Sunday Scriptures — Sixth Sunday of Easter A, May 21, 2017

As Eastertide enters its last two weeks, the readings turn our attention toward the Holy Spirit.

The first reading — Acts 8:5-8, 14-17 — tells of the reception of the gospel in Samaria. Philip was one of the seven who were appointed to “wait on tables” to insure equity in the daily distribution, as we heard in last week’s first reading. In chapters 6 and 7 we hear of Stephen’s works, preaching, trial, and martyrdom. Now another deacon is preaching the gospel. Despite the reason behind their selection for ministry (with an installation which has marks of ordination), they cannot refrain from proclaiming the gospel.

Stephen’s activity was in Jerusalem, but Philip goes to Samaria. Up to this point, we have only heard of the Church in Jerusalem — the work and preaching of the Apostles there and the opposition from the Sanhedrin, culminating with the martyrdom of Stephen. Philip is the first to proclaim the gospel outside Jewish territory. The Church had to verify that this extension of the faith into foreign territory was authentic.

The apostles’ prayer brings the Holy Spirit manifestly upon the Samaritans. Although Baptism brings the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which Jesus promises, there was with Jesus and the early Church an empowering anointing by the Holy Spirit which believers received. We can see this as corresponding to Confirmation.

The responsorial psalm — verses of Psalm 66 — speaks generally of our joy in the goodness of the Lord. Our joy is based on the Resurrection of Jesus, with all it means. The response, extending the call for joy to all the earth, can remind us of the extension of the gospel beyond Judea.
In the second reading — 1 Peter 3:15-18 — there is a “stream of consciousness” which calls us to good conduct of various sorts and concludes with a reminder of Jesus’ saving work. This connects with the theme of the Holy Spirit in two ways. There is an explicit reference to the Spirit’s place in Jesus’ resurrected life. Beyond that, it is the Holy Spirit who empowers us to sanctify Christ, to give respectful explanations of our faith, and to keep our consciences clear by avoiding evil conduct and doing good.
The gospel — John 14:15-21— like last Sunday’s is an excerpt from Jesus’ discourse at the Last Supper. He is looking forward to the time after his ascension. He promises the sending of the Holy Spirit, here called Advocate and Spirit of truth. This promise was first fulfilled at Pentecost, again at Samaria and on other occasions recounted in Acts, and the Holy Spirit continues to be given to believers, to dwell in us.

Jesus then promises that his ascension will not leave us orphans: he will come to us. He will return at the end of time to gather those who love him to himself. It seems there is more to this promise than simply that. We will see him when the world no longer sees him. We see him in the sacrament of his Body and Blood. We see him in another way in the least of his brethren.

Next, Jesus tells us that he is in the Father and in us, and we are in him. Elsewhere he has told us the Father is also in him (John 14:10). Implicitly, then when we are in Jesus, we are also in the Father and the Father is in us — and as Jesus had just said, the Holy Spirit is in us. This reciprocal indwelling of the faithful and the Trinity is the form which our baptismal adoption takes. We participate in the life of God, which is eternal life.

An Italian Salesian daily missal I got many years ago draws this point out in a way that explains why Jesus’ command at 15:12 is not “Love your neighbor,” but “Love one another as I have loved you.” The love which exists among the followers of Jesus is of a higher order that that which can exist with non-believers, since it is a share in the internal love of the Persons of the Trinity. Nevertheless, we are also called to love all our fellow humans. It seems to me that this love is analogous to God’s love. The love of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was so great that it “had to” express itself in the creation of a loved universe, including humans with whom the love could be reciprocally shared. God loves all people and wants them to be saved, and the divine love in us must also overflow into to love for all and a desire for them to be saved. This love should motivate us as it motivated Philip’s preaching in Samaria. We should not neglect opportunities to explain the reason for our hope; and our lives — keeping Jesus’ commandments — should reflect God’s goodness.

