What Easter is all about

To Easter glory, the good news of Christ’s resurrection lifts us all

April begins the day after Easter. One might, therefore, jump to the conclusion that the month would be a let-down from the 40 days of preparation for the feast and the great liturgies of Holy Week. Quite the contrary; the four Sundays of April this year form a three-dimensional work of art depicting Easter as an earthly and heavenly reality. If it is true that you may not get a clear sense of the meaning of a great event until you take time to reflect upon it, then you’ll love this Easter season’s biblical mosaic.

All 12 of the Scripture readings during the four Sundays of April come from only three books of the Bible. Each Sunday has a first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, a second reading from Revelation, and a Gospel from John. Just think! Each Sunday we are presented with three different views of the resurrection of the Lord. The Gospels bring us into the upper room to see and listen to Jesus at the Last Supper and on the first two Sundays after he arose. It also brings us to the Sea of Galilee for an appearance of the risen Christ. In addition, we can hear Jesus personally telling us he is the “Good Shepherd.”

The passages from the Acts of the Apostles present a different view of the Twelve than we get in the Gospels. So, we begin to understand how Jesus’ resurrection made a difference in their lives. And, as we join Paul during his first missionary journey, we can become just as excited as he undoubtedly was. Then, the Church allows us to enter into John’s vision of heaven. We get a glimpse and see what Easter truly means for us. It is a vision of life after death, a vision that is as exciting as it is consoling.

We’ll take a look at each Sunday separately, taking the Gospel first to ground ourselves with the words and actions of the risen Christ on earth. Then we join Peter and Paul in those days when people who had actually seen the Lord after his resurrection went out to proclaim to the world what they saw and heard. Finally, we will jump, each Sunday, to the level of prophecy as we scripturally enter into heaven to see what the Lord has in store for us who share in his mystical body.

What a better way to begin our remarkable journey through April than with Divine Mercy Sunday! This, the second Sunday of Easter, reveals the reason why Jesus was born. God had mercy on us and wished us to share in his divine life. The Gospel takes us to the upper room on the first eight days of Easter. It begins with John telling us what happened on the evening of Easter Sunday. The disciples were initially afraid at seeing the Lord. But, soon the fear melted into rejoicing. Then the Lord calmed them down, breathed on them and gave them the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Church was born. We then find out what it was born to do. That answer comes in the story of “Doubting Thomas.” Thomas was not present on Easter; but he soon returned to be with the others and give them a hard time until the next Sunday. Christ showed himself again and convinced Thomas that the Lord is truly risen. It was the Christian community showing mercy to Thomas during the week that made this incident effective. We need to keep doubters like Thomas in the fold so they can see God’s mercy in action.

Action is what the new Church gave the world. The preaching of the apostles was powerful and effective. Their actions were acts of mercy, curing the sick, so that “great numbers of men and women were added to them.” We get a new view of Peter after Jesus’ resurrection. People are in awe of his power, hoping that their afflicted ones would be touched by his shadow.

John introduces himself in the first chapter of Revelation as a man who (significantly, on a Sunday), turned around and found himself at a heavenly liturgy. Recognizing the Lord of Mercy, he fell as if dead. But the Lord in his mercy tells him he is alive forever and that he should take notes to tell all of us what the ultimate liturgy in heaven is like. All history exists in order to give glory to God. And this truth carries on beyond the end of time into eternity.

On the second Sunday of April, the third Sunday of Easter, we learn that having the Divine Lord within us changes our perception of reality. The Gospel shows us the old Peter who lived only by earthly logic. It’s less than 40 days since the resurrection and he has returned home to Galilee. He decides to revert to his previous life as a commercial fisherman and convinces his former partners to join him. Christ catches them in the act. Then, the Lord takes Peter aside and asks him three times if he loved him. What Peter was doing wasn’t an act of love. It was saying he was getting back to business as usual. Peter gets the Lord’s true message loud and clear: to love Christ means to leave everything and follow him.

