Responding to the Startling Reality of the Resurrection, Easter Monday, April 6, 2015

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Francis Xavier Parish, Acushnet, MA
Easter Monday
April 6, 2015
Acts 2:14.22-33, Ps 16, Mt 28:8-15

To listen to an audio recording of this homily, please click below: 


The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today on this beautiful Easter Monday, we encounter a huge contrast in the readings about how to respond to the startling fact of Jesus’ resurrection.
  • Let’s look first at how the chief priests and the elders of the people responded. They responded with denial. It wasn’t enough for them to use betrayal to arrest him, illegality to try him, slander to accuse him before Pilate and malice to whip up the crowd to choose a murderer Barabbas over him. Now when the guards they had requested be placed at the tomb return to them to tell them what happened during the night, that angels appeared, that there was a burst of light, that the stone was rolled back, that Jesus wasn’t there but his garments were left, they reacted once again with evil. They bribed the guards to lie, to say that while they were asleep Jesus’ disciples came and stole his body and somehow carried him naked while the Sabbath was still occurring to some other part of the city. Of course if they were asleep, they would have had no idea what happened to Jesus’ body, but once people are given to living a lie because it’s more convenient, they’ll accept anything. There are still many who want to deny the reality of the resurrection but as St. Thomas Aquinas once wrote, if the Resurrection didn’t happen, then the fact that a bunch of barely literate fishermen and nobodies from Galilee could convince so many down-to-earth people throughout the ancient world falsely that it did and all be willing to lay down their lives for that invented reality would be a greater miracle than the miracle of the Resurrection itself!
  • There are some who deny the resurrection saying that Jesus had just risen from the dead in disciples’ hearts, as a thing of faith. St. Paul responded very sharply to these ideas that were prevalent in ancient Corinth. If Christ didn’t rise from the dead then our faith is worthless. It’s all based on a lie. There are others who, while not denying the fact of the resurrection, want to deny its consequences. They don’t want to live with the Risen Jesus. They choose to remain down in the dumps. They choose not to seek the things that are above with the Risen and living Jesus, as we heard St. Paul urge the Colossians yesterday morning, instead choosing the things of sin and death. We need to be alert to these signs even in ourselves, that there are parts of us that want to deny the power of Jesus’ resurrection because we prefer not to be transformed in the dramatic way that the resurrection transformed Jesus’ dead body!
  • Pope Francis wrote in his apostolic exhortation The Joy of the Gospel that many Catholics behave as if life is a long Lent without Easter, as if they’re perpetually returning from a funeral. We’ve all met these perpetually sad Catholics. They clearly exist. Not even the fact of Jesus’ resurrection can brighten their day because the prefer to focus their attention and live in darkness and in death. But I think that there are other types of Catholics, far more common, who likewise don’t live with in practical denial of the Resurrection. These are Catholics who, though they don’t behave as if they’re perpetually returning from the cemetery, comport themselves as if they’re constantly coming back from Dunkin Donuts, the department or supermarket, or from the high def TV. Easter is a transformative experience for them, but what that means they can eat chocolate or drink wine and beer again after the Lenten Season! It doesn’t mean that they have been changed at their core. One of the questions I always ask myself, and try to get others to ask themselves, is how would I behave today if today were the day of Jesus’ physical resurrection. Would I really care that much that the Red Sox are opening their season in Philadelphia today if people came running to me that Jesus had risen from the dead? Would the various challenges I’m facing today really seem all that daunting if I encountered Jesus Christ come to me from the tomb? Most of our lives would change dramatically if today we the day of the Resurrection. That’s the type of transformation we are supposed to experience because the risen Lord Jesus is still very much alive and seeks to come to meet us every day. Rather than people perpetually returning from a funeral or from the various mundane tasks and pleasures, Christians should be people who seem always to be coming from encountering the Risen Lord!
  • The type of response that God wants us to have to Jesus’ resurrection we see in the women today and in St. Peter. Mary Magdalene and Mary the wife of Clopas ran away from the empty tomb both “fearful and overjoyed,” fearful because they had never confronted a reality like that and overjoyed because they sensed that it meant that Jesus had in fact risen. They were running away from the tomb and toward the apostles because they were obviously excited and couldn’t wait to share the news. Jesus surprises them on the journey and greets them. Their first reaction was humbly to adore him, falling down at his feet. St. Matthew says they embraced his feet; St. John will tell us tomorrow that Jesus will tell Mary not to embrace his feet, a conflict that seems to be able to be resolved more easily if Jesus allowed them to embrace him for a short time before reminding them that they had a mission: “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee and there I will see them.” And off they went!
  • We see one of those brothers 50 days later telling others about Jesus’ resurrection. St. Peter on Pentecost bluntly told the crowds, that Jesus of Nazareth “delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God, you killed, using lawless men to crucify him. But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death, because it was impossible for him to be held by it. … God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses.” That’s what’s supposed to happen. Just as Jesus from the Paschal Candle lit our tapers and we lit others’ tapers during the Easter Vigil, so Jesus announces to us the resurrection and then we’re called to run to tell others, and they in turn are called to share that good news in a chain of love stretching all the way back to this morning’s Gospel scene.
  • In response to those who deny the resurrection, either the fact or the practical consequences, Christ is calling all of us to affirm it, to be witnesses to the resurrection, not just as an historical fact that passes every historical test of common sense, but as a lived reality, because people see in us those who live a truly redeemed life. Friedrich Nietzsche, the 19th century German Philosopher who coined the phrase “God is dead” and whose writings on the raw will to power were at the heart of Nazism, once said that he may have been able to believe in a Redeemer if he had ever met anyone redeemed. We might paraphrase him to say he may have been able to believe in Jesus and his Resurrection if he had ever met someone who radiated Jesus’ risen life. That’s what’s supposed to happen whenever anyone meets a Christian. There may be days when this is more challenging — like on the ugliest days of a brutal winter or at the bedside of the interminable sufferings of a loved one — but if we’re ever going to be living signs of Jesus risen then, we have to begin by being risen signs of Jesus on Easter, and Easter Monday, and the Easter Octave and the Easter Season. And we need to let that risen joy overflow naturally toward others, just like the women did, just like St. Peter did.
  • The way we enter more deeply into Jesus’ risen life is here in Holy Communion, where we receive his Risen body and blood. As we prepare not only to drop down on our knees and pay him homage, not only to grasp his feet, but receive him within so that his body and blood will go from our brains to our toes, we ask him to strengthen us with the joy of this encounter that we, like the two Marys and Peter will run to tell others this good news. This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it! Alleluia!

