Easter Sunday – A Celebration of Renewal! Br. Michael Marshall, Novice

First Reading – Acts 10:43A, 37-43

Peter proceeded to speak and said:
“You know what has happened all over Judea,
beginning in Galilee after the baptism
that John preached,
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth
with the Holy Spirit and power.
He went about doing good
and healing all those oppressed by the devil,
for God was with him.
We are witnesses of all that he did
both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem.
They put him to death by hanging him on a tree.
This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible,
not to all the people, but to us,
the witnesses chosen by God in advance,
who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
He commissioned us to preach to the people
and testify that he is the one appointed by God
as judge of the living and the dead.
To him all the prophets bear witness,
that everyone who believes in him
will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Israel say,
“His mercy endures forever.”

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.“The right hand of the LORD has struck with power;
the right hand of the LORD is exalted.
I shall not die, but live,
and declare the works of the LORD.”

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.

The stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the LORD has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes.

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.

 Second Reading – 1 Corinthians 5:6B-8

Brothers and sisters:
Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough?
Clear out the old yeast,
so that you may become a fresh batch of dough,
inasmuch as you are unleavened.
For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed.
Therefore, let us celebrate the feast,
not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness,
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Sequence — Victimae Paschali Laudes

Christians, to the Paschal Victim
Offer your thankful praises!
A Lamb the sheep redeems;
Christ, who only is sinless,
Reconciles sinners to the Father.
Death and life have contended in that combat stupendous:
The Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal.
Speak, Mary, declaring
What you saw, wayfaring.
“The tomb of Christ, who is living,
The glory of Jesus’ resurrection;
bright angels attesting,
The shroud and napkin resting.
Yes, Christ my hope is arisen;
to Galilee he goes before you.”
Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining.
Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!
Amen. Alleluia.

Gospel – Matthew28:1-10

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning,
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.
And behold, there was a great earthquake;
for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven,
approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it.
His appearance was like lightning
and his clothing was white as snow.
The guards were shaken with fear of him
and became like dead men.
Then the angel said to the women in reply,
“Do not be afraid!
I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified.
He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said.
Come and see the place where he lay.
Then go quickly and tell his disciples,
‘He has been raised from the dead,
and he is going before you to Galilee;
there you will see him.’
Behold, I have told you.”
Then they went away quickly from the tomb,
fearful yet overjoyed,
and ran to announce this to his disciples.
And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them.
They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage.
Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid.
Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee,
and there they will see me.”

What is Easter all about?  Yes, it is a celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus after the gory death on the Cross… BUT what is it COMPLETELY all about?  In the secular world, it is a day of the Easter Bunny bringing a basket of goodies and egg hunts; which these things relate to other things taking place around the time of Easter.  Think about how Easter takes place in spring, and various plants are beginning to bloom after a long winter; as well as many animals come out of hibernation, and some produce more offspring.  It is a day of renewal or rebirth.  Some people may see the day of rebirth as a coincidence or scientific thing because the celebration occurs on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox; therefore presenting the case that it obviously is a time of things returning back to life.  Essentially all of these things of the secular world are on target with what Easter is REALLY all about.  I mentioned that it is a day of renewal or rebirth, BUT the Resurrection is a celebration of spiritual renewal to preach God’s love!

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus preaches about His death and resurrection as being a new beginning, because He tells his followers and the religious leaders many times that the “temple” will be rebuilt three days after it has been destroyed.  In the Gospel passage from Matthew for today, we see that Jesus speaks with Mary and Mary Magdalene after the Resurrection, and instructs them to tell the others that He will soon meet them in Galilee.  Which then this leads us to the passage from First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles, in which Peter instructs the apostles and other followers of Jesus as to what they have been called to do.  Peter says, “He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead.  To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”  Instead of the Resurrection being a “The End” to the ministry of Jesus, it essentially became a renewal because it was now the mission of the apostles to continue the preaching of God’s love.

We see in the Second Reading from the First Letter to the Corinthians that Paul is also preaching about renewal and a fresh start through the image of yeast eventually losing the ability to make dough rise, therefore old yeast has to be replaced with new yeast.  He is instructing the Corinthian community that in order to continue to do ministry within the community, a spiritual renewal is necessary.

So, just as Paul is instructing the Corinthians that renewal is necessary, we need to remind ourselves that Easter is a celebration of renewal for us today.  We can look at the children enjoying themselves while hunting for eggs and appreciate the plants that have come back to life, but we need to remember that this is a time to renew our spirituality in order to spread the message of Jesus Christ.  Everybody needs some renewal in their life… nobody is exempt!  Easter is this celebration and reminder to help us grow!

Now unfortunately, recent tragic events have taken place around the world.  People are being killed by government leaders in the Middle East, Christians are being persecuted and killed for senseless reasons, and unfortunate military action has become the response to these tragic events.  The whole point of Easter is missing from this picture! All of this conflict and persecution are the complete opposite of God’s love.  Therefore we need to take the opportunity of renewal and be like Peter; recognizing that we have been commissioned to preach God’s love, with the hope that God’s love will prevail over conflict.  It is not an easy task, but one which needs done!

Heavenly Father, as we celebrate the Resurrection, may we be reminded that it is a celebration of spiritual renewal in order for us to spread the Gospel; which is the message of Your love.  This we ask through Christ, Our Lord.  Amen.

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