From darkness to light, sorrow to glory
By Father R. Michael Schaab
Easter Sunday/April 12
Acts 10:34a,37-43; Psalm 118:1-2,16-17,22-23; Colossians 3:1-4 or 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8; Sequence: Victimae Paschali Laudes; John 20:1-9 or Matthew 28:1-10
We all know what Easter is all about, so we look to the readings for today and ask, “What themes of this great feast are they stressing?” But first, it’s important to put these readings in context. It was just a week ago on Palm Sunday that we read the Passion. For a whole week we’ve been reflecting on those tragic events of Spy Wednesday, Holy Thursday and Good Friday. Now everything is reversed. In an overwhelming turn of events darkness has been replaced by light, pain by joy, sorrow by glory and death by eternal life. The Church will use these next 50 days to guide our reflection on this Paschal Mystery.
The first theme in today’s readings is the fact of the resurrection. The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles states this fact quite plainly, “They put him to death by hanging him on a tree. This man God raised on the third day. . . .” The problem with this, according to Peter, is that not all people are given the gift of seeing the risen Lord. He says about Christ, God “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.” So, does that mean that Christ rose from the dead for a few?
In an overwhelming turn of events darkness has been replaced by light, pain by joy, sorrow by glory and death by eternal life. The Church will use these next 50 days to guide our reflection on this Paschal Mystery.
The second theme in the readings is that those “witnesses chosen by God in advance” are now commissioned to preach the resurrection to all people. They are to embody in their lives the words of the responsorial psalm, “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.” So even though the risen Christ was seen by few, the result of Christ’s conquest over death is to be share by all: “Everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”
That’s why all the recent popes have stressed that the first work of the Church is evangelization, spreading the good news that “Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.” Peter and the early Christians might have been the first commissioned to preach, but the Church realizes that it is called and commissioned to bring the Good News of Christ to the whole world throughout all ages.
OUR VICTORY, TOO
The third theme stresses the new role of Christ. “He is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead.” “Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” He “reconciles sinners to the Father.” He “reigns immortal.” As the Easter Sequence so eloquently states, “Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining. Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!”
Which leads to the fourth and final theme of the readings. The resurrection is not only Christ’s new life, it is our new life. Simply because we have not seen the Lord does not mean that we have not experienced the Lord. Faith enables us to experience him, and that experience is called conversion. We are to believe in him and receive forgiveness for sin in his name. We are to “think of what is above, not of what is on earth.” We ourselves are to die and rise and live, not alone, but “hidden with Christ in God.”
The Sequence opens with the statement, “Christians, to the Paschal Victim offer your thankful praises!” We’re thankful because Christ’s conquest over sin and death is now our conquest. This gratitude is expressed in the closing words of the Creed which we recite every Sunday and which we are asked to affirm this Easter Sunday as we renew our baptismal promises: “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.”
All these themes and more will be expanded upon in the readings of the 50-day Easter season. For example, a returning emphasis will be on our role as the Church, for the Easter season concludes with Pentecost, the birthday of the Church. Also, we’ll be introduced to the many ways our “life is hidden with Christ in God.”
Father R. Michael Schaab is a senior priest of the Diocese of Peoria who gives retreats and days of recollection, and who fills in as presider at parish Masses on weekends. He resides on a hobby farm in Putnam County.