We sometimes wonder what the basic, essential, message of Easter is – what is its challenge? Perhaps the most challenging answer is – OUR FAITH MUST IGNITE AND EXPAND! Easter Sunday reminds us that Jesus is able to break through the dull, confining, categories we create and in which, so often, we enclose him.

The ENTRANCE ANTIPHON (taken from Psalm 139 or 138) of the ‘Mass during the Day’ of Easter Sunday says it all – “I have risen, and I am with you still … You have laid your hand upon me … Too wonderful for me, this knowledge …” Also, we should not overlook the truth proclaimed by Saint Peter in the FIRST READING [ACTS 10: 34a. 37 – 43] – “he is the one ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead..”

In some circles it is popular to draw strong and emphatic attention to the Last Judgement. This approach finds some sort of macabre pleasure in ‘painting’ gruesome allusions to hell-fire and eternal damnation. In all of this the forgotten factor (and, perhaps, the most important) is what Peter is clear about – the Risen Lord is, first and foremost, judge of the living. The Resurrection brings us a sharp, annual, reminder, that our PRESENT day-to-day living is subject to the Lord’s judgement. So, Easter Sunday challenges me to bring my present living under divine judgement. If this is untrue then words from TODAY’S PSALM [118 or 117] make no sense. “I shall not die, I shall live and recount the deeds of the Lord.”

In some real sense we ‘die’ when we fail to regularly (preferably on a daily basis) examine our consciences. We do not need a long list of sins and failures as appearing in many small prayer books. Rather, all that is necessary is, in the evening, a few minutes of silence during which we make an honest self-evaluation of MY DAY AND ITS ACTIVITIES – OR LACK THEREOF. In Ignatian spirituality there exists an easy method which is called the Daily Examen. {This can easily be ‘googled’.} As a result we ‘live’ again because we have freed ourselves to, once again, recount the deeds of the Lord, Our daily faults and failings {sin} shackle us. A daily examen liberates us as a result of our own personal refocus that we are able to believe in him again – believe that we have received forgiveness through his name. {See the closing phrases of our First Reading.} Here we need to be reminded of thoughts suggested in the opening paragraph of this reflection ….. OUR FAITH MUST IGNITE AND EXPAND! Easter Sunday reminds us that Jesus is able to break through the dull, confining, categories we create and in which, so often, we enclose him.

This last observation leads us to take a look at the alternative SECOND READING [1 CORINTHIANS 5: 6b – 8] which tells us to “cleanse out the old leaven that you may be new dough.” The conclusion I used for my sermon on Ash Wednesday rings true for this Easter Sunday – Let each one of us dream big – and expect miracles. We should not confine ourselves or the Risen Lord. We are new dough and new dough carries the possibility of taking on a different shape. At the same time the first option for the second reading [COLOSSIANS 3: 1 – 4] stresses the same point when it records – “if you have been raised with Christ seek the things that are above …. set your minds on things that are above.” Not only should we not confine ourselves to HOW and WHAT we have been but, and more importantly, the manner of our approach to “the things that are on earth” must also change because the Resurrection has given our world a new and specific dimension. Paul is not suggesting that we should ignore and be uninvolved with the things that are on earth. On the contrary, we are expected, with Easter faith renewed and invigorated, to become involved but with specific Christian and Gospel dimensions.

TODAY’S GOSPEL [JOHN 20: 1 – 9] provides us with rich points for reflection. We could focus on two in particular. First of all, the extract ends with the words “he must rise from the dead.” The disciples dithered around this fact. We should avoid this. The tomb is empty. We must rise, with the Lord. Easter challenges us to bring into operation the resources we have gathered during our Lenten endeavours. Otherwise, they will simply atrophy.

Secondly, Mary Magdalene says “we do not know where they have laid him” – the tomb was empty! DO WE KNOW WHERE? Well, with our new sense of values we have to locate him within the practical situations of our own living – as well as the lives of others. Then, having found him, we have to bring him to life in the locations WE identify. No good to simply stare in amazement at the empty tomb – GO AND FIND HIM …. bring HIM to life!

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