Sunday Scriptures — Fifth Sunday of Easter A, May 14, 2017

The past three Sundays have given us readings from Acts and 1 Peter. Two of the gospels have been from John and one from Luke. The pattern continues, with some changes of scene.
In past weeks, we’ve been hearing from Peter’s speech to the crowd on Pentecost as recounted in Acts 2. This Sunday’s first reading — Acts 6:1-7 — takes us forward to the situation in which the first deacons were appointed to ensure fairness in “the daily distribution.” In the gospel we will hear Jesus tell us that he is the image of the Father. Here, the deacons become the image of Jesus, who came to serve, not to be served. This passage is an example for us. We too should be images of Jesus, and thus of the Father, by our service to others through performance of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. We should also note that it is a well ordered community that enables attracts others to the faith and experiences growth.
The responsorial psalm — verses of Psalm 33, with v. 22 as the refrain — calls us to trust in God, foreshadowing Jesus’ exhortation to the disciples to have faith in him.
In the second reading — 1 Peter 2:4-9 — we have a metaphor of stones. Christ is a living stone, and we too are to be living stones built into a “spiritual house,” the Church, with Jesus as the foundation. As parts of the Church, we are not inert. Being living stones, we are to be a priesthood, offering sacrifices to God. Of course the most important sacrifice is the one in which we join with the Church as the Church unites with Jesus in offering the sacrifice of Calvary. Beyond that, through Christ we can offer our personal sacrifices to the Father by enduring sufferings and obeying God’s will as we understand it.
The gospel — John 14:1-12 — presents a scene at the Last Supper. First, Jesus promises that he will prepare a place for the disciples (and us) in his Father’s house and he will take us there. He tells Thomas that he is the only way to the Father, the truth, and the (eternal) life. He assures Philip that his identification with the Father is so close that to see him is the same as seeing the Father.

Although Jesus is the sole way to the Father, we are told in Matthew 25:31-46 that explicit faith in him is not required. Works of mercy toward his least brothers are sufficient.

The Father is in Jesus and Jesus in the Father, so that he is the image of the Father. In the same way, the parable of the vine and the branches, John 15:1-10, tells that Jesus is in us and we are in Jesus, which makes us images of him and, by extension, of the Father, which is what imposes on us the duty of loving one another and letting our love overflow in service to our neighbors.

Sunday Scriptures — Fourth Sunday of Easter A, May 7, 2017

As I wrote last year, “In all three years of the lectionary cycle, the Fourth Sunday of Easter is “Good Shepherd Sunday.” The opening prayer of the Mass (the same all three years) prays that the flock may follow where the shepherd has led, namely, to heaven. Each year’s gospel is taken from chapter 10 of the Gospel of John, in which Jesus calls himself both the gate of the sheepfold and the good shepherd.: Year A, verses 1-10; Year B, 11-18; and Year C, 27-30. The first two readings do not directly relate to the theme of the sheep and the shepherd. The title of Good Shepherd was popular with early Christians. Images of the shepherd with the sheep on his shoulders (Luke 15:5) were common as depictions of Jesus, and the logo for the current Jubilee Year of Mercy develops the image, substituting a human for the sheep.”

 

The first reading — Acts 2:14a, 36-41 — gives the conclusion of Peter’s address to the people on Pentecost. Peter’s testimony proves persuasive and the hearers come to faith. The first thing for a believer is to be baptized. We learn two things about the effects of baptism. It brings forgiveness of sins and confers the Holy Spirit. Peter follows this with an indication that the salvation Jesus brings extends beyond the people of Israel: it will include Gentiles. The remainder of the Book of Acts will tell the story of the work of the apostles, including Paul, in spreading the gospel to Jews and Gentiles.

 

The responsorial psalm — Ps 23 with the first verse as the refrain — is the Good Shepherd psalm, anticipating the gospel reading.

 

The second reading — 1 Peter 2:20b-25 — tells of Jesus’ patient acceptance of his sufferings and death. This is an example for us: we are called to accept suffering which comes to us as a consequence of our good lives. But more fundamentally, Jesus’ suffering and death, patiently borne, have freed us from our sins — the forgiveness which we receive at baptism, as we heard in the first reading, as well as access to forgiveness of sins committed after baptism. The reading concludes with another foreshadowing of the Good Shepherd theme.

