Sunday Sermon for March 31, 2024, Easter Sunday, Year B

Readings: Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Col 3:1-4; Jn 20:1-9

In the Gospel reading today, we hear about the Beloved Disciple of our Lord peering into the empty tomb of Jesus.  The Apostles had been told by Mary Magdalene that the Lord had been taken from the tomb, so Peter and the Beloved Disciple ran to the tomb to assess the situation.  Peter went into the tomb first and saw the burial cloths but when the Beloved Disciple entered and saw what the inside of the tomb looked like, we are told he believed. 

This is not a statement that he believed what Mary Magdalene had told them.  It was clear that the Body of our Lord was no longer present, but he believed that Jesus had risen from the dead.  St. John tells us that at that point they did not understand the Scripture that the Messiah had to rise from the dead.  We recall that Jesus had told them at the Transfiguration not to say anything until He had risen from the dead.  The three disciples, two of whom we at the tomb on Easter morning, discussed among themselves what it meant to rise from the dead. 

The idea of rising from the dead was not a novel concept to these Apostles, but from the time of the Transfiguration, through the other occasions when Jesus had told them of His pending Passion and resurrection, they had not come to any kind of clarity or understanding of what it meant to be raised from the dead.  However, on Easter morning, a grace must have been given to the Beloved Disciple who now believed what he had been unable to understand until that moment. 

A similar grace has been given to us in order to believe.  While we have much greater understanding after 2000 years of Saints and Church teaching about the resurrection, I don’t think any of us can claim true understanding of what it means.  This is especially true if we consider that none of us has any experience of someone who has risen from the dead.  Perhaps we know someone who was resuscitated or someone who has had a “near death experience,” but these people have not been resurrected.

But the fact is that each of us has had numerous experiences that correlate to the resurrection.  One, which is more indirect, we hear about in the first reading.  St. Peter tells us that everyone who believes in Jesus will receive forgiveness of sins through His Name.  Most of us have probably had the grave misfortune of falling into mortal sin.  As the title implies, there is a death that occurs when we commit such sins.  The life of God in our souls is lost, but when we receive absolution in confession that life of sanctifying grace is returned.  There is a death and resurrection of sorts that occurs in us.

However, every Christian person has undergone a spiritual death and resurrection through baptism.  While we have not experienced this in a physical way, every baptized person has entered into the death of our Lord and has been raised to new life in Christ.  This is because we are baptized into the Person of Jesus Christ and, thereby, we have become participants of everything that can be said of Jesus.  Remember, His work as the Christ, that is, as the Messiah, took place only in His death and resurrection.

The Church teaches us that each of us becomes an alter Christus, another Christ because we are members of the Christ.  This means we share in His divine nature and in His divine life.  It also means we have a share in the work of Jesus.  While we await the day that we will share physically in His death and resurrection, we continue His work of salvation and redemption through prayer and uniting our sufferings with His.

This provides a good opportunity for each of us to examine our own life and our dispositions.  Jesus has destroyed sin and death; He has revealed the resurrection.  This is the greatest event in human history and it is what defines us as Christian people.  In the second reading today, St. Paul reminds us that because we have been raised with Christ, we need to seek what is above where Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father. 

Are we truly seeking what is above, or is our focus on the things of this world?  Do we allow what we believe to play a major role in our lives, or is our faith limited to an hour on Sunday mornings?  The resurrection of Jesus from the dead changed the lives of His Apostles forever because they understood the implications for themselves and for others.  Jesus became their life.  Make Jesus your life, then when He appears, you will appear with Him in glory!

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