Easter Sunday Morning Mass homily by Fr. Claude Perera

First Reading: Acts of the Apostles 10:34a,37-43
An Early Proclamation (= Kerygma) of Peter about Jesus’ Life, Death, and Resurrection.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 118:1-2,16-17,22-23
Rejoice in This Day of the Lord.

Second Reading: Colossians 3:1-4 or 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8
Col 3:1-4: Those Raised by Christ at Baptism, Should Be Concerned with Things from Above.
1 Cor 5:6b-8: Celebrate This Feast of Easter with New Yeast.

Gospel Reading: John 20:1-9
Peter and the Beloved Disciples Mean Two Different Approaches to Jesus

Understanding the Readings and the Homily

Dear friends, we wish all of you together with your family and the loved ones a very Holy and Happy Easter. May the joy and the peace of the Risen Lord reign in your hearts and in your homes!

In the first reading you heard an early proclamation (Kerygma) of the life, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus by Peter. Is this same Peter of whom you heard on Good Friday, denying Jesus and dodging him outside the court like a timid escapee when Jesus needed him most? Yes, but the resurrection has changed him; resurrection and Pentecost turned him upside down to make him a bold witness of Jesus.

At baptism, a Christian is made to go through the death and resurrection of Jesus. S/he becomes a new creation. S/he becomes a transformed person who is no more earth-bound; s/he is geared towards heaven and geared towards spiritual realities as opposed to carnal and mundane. This is what the second reading from the letter to the Colossian is saying today. In the same vein, the alternative second reading from First Corinthians speaks of the urgency of leavening one’s life not with the old yeast of malice and evil, but with the new yeast of sincerity and truth. That is the kind of pass over or the metanoia or the conversion demanded by the mystery of Easter we are celebrating.

Not let us turn to today’s gospel. The number of verses that belong to today’s gospel is different in the American edition which has only the first nine verses of the chapter 21 of John’s gospel, whereas in the Canadian version which you are using in the Living with Christ edition the reading is longer; namely, John 20:1-18. The Canadian version is indeed wiser and complete. This Canadian choice of the verses makes Mary Magdalene the principal harbinger of the resurrection story. Within these 18 verses, Mary Magdalene is referred by her name thrice, as ‘woman’ twice. Twenty-five times she is the subject of various verbs occurring in these 18 verses. This analysis shows that she is the principal protagonist in this narrative.

Who was she and what was her role in the Gospel of John? Prescinding from scholarly argumentation about the identity of Mary Magdalene, we take for granted that she was the sister of Lazarus and Mary of Bethany. At the crucifixion scene in Jn 19:25, it is said, “Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” The fact that she is the last in the list seems to indicate that she is not of great importance at this stage. (Remember her role is about to change). Among women it was the Mother of Jesus whose role was of paramount importance. However, Mary Magdalene enters the scene for the second time at the empty tomb, apparently alone (20:1). However, in Jn 20:2 she reports in plural, so it could be that the other women were with her because it was still dark. John 20:1 begins with Mary Magdalene and in v. 3 Peter and the Beloved Disciple enter the scene. In 20:10 those two leading disciples leave the scene. Mary alone remains there weeping. Her weeping parallels her own weeping in 11:33 and also that of Jesus outside Lazarus’ tomb in 11:35. Like others, she was grieving without a hope of the resurrection of her Lord. All she wants is only the lost corpse of Jesus. Then she bends into the tomb and sees two angels in white, one sitting where his feet lay, and the other, where his head lay. Where his head lay there should have been the napkin (sudarion which was used as a handkerchief to wipe sweat as well as to cover the face of the dead). His feet were those anointed with ointment (muron) by her at the house of Lazarus (Jn 11:2; 12:3) at Bethany. Both the napkin and the ointment were signs of burial. Now at the empty tomb there is neither anointed feet nor the napkin; instead only two angels one where Jesus’ head lay and the other where his feet lay. What does this mean? It means that Earthly Jesus is no more. The death is over. The life of the resurrection has begun. The angels announce the beginning of the new dawn, the age of the resurrection.

But she is still weeping. But her search continues. She cannot understand the change. She is still thinking in very earthly categories. She does not know that Jesus is risen. She thinks that they have stolen his body. Jesus took the initiative to dispel her ignorance, and called her by her name, “Mary.” Then she recognized him. Her immediate physical reaction was to touch him. For she was down to earth. But Jesus has at the resurrection transcended all earthly and sensory ties. The body Jesus has now is His glorious risen body. Mary having encountered the Risen Lord, becomes enlightened. Her perspectives begin to change. It would have taken some time for her to come to terms with this change and transformation more fully. But it did happen. For, like the disciples in the beginning, she looked at things from a very earthly and material perspective. Her encounter with the Risen Lord turned her upside down and subjected her to a tremendous spiritual transformation.

That is the paradigm shift of what is implied by the resurrection. That is the meaning of baptism, namely, to transcend the body, the senses and the earth. It is to be transformed in mind. To delve and immerse into the spiritual realm. It is to pass over from sin to righteousness, from mortality to immortality, from death to life, from untruth to truth, from darkness to light. That is the meaning of Easter. We were initiated into this process at baptism. Baptismal transformation is an ongoing and endless process. Thus, Easter in a deep theological sense, is every day. As we renew our baptismal promises today, let us be resolved to make a true life Passover with and in the Risen Lord.

Happy Easter to all of you once again!