold your weight. But so far, your “belief” in the bridge is only in your head. When do you really believe the bridge will hold you? You only really believe it when you are willing to commit your life to it and actually walk across it.  

To believe in Jesus is to commit your life by trusting him personally to be your Lord and Savior by following his teachings as summarized in the Two Great Commandments, to love God, and to love your neighbor.

Easter is the triumph of good over evil. On the Feast of the Resurrection, we celebrate the victory of God’s goodness, love, and grace over the powers of sin.

On Good Friday, Jesus was condemned to death and did in fact die despite his innocence.   You will recall that Pontius Pilate told the chief priests and the crowd that he found no fault in Jesus.  To help her husband not to have a hand in the plot to kill Jesus, Pilate’s wife sent a message to him as he was sitting on the judgment seat, saying, “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.” Even Judas, his betrayer, thought likewise when he said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” Thus, on the day Jesus was resurrected, nobody could resist what God had planned to do for His Son: raise Him from the dead. Good must always triumph over evil.

Easter is the triumph of light over darkness. Here at Saint Cecilia’s, unlike many contemporary churches, we use black on Good Friday to contrast with the white we display on Easter. In the Western Rite liturgical color scheme, black is the color of evil, of sin, and of death, all the opposites of while symbolizing the light of goodness, of virtue, and life. Jesus is the light shining in darkness, which has not, cannot, and will not be overcome by that light which is Jesus.

The darkness of arrogance endangers our relationships with God and each other, along with the darknesses of self-righteousness, greed, hypocrisy, bitterness, unforgiveness and revenge. But at Easter, Jesus steps onto the human stage as the self-identified Light of the World, proclaiming, “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but have the light of life.”

Today’s Gospel shows a transition from darkness to light. the disciples witness the empty tomb. Mary arrives “early in the morning, while it was still dark.” At this point all Mary Magdalene can see is the stone having been rolled back. It is too dark to see into the tomb. Darkness has enveloped the disciples in sorrow and fear. The loss of Jesus filled them with grief. They were confused, lost and alone. They were in the dark.  By the time Mary Magdalene returns with Peter and the beloved disciple, the light of day has dawned. The new light of morning fills the sky. The light allows them to see into the tomb. They see the burial cloths. The beloved disciple John sees the empty tomb, the burial cloths. John sees and believes.

On Easter Sunday, we celebrate the promise of salvation and eternal life through the resurrection of Jesus. Easter offers all humanity an eternal life of forgiveness, reconciliation, and the possibility of new beginnings. Easter comes in the early Spring, when the flowers come out of the ground and the trees start to bloom. Spring and Easter go together as a season of new beginnings.

That is what Easter eggs symbolize. Eggs appear lifeless, but spring open bursting with new life.  The lily is another common Easter symbol. A dry and lifeless-looking bulb blossoms into one of the most beautiful flowers on earth. Another symbol of the Resurrection comes from Greek mythology. The phoenix was a bird that fell to earth and burned, and yet from its ashes arose another bird. Jesus’ executioners destroyed his earthly life, but a new and more glorious life came through his resurrection.

That is what Easter is, a time of glorious new beginnings. That is the triumph and joy of Easter.

Easter is new life.

Easter is starting over.

Easter is a chance for renewal that enables us to approach our lives  with a positive attitude.

Easter gives us the opportunity to renew relationships that have gone astray or have been taken for granted.

Easter tells us to express appreciation and affection to those closest to us.

Easter means seeing the world through new eyes—God’s eyes, very different from human eyes.

God sees the world as his creation, filled with beauty, complexity, and purpose in the well-being and flourishing of all living beings.

God sees the world with a sense of purpose and intentionality, orchestrating the course of history and the lives of individuals to fulfill God’s overarching plan for creation.

God sees the world with deep empathy and care, longing for the well-being and spiritual growth of every individual.

God sees the world as God’s object of unconditional and inclusive love.  That is the triumph of Easter. That is the joy of Easter.