 

The image of the shepherd is familiar from many passages of scripture: King David had been a shepherd; psalms refer to God as shepherd of Israel and the psalmist’s shepherd; Ezekiel tells of God describing himself as a shepherd who judges between sheep, much like the king in Jesus’ parable of the judgment of the nations in Matthew; Jesus tells of the shepherd who seeks the lost sheep. In today’s gospel — John 1:1-10 — there are two images Jesus uses for himself. the shepherd and the gate of the sheepfold. In both of them he makes a contrast with the thieves and robbers. There may be a tendency to ask, “Well, which is it: shepherd or gate?” but these are just different ways of illustrating Jesus’ care for us. Like the shepherd, he leads us to nourishment and safety. Like the gate of the fold where he gathers the sheep for the night, he protects us from thieves and predators — whatever would take us away from our life in God. Jesus promises us abundant life, eternal life, if we listen to his voice and follow him. Implicit in this is the requirement for us to be careful not to be led astray by voices other than his, by the temptations which come from the devil, from elements of culture which are contrary to the gospel, and from our own appetites and propensities which St. Paul calls “the flesh.” But the central message today is one for redemption and eternal life thanks to the saving work of our Good Shepherd.

Easter Vigil — 2017

The Easter Vigil is the central liturgy of the Church’s year. It is a Mass, with the regular elements of liturgy of the Word, which is what I concentrate in in my posts for Sundays and major feast days, and liturgy of the Eucharist — with presentation of the people’s gifts of bread and wine, and themselves; consecration of the bread and wine, making them the Body and Blood of Jesus; and Holy Communion. But at the Easter Vigil, some secondary parts are expanded into major rites, and the readings are more extensive.
Mass usually begins with a procession and introductory rite leading into the liturgy of the Word. At the Easter Vigil this rite is vastly expanded. First, a fire is lit; a large candle, adorned with various symbols of Christ, is lit from the fire; and the candle is carried in procession to a tall stand in the sanctuary. Meanwhile, the people’s candles are lit with candles lit from the Easter candle. The Easter candle represents the risen Christ, and its flame the light he gives to the world. When the clergy and ministers have arrived in the sanctuary, an ancient chant, called “Exsultet” (“Rejoice”) from its opening word in Latin, proclaims the praise of the candle as representing Jesus’ work of our salvation.
Normally, the liturgy of the Word consists of three readings, with a responsorial psalm after the first and an acclamation before the gospel. At the Vigil, there are seven Old Testament readings before the (non-gospel) New Testament reading, acclamation, and gospel. Not all seven O.T. readings are required to be read, but Exodus 14:15-15:1, which tells of the Israelites’ crossing of the Red Sea, is required. Not only does, it remind us of Passover, with the sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb (a type of Christ), which immediately preceded the Exodus, but it also foreshadows baptism, which liberates us from slavery to sin by our passage through the water.

The first reading is the account of creation in Genesis 1:1-2-2. God creates the universe and it is very good. In Jesus, God recreates humanity, making it very, very good, and ultimately he will recreate the universe — a new heavens and new earth promised in Revelation.

Second is Genesis 22:1-18, the sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham. At the end, God stops Abraham from killing his son, but God did not spare his own son in order to reconcile humanity to himself.Third is the reading from Exodus.

Next is Isaiah 54:5-13, in which God presents himself as the redeemer of Israel, promising reconciliation, “enduring love,” glory, and peace. We see Jesus as the one who brings these about, beginning in time, and fulfilled in eternity.

The fifth reading is also from Isaiah — 55:1-11. There is a promise of abundance. Gentiles will come to the Lord. God is forgiving, and his word — Jesus, in our understanding — sent to the earth, will accomplish his mission.

The sixth reading is Baruch 3:9-15, 32-4:4. God, the creator of the stars that rejoice before him, calls Israel back to his wisdom, his peace, which we understand are in Jesus.

Seventh is Ezekiel 35:16-17a, 16-28. Our sinfulness has caused our exile among the nations. For the sake of his own glory God will bring us back to the promised land. He will cleanse us of our sins by sprinkling clean water (baptism) on us and putting his spirit in us, enabling us to live according to his will.

