We are destined for fulfilment with God

  • April 3, 2009
Easter Sunday (Year B) April 12 (Acts 10:34, 37-43; Psalm 118; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-18)

Why was the original Easter proclamation “good news”? What did it mean to those who first heard the message? Does it still pack the same punch in 2009 as it did on Easter morning? If not, why not?

These are questions that we must always bring to our celebration of Easter, for so often it is merely another feast on the liturgical calendar with little practical impact on individual lives. Peter relates the original proclamation with a sense of joyful wonder. The story is about this incredible God-filled man named Jesus and all the wonderful things He said and did. What could have been a crushing and tragic end was transformed by the hand of God who raised Jesus from the dead. And now Jesus stands astride all human history as its life-giving power and final judge.

In the omitted verses from the passage in Acts, Peter also relates a vital piece of this wonderful story: humankind is discovering in Jesus that God is impartial. Rather than being the property of any person or group, God offers grace and mercy to all. We need fear nothing — not even death itself. God was showing humanity not a way to escape the miseries and struggles of the human condition, but how to pass through them transformed.

As they grasped the deeper significance of Jesus’ resurrection the first disciples turned from jobs, families, social obligations and the demands of culture to begin living in a radically new way. In order for the proclamation to truly have power in 2009 we must reflect and pray on its meaning for us. We live in a world of great uncertainty and fear. God has confirmed the teaching and example of Jesus in a very dramatic way — by raising Him from the dead. The Risen One illuminates the path to human freedom and happiness with His teachings and His example. But most of all, God has demonstrated in Jesus that we are not alone or adrift in the cosmos — our lives have meaning and purpose and are destined for fulfilment in and with God. We too will encounter the Risen Christ — if we are people of faith and hope.

One of the ways in which we live the resurrection is to “seek the things that are above.” This does not mean turning away from all that is positive in the world — or for that matter, turning away from efforts to heal and overcome the negative. Seeking the things that are above is the realization and acceptance that the spiritual is the essence of life and the reason for our being here. All other human concerns — legitimate as they may be — are subordinate to the spiritual. When we pass from this world, we carry with us only the spiritual lessons we have learned (or not learned). The oneness of God, the unity of humanity and the art of loving and living gracefully are the most prized.

An empty tomb and discarded grave wrappings: this was not any easier to believe in the first century than it is now and the first believers didn’t know quite what to make of it. Only after encounters with the Risen Christ were they able to accept the impossible but even then they were slow to comprehend all of its implications. John has made it very clear that Jesus was just passing through this world and would depart for His return to the father through the portal we call death. This was for a purpose — to reveal to humanity the God that it had never entirely known — the God defined as life, light and love. The distance between humanity and God could finally be overcome. The currents of fear, threats, punishment and violence that can be found in so much theology and catechesis should also be cleansed in the process. Jesus has a clear and profound message for Mary Magdalene to deliver: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, my God and your God. God is universal and God is shared.

The empty tomb alone means nothing — many saw the tomb and were uncomprehending or unbelieving. But viewed with the eyes of faith and hope it becomes a source of God’s life-giving spirit and an invitation to share His divinity.