The reading from Acts recalls the time the apostles were arrested and taken to court for spreading the Good News of the resurrection. Peter shows that he got Jesus’ message when he tells the highest court in the land, “We must obey God rather than men.” The apostles reacted with joy that they were worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name. That is not human logic. But it is a sign that they knew the presence of God was in them.

The first words of the angels John reports seeing in the reading from Revelation are “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.” It’s the same logic as the apostles’ joy at suffering dishonor. It all makes sense when we realize that Christ the Lamb is alive in us. For that same Lamb is alive in heaven where he is worshiped. His worshipers far outweigh in numbers and importance the authority of the Sanhedrin.

The fourth Sunday of Easter is popularly called Good Shepherd Sunday. The concept of the Lamb, begun the previous week, receives further development. The Gospel spells it out clearly. “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life.” It’s that simple and that profound. The way he gave us eternal life is by dying for us. Our shepherd has become a sacrificial lamb. He is, by the same action, the lamb who is accepted by the Father and sits at his right hand exercising full power over the living and the dead.

The book of Acts takes us, this Sunday, to ancient Antioch and Paul’s first missionary journey. It’s a picture of great excitement and joy as Paul and Barnabas draw great crowds. Like lambs being shepherded, the people, including many gentiles, followed Paul. Once again, we are confronted by that strange divine logic when Luke makes the point that there was cause for joy even when a persecution was levied against them. Nothing can subdue the joy of spreading the message of eternal life.

We can find the reason why joy prevails when we observe the universe from the point of view of heaven. Today’s reading from the Book of Revelation gives us such a view. We see a countless crowd of every race, nation and people happily appearing before the throne and the Lamb. Paul and Barnabas could have recognized that scene as reminiscent of their crowd in Antioch. What they began on earth reached its ultimate conclusion in heaven as the Lamb brings us to the end of our journey, namely to the “springs of life-giving water” where God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. Was there a time of distress? Yes. But the Lamb leads us (as he did Paul and Barnabas) from danger to eternal joy.

On the last Sunday of April, the fifth Sunday of Easter, we are returned to earth and the bittersweet Last Supper in order to receive another lesson on the paradoxical logic of the spiritual life. Jesus has begun his last words to his disciples before the events of that evening and Good Friday. They all are experiencing distress—especially Jesus, who knows exactly what will soon take place. Yet, in the midst of that sorrow, Jesus tells his friends that “Now, the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him.” Glorifying God is most truly accomplished in a time of distress when the presence of faith is most needed and most effective. It proves that the span of your vision includes the view from heaven, which includes the sight of pure love. That may be why Jesus gave us the commandment to “love one another as I have loved you.” That love comes only from God. It forces us (and enables us at the same time) to pay attention to the heavenly part of our lives as we strive to make God’s loving will done on earth.

The Acts of the Apostles take us back to Paul’s first missionary journey. This time we are present at the very end. When they arrived at Antioch in Syria from whence they began, they made a report to the church that had sent them. Interestingly, the report (according to Luke, who wrote Acts) did not recount what they did, but what God had done with them. That is a good example for us—to look not on what we do but what God has done with us. It’s a more accurate point of view.

Finally, we revisit the Book of Revelation. It very well sums up our April meditations. This passage presents a great transformation. Everything we depended on here on Earth has passed away. The sky and the land are gone. If that was all we depended on, we’d be in trouble. But there is more. God, since our creation, has been with the human race. That fact remains and always will. He will be with us in a new venue, the New Jerusalem. It will be utterly beautiful, like a bride. There will be no more death or pain. That is our end. It is ours if we live for it and not for this poor world that is guaranteed to pass away.

The bad news is that this world will end. The Good News is that God’s love will never end. We need to choose life, not merely earthly life, but life eternal.

