Easter Sunday Acts of the Apostles 10:34a, 37–43; Colossians 3:1–4; John 20:1–9
I rose with the sun Easter is experiencing the risen Jesus at work in our own lives.
Acollege girl was on a plane flying from Chicago to Providence, Rhode Island. As she stared out of the plane window down at the green countryside below, her heart was heavy and tears were in her eyes.
She was a student at Loyola University and was returning home for the Easter holidays. Her first year of college was nearly over and it was a disaster. She was convinced that life no longer held any real meaning for her. Her only ray of happiness lay in the fact that she’d soon see the ocean, which she loved dearly.
As the plane touched down on the runway at Providence, the girl wondered what kind of Easter vacation was possible in her situation.
Her grandmother met her at the gate, and the two of them drove to her home in complete silence. As they pulled into the driveway the girl’s only thought was to get into her car and drive to the ocean.
It was well after midnight when she arrived at the beach. What happened next is best described in the girl’s own words. She says:
I just sat there in the moonlight watching the waves roll upon the beach. Slowly my disastrous first year passed before my eyes day by day, week by week, month by month.
Then all of a sudden the whole experience fell into place. It was over and past.
I could forget about it forever; but at the same time, I didn’t want to forget it.
The next thing I knew, the sun was coming up in the east. As it did I sensed my feelings starting to peak, just as a wave starts to peak before it breaks.
It was as though my mind, heart, and body were drawing strength from the ocean. All my old goals and enthusiasm came rushing back stronger than ever. I rose with the sun, got into my car, and headed for home.
After her Easter vacation the girl returned to Loyola University, picked up the broken pieces of her year, and fitted them back together again.
In the short span of an Easter vacation that girl died and rose again. For the first time in her life she understood the practical meaning of Easter.
In our practical, daily life, Easter means experiencing the power of Jesus changing a great tragedy in our lives into a glorious new beginning.
Take the disciples of Jesus. Before the great tragedy of Good Friday, Jesus was the person who gave meaning to their lives.
The disciples had pledged their lives to Jesus. They had put their dreams in Jesus. They had pinned their hopes on Jesus.
Then came Good Friday. All those pledges, all those dreams, all those hopes got smashed into a million pieces.
With one terrible thrust of a soldier’s spear, all those pledges, all those dreams, all those hopes died on the cross with Jesus. With one terrible thrust of a soldier’s spear, their very lives died on the cross with Jesus.
When the sun went down on Good Friday, they, too, were buried in the tomb with Jesus. It was all over. Then it happened! As the sun rose on Easter Sunday morning, Jesus rose with it and appeared to his disciples. He was more radiant and more fully alive than they had ever seen him before. And at that moment the power of Easter began to work in the lives of the disciples.
Suddenly they were transformed from a band of despairing men into a brigade of daring missionaries. At the command of Jesus they set out to carry the news of Easter to the four corners of the earth.
And everywhere they preached the good news, the power of Easter began to work in people’s lives, just as it had in their own lives.
Beautiful things began to happen. Despair began to give way to hope: darkness began to give way to light; hatred began to give way to love; sorrow began to give way to joy.
In short, everywhere the disciples preached, the power of Easter began to work miracles in people’s lives. And those miracles haven’t stopped yet. They continue to happen in our time.
Easter is a broken-hearted college girl wiping away her tears and starting over again.
Easter is a band of defeated disciples being transformed into an army of daring missionaries.
Easter is a world in darkness throwing off its chains of despair and walking in the light of hope.
And that brings us to this gathering, in this church, on this Easter morning.
What does Easter invite us to do? It invites us to open our hearts to the risen Jesus and let him do for us what he did for his disciples and the people to whom they preached after the first Easter.
It invites us to let Jesus help us love again after we’ve had our love rejected by someone.
It invites us to let Jesus help us trust again after we’ve had our trust betrayed by another.
It invites us to let Jesus help us hope again after we’ve watched our hope flicker and die.
It invites us to let Jesus help us wipe our tears, pick up the pieces, and start over again after some great tragedy.
This is what Easter is all about. It’s the good news that the risen Jesus is in our midst ready to work miracles for us, if we let him.
It’s the good news that nothing can defeat us anymore not discouragement, not pain, not misfortune, not even death.