In an ordinary Mass, the first reading is followed by a psalm, and then the second reading. In the Vigil, each of these readings has its psalm, but then there is a prayer recited by the priest before the next reading. It alludes to the preceding reading, asking God to deal kindly with us as indicated by the reading.

 

When the Old Testament readings, with their psalms and prayers are completed, the hymn “Glory to God in the Highest” is sung. This usually concludes the entrance rite, before the liturgy of the Word, so we might expect it to be placed before the first reading, rather than in the middle of the liturgy of the word. I suspect the reason for its current placement is that when Pope Pius XII revised the Vigil into its current form, Sunday Mass had only two readings, epistle and gospel. The Gloria came immediately before the first of the two readings, so the idea was that epistle and gospel were a separate unit and the Gloria should precede them. The Old Testament readings were probably seen as separate, not part of a continuum with the final two readings. At any rate the Gloria is sung, and then the prayer which would normally follow it to conclude the opening rite is said.
The epistle — Romans 6:3-11 — tells us that our baptism is a baptism into the death of Jesus, bringing us newness of life in union with his resurrection. Our baptism is thus also a death to sin.

 

The gospel this year, Year A, is Matthew’s account of the resurrection — Matthew 28:1-10. As the women approach Jesus’ tomb on that first Easter morning, there is an earthquake and an angel rolls the stone from to stone covering the entrance to the tomb. The angel tells the women that Jesus has risen. They are to tell the disciples to go to Galilee to meet Jesus. On their way, the women see Jesus, who gives them the same message for the disciples.

It was only this time hearing that gospel that I realized that Matthew implies that Jesus had already risen before the angel rolled back the stone. Possibly the earthquake was the moment he rose and left the tomb, or possible it had happened earlier, but in any case, Jesus (unlike Lazarus) doesn’t have to wait for the stone to be removed before he can leave the tomb. Just as he can enter the upper room through locked doors, in his glorified body, he leaves the tomb while it is still sealed.

Another point that occurs to me is that the reason for the angel’s message is that it prepares the women for encountering Jesus himself. Without that preparation, they would have been overwhelmed by meeting the resurrected Jesus, but ow they could accept it.

 

It may be expected that the liturgy would focus on Jesus’ death and resurrection. The heavy additional emphasis on baptism in this liturgy is because in ancient times, the Easter Vigil was the occasion on which people were baptized. This leads to the next difference from normal Sunday Masses. In place of the recitation of the Nicene Creed, which normally follows the gospel, there is a blessing of water for baptisms (or for sprinkling the people if there are no baptisms). Adults are then baptized, and then the people renew their baptismal renunciation of sin and profession of faith, following which they are sprinkled with the water, in commemoration and renewal of their own baptism.

After this, the Mass continues as usual.

Sunday Scriptures — Third Sunday of Easter C, Apr. 10, 2016

This Sunday’s readings continue the pattern from last Sunday: first reading from Acts, second from Revelation, and Gospel from John. This will also be followed in the remaining Sundays of Easter, except where the Ascension is transferred to the Seventh Sunday. It seems to me that the readings of a particular Sunday were not selected to develop a particular theme. Each stands on its own, although it may be possible to see some resonances between some of them.

 

The first reading — Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41 — brings us some of the account of the second appearance of the apostles before the Sanhedrin. Peter and John had healed a cripple and proclaimed that Jesus was the Lord through whose power it was done. The Sanhedrin had ordered them to stop preaching in the name of Jesus. When they persisted, they were brought in again, and today’s reading gives the account of this second appearance, leaving out the speech of Gamaliel, who warned the Sanhedrin that if the apostles’ preaching was from God, they would be opposing God if they opposed the apostles. It also omits a line that says the Sanhedrin had the apostles flogged before releasing them, which lets us know what the line about suffering dishonor for the sake of the name means. Peter’s speech is a synopsis of the more extensive proclamations reported elsewhere in Acts.

It is because the apostles have seen the risen Lord (one instance being given in today’s gospel) that they can stand firm in the face of the Sanhedrin’s orders, threats, and punishment. We, too, must be prepared to stand firm when our faith is challenged.
In the responsorial psalm — verses from Ps. 30 — we have a prayer that reflects the apostles’ thanksgiving after their release.

