Reading 1: Acts 10:34a, 37-43
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23
Reading 2: Colossians 3:1-4
Gospel: John 20:1-9
Spring is my favorite time of the year, particularly in the Midwestern region of the US. Signs of new life are manifested everywhere. This springtime, however, I feel a bit different and unsettled. There has been so much grieving and weeping since the outbreak of COVID-19. The pandemic has brutally inflicted innumerable losses. Perhaps some of us have seen too many tombs or deaths that were deprived of proper burials. Unfortunately, we are not out of the woods just yet, for we could still be infected and face potential death. On this Easter Sunday, some of us might still be grieving, and that is okay, because the wounded and risen Christ gives us comfort and hope, standing in our midst and showing that death does not have the final word.
In today’s gospel reading, we are told that Mary Magdalene visited the tomb of Jesus when it was still dark. The predawn allusion could mean that Mary was still in deep sorrow and distraught, and thus her faith continued to be obscure. Nevertheless, Mary was still seeking Jesus, a quintessentially positive characteristic of a genuine disciple. Seeing the stone removed from the tomb, Mary was alarmed and went to tell the disciples about it. Peter and the Beloved Disciple immediately dashed to the scene. Trailing the other disciple along the path, Peter eventually arrived and entered the tomb first. He saw the empty tomb and the burial cloths and became even more perplexed. The Beloved Disciple, entering the tomb after Peter, saw and immediately believed.
The gospel reading today ends a bit abruptly, but we know that the story doesn’t end there. On Tuesday’s gospel reading, the Johannine resurrection story continues. John tells us that it was not Peter or the Beloved Disciple who first saw the risen Christ — the Easter Christophany. It was Mary Magdalene. Initially, Mary did not recognize Jesus, although he stood before her and spoke to her. Once Jesus called out her name, Mary instantly recognized him. Having seen the risen and glorified Christ, Mary went away joyfully announcing the Easter kerygma, “He is alive!” Mary is now transformed from a disciple who weeps to an apostle who announces good news.
While Mary Magdalene is presented as the official Easter witness in and to the Johannine community, Peter is portrayed as a leading missionary in the Acts of the Apostles. As the pillar of the church, Peter delivered many important speeches (eight of them). The speech we hear in the first reading is Peter’s last missionary sermon. It is a powerful speech to Cornelius and his household. Although Cornelius was a Gentile Roman centurion (in charge of one hundred soldiers), he was pious, God-fearing, and prayerful. Having been summoned to deliver a message, Peter confidently gave testimony about Jesus. Basically, Peter had a change of heart — a conversion — in the encounter. In today’s language, it would be described as a paradigmatic “intercultural exchange.” Peter essentially came to recognize that God shows no partiality, and that anyone who has faith in Jesus Christ and acts righteously is acceptable to God. Peter’s declaration succinctly summarizes Luke’s universal mission theology and soteriology.
As we renew our baptismal promises during this Eastertide, let us pray for strength and courage to remain as faithful witnesses to bring hope and healing in a world fragmented by a pandemic, conflict, poverty, ecological degradation, and racism. In this springtime of hope and faith, let us together echo the words of the Psalmist, singing, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad” (Ps 118: 24).
Rev.VănThanh Nguyễn, SVD