Easter Sunday – Year B
April 4, 2021 – 10:30 AM
Saint Cecilia Catholic Community
Deacon Sharon Kay Talley
Acts 10:34A;37-43 | Psalm 118:1-2;16-17;22-23
Colossian 3:1-4 | John 20:1-9
+In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Today, we sang one of everyone’s favorite hymns written by Charles Wesley in the 1700s, “Jesus Christ is risen today. Alleluia. Love’s redeeming work is done. Alleluia.” I sang this hymn every Easter as a Presbyterian when I was a child; as an Episcopalian, and now as a Catholic.
Today is the greatest of all Sundays for all Christians as it offers hope and peace for everyone with the fulfillment of God’s promise: the triumph of good over evil and God’s plan for our salvation.
So what difference does Easter make in your life? Well, it made quite a difference to a woman named Mary.
Here is her story as told by Dr. Ralph Wilson:
Mary had the heart-wrenching honor of washing the dried blood from Jesus’ lifeless body as two other followers prepared the tomb cut into Jerusalem’s cold limestone. Mary wept as she washed…wept and remembered.
She had been born to luxury, heiress to a textile fortune, a native of Magdala, a town along the coast of Galilee. “Little good it did me,” she mused. Money had brought the opposite of happiness. She looked back at her teen years as a blur of painful compulsive acting out. Her parents had thrown up their hands in despair, she recalled. She recollected the gnawing fear, the self-loathing that ate at her very core, and she could remember the caring boldness in Jesus’ penetrating eyes as He had confronted the demons that tormented her and commanded them to be gone forever. That had been the last of the frantic, distraught Mary. A gentle, peace-filled Mary had taken her place. Until today.
Today, she had seen her Lord die an excruciating death, His bodyweight hanging limp from the nails driven through His hands and feet, suspended from a cross like a common criminal.
Her heart caught in her throat as she remembered and wept and washed away the caked blood “with her tears”. She wept too, as she watched the men lift Jesus’ corpse onto the tomb’s carved ledge, and roll a massive stone across the doorway.
Was all her hope for nothing? What of all the thousands of diseased bodies He had healed? The broken lives He had restored? The promises of the Kingdom of God?
But early Sunday morning, she was back at the tomb to finish anointing His body. When she arrived, the tomb stood open, stone pushed to the side, ashes of the Roman guards’ watchfire still smoldering. “How can they be so cruel?” she cried out as she ran to tell the apostles.
But it wasn’t cruelty that rolled away the stone that Easter morning. It was the powerful hand of God. Jesus Christ stepped forth brimming with Life.
Mary saw Him, mistaking Him for the gardener. But there was no mistaking His familiar voice, “Mary.” She fell at His feet, tears of grief melting into tears of joy. “Rabboni” she said as she looked at His face, “Teacher.”
In an instant, history changed forever because Jesus, the Savior of humanity, stepped out of dead statistics into life. Death is no longer the last word for followers of Jesus, life is.
In our first reading today from Acts, Peter is speaking to a household of Gentiles in Judea. A Roman centurion in the capital city of Caesarea Martima has brought in friends and family to hear from Peter, a leader of a new religious group. The Roman centurion knows about the prophets and events surrounding Jesus; ministry and crucifixion but wants to know about the resurrection and God’s plan for forgiveness of sins. But before Peter finishes speaking, the Holy Spirit emerges and the church begins with followers of Jesus throughout the world.
Today’s second reading from First Corinthians has Paul dealing with the issue of factionalism in the Corinthian church. He addresses the spiritual immaturity of its members since they are not focused on God’s plan for them: forgiveness of sins and eternal life in heaven.
In today’s Gospel from John, we learn that Jesus has left all His “worldly” things: the linen cloth in which He was buried behind when He was resurrected. In order for us to be saved like Jesus, we must be ready to leave behind all our vain things to which we are strongly attached. The law of gravity teaches us that in order for one to rise up, one cannot have any weights pulling us back down.
It should be noted that in each of the four Gospels, Jesus’ empty tomb was first discovered by women. What makes this so notable is that in first-century Jewish society, women could not serve as legal witnesses. In today’s Gospel from John, the only woman attending the tomb is Mary of Magdala. And unlike the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, John’s Gospel does not describe angels at the tomb. Some scholars believe that when Mary encounters Jesus, she believes He is the gardener and assumes that Jesus’ body has been removed. She does not consider that Jesus has been raised from the dead.
According to these scholars, when Mary returns to the tomb with Simon Peter, the disciples do not yet understand the Resurrection. It is only after several appearances to them later that they come to believe in Jesus’ Resurrection.
The significance of Easter is Jesus’ triumph over death. His resurrection means eternal life is given to all who believe in Him. His Resurrection provided proof that He really is the Son of God and that He had overcome death for our salvation.
This is the core of our Christian faith. The Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth affirms that He is the prophesied Messiah of Israel and the King of heaven and earth.
So what does Jesus want from us? The answer to that question depends on where you are in your life. If you do not have a relationship with Jesus already, that is your first step. The next thing Jesus wants from you is for you to love your neighbor as yourself, or to love all people of all races, all sexual orientations, all measures of wealth, all levels of education, social status. And God wants us to pray and ask for help and He will grant us wisdom and something that cannot be explained: His peace.
Let us pray.
Heavenly Lord, today we remembered
the veil of darkness
transforming to the brightest light.
The most dreadful end
becoming the most beautiful beginning.
We remember with trembling hearts
the depths of despair
fading to reveal hope everlasting.
The curse of death
defeated by eternal life.
Today we remember with thankfulness
your willingness to be pierced for our sins.
We sing with abounding joy
of your miraculous rise
from death’s tomb to resplendent life.
Thank you for the promise of heaven
and your generous invitation of eternal life.