 

 

The second reading — Revelation 5:11-14 — gives us a view , in language and images that may be figurative rather than literal, of what is happening in heaven. Jesus is the Lamb, prefigured by the Israelites’ Paschal lamb, who is slain but who saves us from death not only by giving his flesh and blood, but also by rising from the dead, thus conquering death. The whole universe recognizes his glory. Chapter 4 of Revelation presented a scene in which 24 elders worshipped God who was seated on his throne surrounded by four living creatures — one like a lion, one like an ox, one with a human face, and one like an eagle in flight. The appearance of the living creatures recalls Ezekiel’s vision of four living creatures, each of which had all four faces (Ezekiel 1:1-28). In chapter 10, Ezekiel again has a vision in which he realizes that they are cherubim. Beginning with St. Irenaeus in the second century, it has been common to see the four living creatures of Revelation as representing the four evangelists: the lion, Mark; the ox, Luke; the human, Matthew; and the eagle, John. Scholars think that in context they are intended to be angels that govern the physical world, while the elders represent the Church. In this reading, then, their worship symbolizes that of humanity and all creatures of the universe, now directed to Jesus, and joined to that of the angels.

In the first Eucharistic prayer, there is a sentence which asks that our offering (the consecrated elements, the Body and Blood of Christ) may be carried to God’s altar in heaven so that all who participate in the reception of Communion from this altar on earth may be filled with heavenly grace and blessing. Our worship is a sharing of the worship of God in heaven: one meaning of the “communion of saints” referred to in the creed.

 

 

The gospel — John 21:1-19 — presents three parts of a post-resurrection appearance of Jesus: a miraculous catch of fish, a meal of fish and bread, and a dialogue of Jesus and Peter.

The catch of fish recalls the catch of fish which took place at the call of Peter, Andrew, and the sons of Zebedee (James and John) in Luke 5:1-11. In both, the fishermen have caught nothing all night, but Jesus tells them where to lower the net, resulting in a catch so large that they cannot haul the net into the boat. In Luke, Peter confesses his sinfulness. In John, the beloved disciple recognizes that the man on shore is the Lord.

In John 6: 1-14, Jesus feeds a large crowd with five barley loaves and two fish, which leads to their recognition of him as one promised by God in Deuteronomy 18:15 (see also Malachi 3:1&23). That previous miracle occasioned the Bread of Life discourse in which Jesus identified himself as the bread of life, whose flesh and blood he would give for the life of the world — whoever consumed them would possess eternal life. At the Last Supper and on Calvary, Jesus fulfilled his promise, and after his resurrection, the disciples in Emmaus recognized him in the breaking of the bread — Luke 24:35. Thus the miraculous meal of fish and bread symbolizes the flesh and blood of Jesus in the Eucharist.

In the scene of the call of Matthew, Matthew acknowledged that he was a sinner. He is again a sinner, having denied Jesus three times. Now Jesus undoes that denial by requiring a threefold declaration of love. But it doesn’t only mean that Peter’s denial of Jesus is forgiven. Peter’s leadership of the post-resurrection community of Jesus’ followers is affirmed three times as well. Jesus is the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18) who has laid down his life for his sheep and taken it up again. Now Peter becomes the shepherd.

Finally, Jesus tells Peter what he can expect. Just as Jesus was bound and executed, so, in his turn, will Peter suffer a similar end (with, of course, the promise of eternal life given in John 6).
So Jesus in effect constitutes his Church around the sacred meal of his body and blood with Peter as the shepherd. The success of the disciples as “fishers of men” depends on Jesus.