WEEKDAY READINGS

Monday, April 1: Acts 2:14, 22-33; Psalm 16:1-2, 5, 7-11; Matthew 28:8-15
Tuesday, April 2: Acts 2:36-41; Psalm 33:4-5, 18-20, 22; John 20:11-18
Wednesday, April 3: Acts 3:1-10; Psalm 105:1-4, 6-9; Luke 24:13-35
Thursday, April 4: Acts 3:11-26; Psalm 8:2, 5-9; Luke 24:35-48
Friday, April 5: Acts 4:1-12; Psalm 118:1-2, 4, 22-27; John 21:1-14
Saturday, April 6: Acts 4:13-21; Psalm 118:1, 14-21; Mark 16:9-15
Sunday, April 7: Acts 5:12-16; Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24; Revelation 1:9-13, 17-19; John 20:19-31
Monday, April 8: Solemnity, the Annunciation of the Lord, Isaiah 7:10-14 and 8:10; Psalm 40:7-11; Hebrews 10:4-10; Luke 1:26-38
Tuesday, April 9: Acts 4:32-37; Psalm 93:1-2, 5; John 3:7-15
Wednesday, April 10: Acts 5:17-26; Psalm 34:2-9; John 3:16-21
Thursday, April 11: Memorial, St. Stanislaus, bishop, martyr, Acts 5:27-33; Psalm 34:2, 9, 17-20; John 3:31-36
Friday, April 12: Acts 5:34-42; Psalm 27:1, 4, 13-14; John 6:1-15
Saturday, April 13: Acts 6:1-7; Psalm 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19; John 6:16-21
Sunday, April 14: Acts 5:27-32, 40-41; Psalm 30:2, 4-6, 11-13; Revelation 5:11-14; John 21:1-19
Monday, April 15: Acts 6:8-15; Psalm 119:23-24, 26-27, 29-30; John 6:22-29
Tuesday, April 16: Acts 7:51–8:1; Psalm 31:3-4, 6-8, 17, 21; John 6:30-35
Wednesday, April 17: Acts 8:1-8; Psalm 66:1-7; John 6:35-40
Thursday, April 18: Acts 8:26-40; Psalm 66:8-9, 16-17, 20; John 6:44-51
Friday, April 19: Acts 9:1-20; Psalm 117:1-2; John 6:52-59
Saturday, April 20: Acts 9:31-42; Psalm 116:12-17; John 6:60-69
Sunday, April 21: Acts 13:14, 43-52; Psalm 100:1-3, 5; Revelation 7:9, 14-17; John 10:27-30
Monday, April 22: Acts 11:1-18; Psalms 42:2-3 and 43:3-4; John 10:1-10
Tuesday, April 23: Acts 11:19-26; Psalm 87:1-7; John 10:22-30
Wednesday, April 24: Acts 12:24–13:5; Psalm 67:2-3, 5-6, 8; John 12:44-50
Thursday, April 25: Feast, St. Mark, evangelist, 1 Peter 5:5-14; Psalm 89:2-3, 6-7, 16-17; Mark 16:15-20
Friday, April 26: Acts 13:26-33; Psalm 2:6-11; John 14:1-6
Saturday, April 27: Acts 13:44-52; Psalm 98:1-4; John 14:7-14
Sunday, April 28: Acts 14:21-27; Psalm 145:8-13; Revelation 21:1-5; John 13:31-35
Monday, April 29: Memorial, St. Catherine of Siena, virgin, doctor of the Church, Acts 14:5-18; Psalm 115:1-4, 15-16; John 14:21-26
Tuesday, April 30: Acts 14:19-28; Psalm 145:10-13, 21; John 14:27-31
Wednesday, May 1: Acts 15:1-6; Psalm 122:1-5; John 15:1-8
Thursday, May 2: Memorial, St. Athanasius, bishop, doctor of the Church, Acts 15:7-21; Psalm 96:1-3, 10; John 15:9-11
Friday, May 3: Feast, Sts. Philip and James, apostles, 1 Corinthians 15:1-8; Psalm 19:2-5; John 14:6-14
Saturday, May 4: Acts 16:1-10; Psalm 100:1-3, 5; John 15:18-21

 

Father Brando is pastor of St. Mary Parish in Gatlinburg.

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