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1
ACTS 2:14, 22-33

On the day of Pentecost, Peter stood up with the Eleven,
raised his voice, and proclaimed:
“You who are Jews, indeed all of you staying in Jerusalem.
Let this be known to you, and listen to my words.“You who are children of Israel, hear these words.
Jesus the Nazorean was a man commended to you by God
with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs,
which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know.
This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God,
you killed, using lawless men to crucify him.
But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death,
because it was impossible for him to be held by it.
For David says of him:I saw the Lord ever before me,
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
Therefore my heart has been glad and my tongue has exulted;
my flesh, too, will dwell in hope,
because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world,
nor will you suffer your holy one to see corruption.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.
My brothers, one can confidently say to you
about the patriarch David that he died and was buried,
and his tomb is in our midst to this day.
But since he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn an oath to him
that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne,
he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ,
that neither was he abandoned to the netherworld
nor did his flesh see corruption.
God raised this Jesus;
of this we are all witnesses.
Exalted at the right hand of God,
he poured forth the promise of the Holy Spirit
that he received from the Father, as you both see and hear.”

Responsorial Psalm
PS 16:1-2A AND 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11

R. (1) Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
R. Alleluia.
Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge;
I say to the LORD, “My Lord are you.”
O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
R. Alleluia.
I bless the LORD who counsels me;
even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
R. Alleluia.
Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,
my body, too, abides in confidence;
Because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world,
nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
R. Alleluia.
You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
R. Alleluia.

MT 28:8-15

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went away quickly from the tomb,
fearful yet overjoyed,
and ran to announce the news to his disciples.
And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them.
They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage.
Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid.
Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee,
and there they will see me.”
While they were going, some of the guard went into the city
and told the chief priests all that had happened.
The chief priests assembled with the elders and took counsel;
then they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers,
telling them, “You are to say,
‘His disciples came by night and stole him while we were asleep.’
And if this gets to the ears of the governor,
we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.”
The soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed.
And this story has circulated among the Jews to the present day.