Sunday Scriptures — Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday) C, Apr. 03, 2016

The Sunday after Easter has had various titles through the centuries. One ancient title, which was used in the Roman Missal was “Dominica in Albis,” which means “Sunday in Whites.” Scholars concluded that originally the title was “Dominica in Albis Deponendis,” that is “Sunday of Laying aside White [Garments].” The neophytes, who had been baptized at the Easter Vigil, were given new, white garments to wear when they emerged from the baptismal pool. They would wear them for a week and, on this Sunday, resume wearing ordinary clothing.
Another title was “Quasimodo Sunday.” This follows the custom of designating Mass texts by the opening word(s) of the introit. When the Mass was only used on a particular Sunday, the title was also given to the day. The introit for the Sunday after Easter began with a quote from 1 Peter 2:2, “Like newborn infants [newly born through baptism, that is], long for pure spiritual milk,” in Latin “Quasi modo geniti infantes rationabile concupiscite lac.” So the hunchback of Notre Dame was called Quasimodo because he was born on Quasimodo Sunday.
In English speaking countries, it was also called “Low Sunday,” because after the peak Sunday of the year, it was, relatively speaking, low. As with “Dominica in Albis,” it may also suggest the end of the Church’s week long celebration of Easter and a return to usual activities.
More recently, with a view to the 50 day Eastertide of the liturgy, it has been known as the Second Sunday of Easter.

Now the subtitle “Divine Mercy Sunday” has been added. This comes from popular devotion based on the writings of a Polish nun of the first half of the 20th Century, St. Faustina Kowalska. She wrote of having visions of Jesus in which he presented himself as the exemplar of the mercy of God and urged people to invoke divine mercy in their prayers. She also reported that Jesus asked that this Sunday be designated “Divine Mercy Sunday.” Pope St. John Paul II both wrote an encyclical about God’s mercy titled “Dives in Misericordia,” that is, “Rich in Mercy” — a phrase taken from Ephesians 2:4 — and designated the Sunday as requested by St. Faustina.
Pope Francis has followed up, in a way, by designating this year a jubilee year to be called the Year of Mercy. So there is considerable emphasis in the Church on God’s mercy today. Nevertheless, the scriptures assigned to the day were put in place for the Second Sunday of Easter before its designation as Divine Mercy Sunday. So we begin with a reading from Acts about the time after Jesus’ resurrection, then hear the first of a series of passages from Revelation, and conclude with an account from John about post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. Only the responsorial psalm explicitly mentions mercy.

 

The first reading — Acts 5:12-16 — tells of the respect in which the apostles, and especially Peter, were held in Jerusalem. Peter and Jon had cured a cripple at the temple gate by invoking the name of Jesus, and had been ordered by the chief priests not to preach about Jesus, but they persisted, and cures continued and faith in Jesus spread. In Matthew 25, Jesus speaks of six ways of showing love to others, including caring for the sick. These, along with have come to be called “corporal works of mercy.” Then seven “spiritual works of mercy” were identified, one of which is “instructing the ignorant” and another “converting sinners.” The apostles are engaged in these works of mercy, in which God’s mercy reaches people through them.

 
The responsorial psalm — Ps 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24 with verse 1 as the refrain — proclaims that God’s love (mercy, “misericordia,” in the Latin of the liturgy) is everlasting, and the first strophe urges all to proclaim that everlasting mercy. The final strophe contains two verses which have become classic in the tradition of the Church going back to the New Testament. By his resurrection, Jesus, rejected by the chief priests, has become the cornerstone of God’s people; and the Lord has made the day of his resurrection (and by extension every Sunday) a day of rejoicing.

 
In the second reading — Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19 — we hear of John’s vision of the heavenly Jesus who once was dead but now lives forever.

 
The gospel — John 20:19-31 — tells of two appearances of Jesus after his resurrection. The first takes place on the evening of the first Easter Sunday, and the second a week later, which would be this Sunday. Thomas’ absence on the first occasion, his doubting of what he was told, his subsequent presence and vision of the Lord, with his enthusiastic proclamation of Jesus as not only his Lord but also God, serve as an encouragement to hearers of the gospel to believe. Beyond that, it is an instance of God’s mercy. When Thomas doubts, God does not condemn him or dismiss him from the company of the apostles. He mercifully calls Thomas to faith, just as he mercifully forgives Peter for his denials. So it is with us: God mercifully calls us to repentance and forgiveness — a forgiveness which the conferral of the Holy Spirit on the apostles enables the Church to extend on God’s own authority.

Easter Sunday — 2016

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.