Easter Sunday

Reflection: 3 things to lead a better Christian life


March 31 — the end of another calendar month — ushers in a season of profound hope as Christians everywhere celebrate Easter, the commemoration of Christ’s resurrection.

Many times, Easter and the Jewish feast of Passover overlap, but not this year. Easter symbolizes new life and often coincides with the spring season in the Northern Hemisphere. Springtime, a season of rejuvenation and rebirth, reminds us that before new life can emerge, the old must first pass away.

Ecologically, the natural world is forever trying to renew itself. The brilliantly colored tree leaves of autumn turn brown, die and fall to the ground, leaving tree limbs bare until new buds burst forth and flower, greening Earth’s landscape once again. Also, in the natural world eight living beings shed their skin in the growth and rebirth process: snakes, true crabs, frogs, dragonflies, geckos, spiders, cicadas and humans. Once a snake is free of its old skin, the snake’s colors become bright and vibrant. Some young spiders shed their skins so that their limbs can regenerate. The natural process that non-human life goes through is called ecdysis. 

Today’s Easter readings highlight three things that need to happen in the lives of Christians if Christians want to participate ever more deeply in the new life of the risen Christ whose divine spirit and power infuses the entire cosmos.

First, if we Christians wish to become an “Easter people,” then we must clear out the old yeast in our lives. 1 Corinthians 5 focuses on yeast and dough. In this letter, the festival of Unleavened Bread celebrated at the time of Passover is linked to Easter and the resurrection of Christ. As part of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Jewish people had to remove all old leaven from their homes. Leavened bread contains yeast, a living, single-cell organism that, when mixed with dough, causes the dough to rise. Old or “expired” yeast, however, could cause illnesses and even keep the dough from rising. Thus, during the Festival of Unleavened Bread and Passover, the Jewish people were to eat only untainted, unleavened bread. 

The reading from 1 Corinthians calls us to get rid of the old, expired yeast in the fabric of our lives so we can become a new fresh batch of dough that, when baked, turns into unleavened bread. Thus, by clearing out the “old yeast” within us and by becoming a new batch of dough, we prepare ourselves to be changed into unleavened bread and essentially, to be transformed into Christ. The question to be explored is this: what in our lives is old and expired yeast that needs to be cleared out?

Second, if Christians wish to participate in Christ’s rising from the dead, then we have to shed, figuratively, our burial clothes. The Gospel reading from John tells the story of Mary of Magdala, Simon Peter, and a beloved disciple discovering that the body of the crucified, dead Jesus was no longer in the tomb where he was laid to rest. Instead, all they found there were Jesus’ burial clothes.

According to the Gospel story, as part of Christ’s rising from the dead, he shed his old burial clothes like the snake that shed its skin, both becoming bright and vibrant. Even though we are among the living, are we wearing burial clothes? What in our lives represents burial clothes? Have we dressed ourselves in these clothes or allowed others to dress us in them? Are we willing to shed these clothes to rise from the dead and become one with the living, wonder-full Christ or are we content to be part of the living dead spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, socially, intellectually? Easter invites us to put on vibrant new garments — essentially, to “put on Christ.” 

Third, if Christians wish to be an “Easter people,” sharing in the gift of new life while bearing witness to the resurrection of Christ, then just singing “alleluia” is not enough. Today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles reminds us that the Divine One anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Spirit and with power which, in turn, empowered Christ to embrace and live out his holy mission of preaching, teaching, healing and liberating all who were oppressed. 

We, too, who walk in the tradition of the apostles, are baptized into Christ. We have been anointed with the Spirit, and we have the same mission as Christ and the apostles. To be an Easter people means to do the work of Easter: to confront and work against hegemonic, systemic and structural injustices while creating alternatives, to shake up the status quo, to welcome the marginalized, to embrace all creation with a healing love. And if we find ourselves like the stone that the builders rejected, then we can rest assured that the risen Christ is alive and well among us and within us.

Reflection: Desolation to Hope


Today’s Gospel selection can’t be considered as much more than an inconclusive resurrection account. It tells us that when Mary of Magdala and Peter and “the other disciple whom Jesus loved” saw the empty tomb, the beloved disciple “believed” but that none of them understood, leaving us with Mary Magdalen’s core question: “Where is the Lord?”

One message this Gospel brings home is that our alleluias may be too facile. The disciples who knew Jesus most intimately were devastated at his death and confounded by the first signs of resurrection. Because of that it’s a very good thing for us to be left with Mary’s experience. If we can’t imagine her devastation, we’ll never understand her Easter joy.

