Regrettably, I didn’t have time to write a post about the Easter Vigil celebrated on Saturday evening. It is the central liturgy of the whole year. I hope I’ll be able to write something in time for next year’s vigil. But now, as the Sunday comes to a close, hear are some thoughts about the scriptures for the Mass for daytime Sunday.
The first reading — Acts 10:34a, 37-43 — is taken from a sermon by Peter in the house of a gentile centurion named Cornelius. Up to this point, Jesus’ followers were all Jews. But now a series of visions had caused Cornelius to send for Peter and Peter to accept Cornelius’ request that Peter visit him. Peter was speaking to a number of Cornelius’ friends and relatives. He gives a synopsis of Jesus’ ministry and then testifies to his death and resurrection and to his status as judge of the living and dead and to the forgiveness of sins which comes to believers through Jesus. Following this passage, we are told that the Holy Spirit fell on those listening to Peter, and ordered that they be baptized. This definitively marks the admission of uncircumcised gentiles into the Church.
The passage witnesses to us of the belief in the resurrection and Lordship of Jesus already present in the early days of the Church.
The responsorial psalm — Ps 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23, with verse 24 as the refrain — contains verses used to support the idea that one rejected by the authorities could be the Messiah: “the stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.” This was read as a prophecy of Jesus’ Lordship, and t must be God’s doing. The resurrection is a powerful act by God, one which ultimately promises us life. Our response is to recognize the day of the resurrection, and by extension, every Sunday — which is our holy day because it commemorates the resurrection of Jesus — as “the day the Lord has made,” a day for rejoicing.
There are alternative second readings.
Colossians 3:1-4 refers to its hearers as having died and having been raised with Christ, which happens in baptism. This sharing in the death and resurrection of Jesus has consequences: we should care more about the things of heaven, our ultimate destiny, that about those of this earthly existence.
1 Corinthians 5:6b-8 spells out the consequences more specifically. Using the metaphor of the Jewish Passover rule of removing all yeast from the house in advance of the holy days (so that they would eat only unleavened bread), Paul calls on his hearers to remove malice and wickedness from their lives, which are now a perpetual Passover marked by sincerity and truth, with Christ as the paschal lamb.
In Jesus’ time, belief in a resurrection at the end of time was common among Jews other than the Sadducees, but it was not easy for Jesus’ disciples to grasp the concept of a resurrection happening before then. That is why the final verse of the gospel — John 20:1-9 — tells us that “they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” We see a similar incomprehension in the other gospels when Jesus predicts his passion and resurrection. This is the beginning of John’s account of Jesus’ appearances after his resurrection. At first, Mary Magdalen seems to suspect tat the empty tomb was the work of grave robbers, but John comes to believe that Jesus was raised. The appearances of Jesus will make it clear to them all.
Jesus, our Paschal Lamb is risen and shares his life with us.
Our celebration of the Lord’s resurrection will continue through the fifty days of the Easter Season to Pentecost. as we hear the gospel accounts of his appearances after his resurrection and consider the meaning of our participation in his life.