It’s the good news that Jesus has triumphed, and so will we, if we open our hearts to him.
This is what Easter is all about.
This is what we celebrate as we now prepare to break bread together on this great birthday of our Christian faith.
Series II Easter Sunday Acts of the Apostles 10:34a, 37–43; Colossians 3:1–4; John 20:1–9
I feel the tug We know that Jesus is alive and risen because we can feel his risen power at work in our lives. Asmall boy and his grandfather were flying a kite on a hill. The kite soared into the sky. Then suddenly a low cloud hid it from their sight.
After a few minutes the grandfather said to the boy, “Bobby, maybe some thief up in that cloud stole your kite!” The boy shook his head in disagreement. A few minutes later the grandfather said again, “Bobby, maybe some thief up in that cloud stole your kite!” Again, the boy shook his head.
“But, Bobby,” said his grandfather, “how can you be so sure that kite’s still at the end of your string?”
The boy replied, “Because I can feel something you can’t feel. I can feel the kite tug at my string.”
That story illustrates why many people who weren’t privileged to see Jesus after his resurrection were sure, nonetheless, that he had risen from the dead.
They were sure for the same reason the boy was sure that no one had stolen his kite. They felt the tug of Jesus in their lives.
In other words, they experienced the power of the risen Jesus at work in their hearts.
Before Easter Sunday many people were filled with doubt. They had seen Jesus die a terrible death on Good Friday. They had seen Jesus nailed to a cross and had watched their dreams die before their eyes.
But then came Easter Sunday morning. News spread throughout Jerusalem that the rock that sealed the tomb had been rolled away and the tomb was empty.
The Jewish authorities told the guards at the tomb to say that someone had stolen the body while they dozed during the night. (Matthew 28:13)
At first people wondered about the guards’ story. Was it really true? Did someone steal the body of Jesus?
But as time passed, the people became sure beyond doubt that the body had not been stolen. Jesus had, indeed, risen!
And the reason the people were sure is the same reason that the little boy was sure that no one had stolen his kite.
They felt the tug of Jesus in their lives. They felt the power of Jesus at work in their hearts.
Transformed by this power, the people went forth to tell the good news to all the world.
No amount of persecution could stop them. Eventually, some of them were crucified, like their master. Others were ripped apart by wild beasts in the Roman Colosseum. Still others were burned alive at the stake. But their belief in Jesus never wavered.
The lives of these early Christians changed the course of history. Today, 2,000 years later, modern Christians still feel the tug of Jesus. They still feel the power of Jesus at work in their hearts. An example is a missionary named Noreen Towers. For years she had been working among the poor. In spite of all her efforts, she saw absolutely no progress. She says:
I became despondent. . . . I finally reached the breaking point one night. . . . I was beaten. . . . When I went to bed, I didn’t know how I could continue.
The next morning, shortly after she awoke, something strange happened to Noreen. It was as though Jesus himself said to her, “Can you not trust my plan for you?” She writes:
Then I realized that I did not have to see the plan; I only had to trust him. I arose from my bed a different person. . . . My encounter with the living Christ changed me from a broken, defeated person into a person with unshakable hope and faith. International Christian Digest
Today, the woman’s work among the poor is bearing remarkable fruit. Noreen’s experience is what Easter is all about.
It’s the good news that Jesus is risen and in our midst.
It’s the good news that Jesus has a plan for each one of us. And nothing can interfere with that plan if we don’t let it not pain, not sorrow, not rejection, not sin, not even death.
Easter holds out an invitation to each one of us in this church this morning.
It invites us to let Jesus do for us what he did for Noreen Towers. It invites us to let Jesus help us trust again after we’ve lost our ability to trust. It invites us to let Jesus help us love again after we’ve lost our ability to love. It invites us to let Jesus help us hope again after we’ve lost our ability to hope. It invites us to let Jesus help us pick up the broken pieces of our lives and start over again after we’ve given up. This is what Easter is all about.
It’s the good news that Jesus has triumphed over sin and evil; and so will we, if we but open our hearts to his Easter power.
It’s the good news that Jesus is ready to work miracles for us, if we but open our hearts to his Easter power.
It’s the good news that every Good Friday in our lives can be turned into an Easter Sunday, if we but open our hearts to his Easter power.
