Acts of Apostles 10.34, 37-43
I once visited a family with 4 children. The parents explained to me that their youngest, a boy of 14 years, had special needs with regard to his educational ability. With patience he could understand most things unlike the others who learned more quickly. The parents particularly loved this child and seemed to give him more of their love and attention because of his particular needs.
When we read the gospel today we might well think that the apostles and the women who followed Jesus were people who took time to learn, a bit slower on the uptake than many others. Many times when he was alive Jesus had told them that he would suffer, die, but would rise again. Obviously they didn’t grasp what he was saying. At the end of today’s gospel we heard ‘till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture’. Could we not also say that just as the parents gave their youngest son more of their attention and love, Jesus did the same for the disciples? Whilst he was often frustrated with them as the gospels tell us, he never gave up on them, just as he never gives up on us. Now at the empty tomb we are told one of them John ‘saw and believed’. It seemed to have taken a while longer for the others including Peter to believe fully that Jesus had truly risen. Are we ourselves not like that too? Are we not slow learners? Those of us who are older now probably experience a deeper conviction that Jesus is risen than say 20 years ago.
Many of us may have had a similar experience to that of a friend of mine who said that when he was younger he gave lip service to the idea that Jesus was risen. But the more he prayed to Jesus over the years especially in times of great difficulty the more he experienced the presence and help of Jesus in his life. He will now say that he is convinced that Jesus is risen because of his own personal experience. I think this an important point for us to remember. The empty tomb is not the basis for our belief in the resurrection of Jesus. The conviction that Jesus was risen came to his disciples not because of an empty tomb as such but because they had experiences of meeting the Risen Jesus. When we read the gospel accounts of the Risen Jesus appearing to them he is not exactly as he was before. Yes, it is he but he is also different. They still doubt as they meet him in his glorified state so he has to convince them by phrases such as ‘It is I, touch me and see for yourselves’ or ‘have you anything to eat? And they give him a piece of grilled fish’. I know that for myself I am totally convinced that Jesus is risen because of my own very many experiences of his presence to me. He is a real, living power at work in my life whenever I allow him.
Why do we rejoice today?
We rejoice because our faith in Christ has been vindicated, truth has triumphed over falsity, justice over injustice, good over evil. It is like watching one of the episodes of Batman. First you see an innocent and helpless victim being attacked, robbed, kidnapped, assaulted and tortured by a wicked assailant. And we feel so bad seeing the triumph of the bad guy. Then, almost at the point where the victim has given up hope and is at the point of death, down from the skies comes Batman to the rescue. He battles and defeats the bad guy and rescues the innocent victim. And we feel happy inside at the triumph of justice.
Good Friday was not the last word as it seemed at the time to the apostles. Easter Sunday is God’s last word. He is saying to us very clearly that Easter Sunday is not just one day in the year. Every day since then has within it the potential for God to triumph over Satan, for justice to conquer injustice, love and forgiveness to overcome hatred and evil. It is the invitation by God to each of us that even though we may suffer for awhile, that is never the will of God. If people choose evil instead of good, death instead of life, even out of what seems totally impossible situations God will eventually triumph.
But God asks us to be Easter people to cooperate with him in trying to make the world a better place.
On Holy Saturday night we heard the story of creation. God wants us to work with him in creating the world to be a better place. Surely we can see this happening in all the trouble spots of the world. We see the international community going to the aid of those who suffer the tragedy, of earthquakes or wherever there is famine. We see peacemakers trying to negotiate peace wherever there is conflict and often succeeding. This is resurrection being lived out on a daily basis.
The raising to new life of Jesus Christ by the Father is a promise to us that God can do the same for us. He can offer us life where there is now death, goodness where there is now evil, light where there is darkness, freedom where there is any kind of slavery in our lives. Little wonder Easter Sunday is the greatest feast in the Church. It is underlining for us that our God is a God of Life, Light, freedom etc. Jesus said it best when he said “I am the Resurrection and the Life’ and ’I have come that you may have life and have it to the full’.
“Lord Jesus, we praise you for your victory over sin, evil and death. When trials come our way and when we doubt, give us the Spirit to believe strongly that you will help us to be victorious too. Amen.”
Fr Jim Kirstein SMA