Year B

Let us rejoice and be glad

People have a gift for finding special ways to celebrate special events. Sometimes the Church welcomes these signs of joy into the liturgy itself. More often they are just given a nod of approval as religious folklore and folkways.

Easter is the principal feast of the Church year because it symbolizes Christ's victory over sin and over death. So folk customs at Easter usually are a sign of the end of the reign of death, symbolized by Lent; or the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New; or else they are a sign of life renewed, of beginning all over again.

For example, why do Catholics eat ham on Easter? Because the Old Testament forbade pork, and in Christ's New Testament the old food laws no longer hold. Why do Catholics (and other Christians) dress up in new clothes (and in the old days in new bonnets) and take part in the "Easter parade?" Because on Easter and at spring the whole cycle of our life recommences.

One of the most ancient and widespread symbols of Easter is the Easter egg. Like many symbols it has an unknown origin, but it seems to combine two signs: the end of Lent and the redeeming resurrection of Christ.

Why a sign of the end of Lent? Because in the old days of strict Lenten fast, Catholics were forbidden to eat not only flesh meat but the byproducts of animals (white meats), like milk and eggs. So to give someone an Easter egg was to give him a nice Easter present to eat. These gift-eggs were usually decorated, whether in Catholic England, in Italy, Germany, Greece, the Mid-east or Russia.

Why a sign of the Resurrection? Because in spring the newborn chick breaks out of its shell much as the resurrected Christ broke forth from the tomb. Thus the Russians used to carry decorated eggs with them on Easter day. When friends met one would say, "The Lord is risen," and the other would reply "It is so of a truth." Then they would kiss and exchange eggs. A truly Christian custom! This is the day the Lord has risen. Let us rejoice and be glad. (Ps. 118:24. Today's psalm response)

-Father Robert F. McNamara

Q523: This gospel is a little confusing: “the other disciple” believed, but neither he nor Peter understood about the resurrection. What is going on here?

Put yourself in the shoes of Simon Peter and John (John is traditionally identified as “the other disciple” in the Gospel story), as you read about this wonderful event that undergirds our faith (John 20:1-9). Mary Magdalene has just told you that the body of Jesus “has been taken” and is missing. What would make you believe in the Resurrection, as John did, rather than believing in “grave robbers”?

Scholars tell us that the “burial cloth [that had covered Jesus’ face was] rolled up in a separate place” (v.7) really is an indication that no robbery had taken place. After all, grave robbers would be in such a hurry that they would not have taken time to be “neat and tidy” as they went about their nefarious business. Secondly, they would not have left behind expensive burial linens (this type of cloth was identified in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke), when they could have easily sold those linens for a very good price.

In any event, we are told that “the other disciple…saw and believed.” This is a faith event – and faith does not demand any evidence, even though the “missing body” of Jesus was one kind of evidence. Faith is a gift of God. It is a response to the unknown, and this first level of response did not include full understanding for Peter and the other disciple. However, Peter and the other disciple would have their faith confirmed later on during the resurrection appearances by Jesus. Since the Resurrection is a mystery of faith, today we accept it with the “obedience of faith” (Dei Verbum 5).

At any level of belief, it is joy that floods our heart as we stand in awe and wonder at such a great event — HE IS RISEN!

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! The empty tomb is not “proof” of the resurrection; but it is the first step in that recognition. When combined with the arrangements of the linen cloths, it convinced “the other disciple” that Jesus had indeed risen (CCC #640). Confirmation would soon come in appearances by Jesus to the disciples (CCC #642).

This is the Day the Lord has Made; Let us Rejoice and Be Glad

Jesus’ resurrection proclaims the miraculous transformation of our earthly existence. We remain as human as ever, as Jesus remains the human son of Mary. Still the disciples’ lives were transformed into some kind of heavenly existence. True, at first they reacted in various ways – with wonder, bewilderment, and even unbelief. Eventually they all came to be witnesses of the resurrection, but they had so much more to learn and appreciate about the Lord. Not only at Pentecost but continuously during the days, months, and even years after Pentecost they would be enlightened by the Holy Spirit to see more clearly the power of Jesus’ resurrection n their own lives. We believe the Lord is truly risen, but we too have to be enlightened and strengthened by the Holy Spirit to recognize the power of the risen Jesus in our lives. We are still on earth but we have to live with the risen life that Jesus shares with us. This can be done only with and in the power of the Hoy spirit. To the extent that we do this people will sense and experience the full meaning of the resurrection of the Lord.