When we read the resurrection Gospels objectively we realize that the empty tomb didn’t prove anything. Far from being a sign of hope, it was more like a doubling down on the disciples’ depression. The only really good news in this selection is that the beloved disciple “saw and believed,” but what exactly he believed remains unclear. At best, he believed that Jesus had returned to the Father, a situation that did little to address the bitter angst of the question Mary represented for all of them, “What happened to the Lord?” along with, “What does it mean for us?”

In the face of that question, the Letter to the Colossians tells us to seek what is above. While that might sound like a prescription to imbibe in a good dose of denial, in reality it’s exactly the opposite. The author tells us to fix our hearts and minds on Christ who is seated at the right hand of the Father.

That will sound like pie in the sky until we remember what the early church would have envisioned when they heard it. Rather than picturing Christ the King robed in fine liturgical vestments, their image of the risen Lord had hands, feet and side scarred by the crucifixion. The original evangelizers had vivid memories of the man who had been beaten, mocked and spat upon, the one who had somehow found the breath and spirit to forgive his enemies as he died at their hands. When the early Christians set their minds on what was above they saw the innocent victim, now risen and continuing to share the power of God’s invincible love.

Experts say that addicts can’t be helped until they have “hit bottom.” In the same way, only those who have endured a measure of Christ’s passion or suffered in solidarity with those who have can fully appreciate what it means to “think of what is above, not what is on earth.” In this sense, earth is the realm of injustice, envy and lies. It is the sphere in which Mary wandered on that first morning, the place of cruelty on top of death. We know that later on that first day Mary would encounter Christ and would have her eyes raised to a different plane.

As Paul says, Christ her life was about to appear and transform her imagination. As a result of her encounter with her risen Lord, she would begin to understand how Christ’s resurrection changes everything. The wounds of Jesus had not disappeared, but they did not define him and the forgiveness he offered promised that those wounds need not define those who inflicted them. As she grasped this reality she was envisioning “what is above.”

In today’s first reading Peter says it simply. He tells the bare bones story of Jesus to explain the resurrection. What it all comes down to for Peter is that knowing Jesus and meeting him as risen Lord converted him and his fellow witnesses into apostles, people who continued Jesus’ own mission of proclaiming forgiveness.

Today’s readings offer us a variety of approaches to the Easter mystery. They invite us to consider our own experience as a Gospel to be shared. We may know Easter faith as a slow journey from desolation to hope. It may be a vision of transformed reality that orients us to live each day from above. It can also be like Peter’s simple response, “We knew it, saw it, and now must proclaim it.” There are many models, and ours will probably grow and change. What is essential is our response to the question: “What does it mean for us?”

First Reading

(Acts 10: 34a, 37-43)

Peter proceeded to speak and said:
“You know what has happened all over Judea, 
beginning in Galilee after the baptism
that John preached, 
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth
with the Holy Spirit and power.
He went about doing good
and healing all those oppressed by the devil, 
for God was with him.
We are witnesses of all that he did
both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem.
They put him to death by hanging him on a tree.
This man God raised on the third day 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.
He commissioned us to preach to the people
and testify that he is the one appointed by God
as judge of the living and the dead.
To him all the prophets bear witness,
that everyone who believes in him
will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 118: 1-2, 16-17, 22-23)

Second Reading

(Corinthians 3: 1-4)

Brothers and sisters:
If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, 
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ your life appears,
then you too will appear with him in glory.


(I Corinthians 5: 6b-8)

Brothers and sisters:
Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough?
Clear out the old yeast,
so that you may become a fresh batch of dough, 
inasmuch as you are unleavened.
For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed.
Therefore, let us celebrate the feast, 
not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, 
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Sequence: Victimae paschali laudes

Christians, to the Paschal Victim
Offer your thankful praises!
A Lamb the sheep redeems;
Christ, who only is sinless,
Reconciles sinners to the Father.
Death and life have contended in that combat stupendous:
The Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal.
Speak, Mary, declaring
What you saw, wayfaring.
“The tomb of Christ, who is living,
The glory of Jesus’ resurrection;
Bright angels attesting,
The shroud and napkin resting.
Yes, Christ my hope is arisen;
to Galilee he goes before you.”
Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining.
Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!
Amen. Alleluia.


(John 20: 1-9)

On the first day of the week,
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark, 
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter 
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, 
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb, 
and we don’t know where they put him.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter 
and arrived at the tomb first; 
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him, 
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, 
and the cloth that had covered his head, 
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in, 
the one who had arrived at the tomb first, 
and he saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture 
that he had to rise from the dead.