By: Fr Dumisani Vilakati
First Reading: Acts 10: 34a, 37-43
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 118
Second Reading: Col 3:1-4
Gospel: John 20:1-9
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Alleluia. He is risen! The readings on this Resurrection Sunday emphasise that Jesus is indeed risen and this places certain demands on us the most important being the passing on of this message of joy and hope to peoples everywhere. Alleluia.
The first reading recalls the visit of Peter to the house of Cornelius. Cornelius is a Roman, a pagan and worse of all a leader in the oppressive Roman army having been a centurion, a leader of one hundred soldiers. It does us good to recall that at this stage the Church had not yet officially accepted Gentiles without them going through the Jewish custom of circumcision. So, Cornelius was evidently of the un-circumcision.
Cornelius is presented in Acts as devout, God fearing and his prayers had ascended into heaven. In this way we become aware that God had already reached his house even before Peter’s arrival. Peter had hesitated to visit him in spite of the vision from heaven. Later on though he relented and made for the house of Cornelius where, as we read this Sunday, he narrates the event of the resurrection of Jesus.
The resurrection of Jesus is real. Peter proclaims this personal experience of the event as he says Jesus ate and drank with them after his resurrection. This sharing of a meal demonstrates Peter’s personal relationship with Jesus. We know that Peter continued proclaiming Jesus’ death and resurrection up to the point of shedding his own blood for Christ. We can ask ourselves on this Easter Sunday if we have a real and personal relationship with Christ? Moreover, do we speak about him convincingly to our friends, relatives, co-workers, acquaintances etc? Moreover, the story of Cornelius should make us humble missionaries in that God precedes our preaching.
The responsorial psalm, 118, is one of the psalms sung at the Jewish Passover meal. It recalls the Exodus. The Exodus event requires every Jew to relate to it as if he personally walked out of the slavery of Egypt. The emphasis, easily observed from the refrain, is that the mercy of the Lord endures forever. The spiritual life requires us all to experience the mercy of God. Our God is one who accepts each one of us as s/he is. There is thus no need to be afraid to be in his presence. Whoever has experienced the mercy of God has no time or room for judging others. On the contrary s/he is simply happy to share how God’s mercy has transformed him/her and how the same mercy can benefit his/her brothers and sisters.
The second reading exhorts us to seek the things that are above. What are these things? A list comes in handy further down from verse 12 of the same chapter: holiness, heart of mercy, kindness, humility, patience, support for each other, forgiving each other, charity, being grateful and being full of the peace of Christ. This list may qualify as a charter for Christian living.
In the gospel Mary Magdalene appears on the scene before any other person after the burial of Jesus. It is quite interesting that earlier on in the same gospel of John another woman, Jesus’ mother, appears at the beginning of Jesus’ mission. With Mary Magdalene we are on the eighth day which marks the beginning of a new week and as such experiencing a new creation. Mary Magdalene is certainly a courageous woman. She has no problem lingering in a graveyard early in the morning whilst still dark. Her courage is a result of her love for Jesus. She wants to see the lifeless body of her Lord. The shock of not finding the love of her life forces her to reach out to Peter and the beloved disciple. Both of them make for the tomb but there is seemingly no real help for the poor woman who is still separated from her beloved. It is later on in the passage that the risen Lord reveals himself and thus the complication of not finding her beloved is resolved. Jesus immediately sends her to his brothers to announce the news of his ascending to the Father. She, who has seen the risen Lord, announces exactly that. The resurrection is a story of great hope as we move from a weeping and seeking Mary Magdalene to her announcing with joy the good news to the disciples. We are all invited to imitate her who is called apostle of the apostles.
Fr. Dumisani Vilakati