It’s the good news that we don’t have to wait until we die to share in the risen life of Jesus. We can begin right now, in this Mass, at this Easter celebration.
It’s the good news that nothing can defeat us anymore not pain, not sorrow, not rejection, not even death.
This is the good news that we celebrate this beautiful Easter morning.
Series III Easter Sunday Acts of the Apostles 10:34a, 37–43; Colossians 3:1–4; John 20:1–9
Easter Not restoration, but transformation.
Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been taken away from the entrance. John 20:1
Doreen Cunningham was in a state of shock. The British embassy in Thailand had just notified her of the death of her 25-year-old son, Paul.
He had been backpacking through Thailand, found unconscious, and rushed to a hospital, where he died. An autopsy showed that his death was caused by a massive overdose of heroin.
The autopsy also showed that he had swallowed 20 tiny bags of heroin to smuggle them out of the country. One of the bags broke in his stomach, causing the overdose and death.
The news left Paul’s mother devastated beyond words. His death was hard enough to bear. But the knowledge of how he died made it almost impossible to bear.
Doreen Cunningham had no idea her son was involved in drugs much less drug smuggling. It was like a sword piercing her heart. And so as she waited for his dead body to be flown back to England, she set about the sad task of making all the funeral arrangements.
Before the arrangements were complete, she got a call from London’s Heathrow Airport. She couldn’t believe her ears. It was Paul; he was not dead, but alive.
It turned out that Paul had lost his passport. Apparently, it was found and sold on the black market, and then altered to represent the man on whose body it was found in Thailand.
Paul’s mother went from incredible sorrow to indescribable joy.
This story gives us a faint glimmer of what the disciples and the mother of Jesus experienced 2,000 years ago on Easter Sunday morning.
Like Paul’s mother, Mary had relived her son’s tragic death countless times in the three days after it. Then came Easter Sunday morning and the incredible news that Jesus was not dead. He had risen.
But the similarity between the two stories stops here.
Paul was only thought to have died. Jesus had actually died. Mary held his dead body in her arms.
Paul’s new life if we can call it that was a restoration to his former life. Jesus’ new life was a quantum leap forward into an infinitely higher life. It involved resurrection. The word resurrection does not mean a restoration to one’s old previous life, as happened to Lazarus, the widow of Nain, and Jairus’ daughter.
It means that the body of Jesus that rose on Easter was radically different from the body that was buried on Good Friday.
Saint Paul compares the difference of a body before and after resurrection to the difference of a seed and the plant that eventually emerges from it. He says:
When the body is buried, it is mortal; when raised, it will be immortal. When buried, it is ugly and weak; when raised, it will be beautiful and strong. When buried, it is a physical body; when raised, it will be a spiritual body.” 1 Corinthians 15:42–44
As we study the Gospel stories of the resurrection, we see that along with Jesus’ transformation came a transformation of his disciples, also.
They went from being a group of despairing people to a group of inspired missionaries, who carried the Good News of Easter to the four corners of the earth.
And everywhere they preached, the power of Easter began to work miracles in people’s lives.
It transformed despair into hope; darkness into light; hatred into love; sorrow into joy.
And those miracles haven’t stopped yet. They continue today. And this brings us to this Church on this Easter morning. Easter has an important message for each one of us, personally.
It is the important message that Jesus wants to work miracles for us and through us just as he did for his disciples.
It is the message that we don’t have to wait until we die to share in the new life and power that Jesus won for us on Easter.
We can begin to share in it right now, in this very Mass, because the risen Jesus is in our midst, right now in this Mass.
He wants to do for us what he has done for millions of believers before us.
He wants to give us the power to begin to live new lives, right now.
He wants to gives us the power to trust once again, after we have had that trust betrayed.
He wants to give us the power to love once again, after we have had that love rejected.
He wants to give us the power to hope once again, after we’ve had our hope dashed to pieces
Even more marvelously, through us, God wants to give the same power to other people.
This is what Easter is all about. It is the Good News that Jesus has triumphed over evil and death and so will we, if we open our hearts to him.
It is the Good News that Jesus wants to carry this message to others, especially by our example.
It is the Good News that nothing can defeat us anymore not pain, not sorrow, not sin, not even death itself.
This is what Easter is all about.
It’s about letting Jesus turn our sorrow into joy as he did for his own mother and for the mother of Paul Cunningham.