The readings for Easter Sunday can be found here.
Alleluia, he is risen! Truly, he is risen! It feels so good to say, or even better, to sing those words on Easter Sunday. We know our faith truly hinges upon Jesus’s resurrection, but there is something about the Triduum – the drama of Holy Thursday, the sorrow and promise of Good Friday, the anticipation of Holy Saturday – that provides the contrast we need such that we really belt out the alleluias!
With the close of the penitential season of Lent and the beginning of the celebratory season of Easter, our real challenge begins. My husband recently said that he felt he could use a couple more weeks of Lent. I quoted the words our pastor had used on the Solemnity of St. Joseph regarding taking a break from penance: “God’s plans are better than our own.” The Easter season is longer than the season of Lent; rejoicing must be our strength.
Whether we have lived Lent well and feel prepared for this celebration, or whether we wish we could have a couple more weeks of Lent, or whether we wish we could go back and start over, Easter is here. And it is a celebration for all of us; regardless of our Lenten experiences, we are all invited to the great feast. One of the most beautiful realizations of Easter Sunday, is that Jesus’s resurrection did not depend on our Lenten resolutions, but rather was a gift.
This realization is not all that different than the conclusions reached by the first disciples of Jesus in the days after their death. In today’s gospel, we hear of three of them at the tomb. There was John, who had been there at the foot of the cross when Jesus died. Mary of Magdala, the apostle to the apostles, was at Jesus’s tomb early in the morning, a sign of her continued love and devotion. However, also on the scene is Peter, who denied even knowing Jesus during his passion. When we are continually committed and united to the cross like John or Mary, we can rejoice in that empty tomb. And when we are weak and waver in our faith, like Peter, we still can rejoice in the empty tomb.
In the first reading from the book of Acts, we get a glimpse of Peter’s preaching, ending with these words: “To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43). We know that Peter’s story continued beyond the denial of Jesus, and our stories also will continue beyond our denials of Jesus in so many little ways.
So let us take up the Easter challenge, to rejoice and be glad in the resurrection and to strive to praise God better, remembering always that it doesn’t all depend upon us. The victory has been won. The banquet is set. We are all invited to share the joy. Alleluia, he is risen!