Sunday Sermon for April 21, 2019, Easter Sunday, Year C
Readings: Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Col 3:1-4; Jn 20:1-9
Today we celebrate the most important day in the Church’s year. We know our Lord told His disciples that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and so enter into His glory. St. Peter speaks of this in the first reading and also says: “They put Him to death by hanging Him on a tree.” The work of the Christ took place on the Cross. We recognize Jesus as the Christ throughout the entirety of His life, but in reality, He demonstrated He was the Christ not through His teachings or His miracles, but by dying on the Cross for us.
As important as this is, we could also say the two thieves crucified with Jesus were put to death on a cross as well. Of course, neither of them claimed to be the Christ. In the Acts of the Apostles, Rabbi Gamaliel speaks to the Sanhedrin, and identifies other Jewish leaders who claimed to be the Messiah. He reminds the Elders of Israel that these men were killed and their followers scattered.
This is not what happened when Jesus was crucified. St. Peter tells the crowd gathered in Jerusalem: “This man God raised from the dead 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.” Peter spoke these words fifty days after our Lord’s resurrection, but in the Gospel reading today Peter and John enter the Lord’s tomb and saw the burial cloths and the cloth that had covered our Lord’s head rolled up in a separate place. St. John tells us they did not as yet understand the Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.
We recall the conversation that took place later on Easter Sunday when Jesus walked with two of His disciples on the road to Emmaus. When Jesus acted like He was unaware of what had occurred in Jerusalem, the disciples said they were hoping He was the one. Based on their conversation they had given up that hope, even after they were told Jesus had risen from the dead and had appeared to some of the Apostles.
Among those in Israel, there was great confusion about what the Messiah was to do. The Prophets, especially Isaiah, teach with great clarity about the sufferings of the Messiah. However, in their humanness the Jewish people ignored those passages and focused instead on the passages that speak of the glory of the Messiah. Yes, He had to suffer and die before He could enter into His glory, as St. Peter said, but they did not yet understand what this meant.
The work of the Messiah may have been done on the Cross, but just going to the Cross and dying was not enough. Jesus rose from the dead glorious. He entered into the realm of death on Good Friday, but He destroyed the power of death on Easter Sunday. St. John proclaimed that when he saw the cloth that had covered our Lord’s head, he believed. Did he believe in the resurrection? Did he believe in Jesus as the Messiah? Did he believe in Jesus as the Son of God?
St. John does not make clear what he believed at that moment, but we know he believed all of these doctrines and taught them to others. The resurrection changed the lives of the Apostles forever. They had been faithful Jews, but now they found their lives were hidden with Christ in God, as St. Paul says in the second reading. Their faith was no longer in only the objective truths God had revealed to the Jewish people. They still believed all these objective doctrines, but now their faith was in the Person of Jesus. As were members of the Body of Christ their lives were hidden in Christ so Jesus could live in and through them.
You too were baptized into Jesus, into His death and resurrection. Your life, too, is hidden with Christ in God. The questions we have to ask are similar to our questions about the Apostles. Do we believe in Jesus? Do we believe in His death and resurrection? Do we believe He is the Christ? Do we believe He is the Son of God? Do we believe we receive forgiveness of sins through His Name? All these, and the other objective truths the Church teaches are essential.
However, like the Apostles, if our life is hidden with Christ in God, do I have faith in the Person of Jesus and do I have a relationship with Him? Do I let Him live in me and through me? If the answer to these questions is “yes,” then rejoice and be glad, for you too will appear with Him in glory! Alleluia!
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.