Awe and Great Joy – Easter Sunday – Year A
April 2, 2023
(Gospel of Sunday, 9 April 2023)
After the Sabbath, and towards dawn on the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala and the other Mary went to visit the sepulchre. And all at once there was a violent earthquake, for the angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled away the stone and sat on it. His face was like lightning, his robe white as snow. The guards were so shaken, so frightened of him, that they were like dead men. But the angel spoke; and he said to the women, ‘There is no need for you to be afraid. I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said he would. Come and see the place where he lay, then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has risen from the dead and now he is going before you to Galilee; it is there you will see him.” Now I have told you.’ Filled with awe and great joy the women came quickly away from the tomb and ran to tell the disciples.
And there, coming to meet them, was Jesus. ‘Greetings,’ he said. And the women came up to him and, falling down before him, clasped his feet. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers that they must leave for Galilee; they will see me there.’
Homily of Pope Francis
(16 April 2017) Today the Church repeats, sings, shouts: “Jesus is Risen!”. But why is this? Peter, John, the women went to the Sepulchre and it was empty. He was not there. They went away with their hearts closed in sadness, the sadness of defeat: the Teacher, their Teacher, the One whom they loved so much had been put to death; He is dead. And there is no return from death. This is the defeat. This is the path of defeat, the path towards the sepulchre. But the Angel says to them, “He is not here, He is Risen”.
It is the first announcement: “He is Risen”. And then the confusion, the closed hearts, the apparitions. But the disciples stayed locked in the Upper Room the entire day because they were afraid that what happened to Jesus would happen to them. The Church does not cease to say before our losses, our closed and fearful hearts: “Stop, the Lord is Risen”. But if the Lord is Risen, why is it that these things happen? Why is it that there is so much adversity: illness, human trafficking, human slavery, war, destruction, mutilation, vengeance, hatred? Where is the Lord then?
Yesterday I phoned a young man with a grave illness, an educated young man, an engineer, and while talking to him, to give him a sign of faith, I said: “There are no explanations for what is happening to you. Look at Jesus on the Cross. God did this to his Son, and there is no other explanation”. And he answered: “Yes, but He asked His Son and the Son said ‘yes’. I was not asked if I wanted this”. This moves us. None of us is asked: “Are you happy with what is happening in the world? Are you willing to carry this cross further?”. And the Cross goes forth and faith in Jesus comes down from it. Today, the Church continues to say: “Stop. Jesus is Risen”. And this is not a fantasy. The Resurrection of Christ is not a celebration with many flowers. This is beautiful, but this is not it. It is something more. It is the mystery of the discarded stone which becomes the foundation of our existence. Christ is Risen. This is what it means.
In this throwaway culture where what is not needed is just used and disposed of, where what is not needed is thrown away, that stone — Jesus — the source of life, is discarded. And with faith in the Risen Christ, we too, pebbles on this earth of pain, tragedy, acquire meaning amid so many calamities. The sense to look beyond, the sense to say: “Look, there is no wall; there is a horizon, there is life, there is joy, there is the cross with this ambivalence. Look ahead, do not close within yourself. You pebble, acquire meaning in life because you are a pebble near that rock, that stone which the evil of sin discarded”. What does the Church tell us today before so many tragedies? Simply this: the discarded stone is not really discarded. The pebbles which believe and stick to that stone are not discarded. They have meaning and it is with this sentiment that the Church repeats from the bottom of Her heart: “Christ is Risen”.
Let us think for a while, each of us, think about the daily problems, the illnesses we have been through or of one that a relative has; let us think about wars, human tragedies and with simplicity, with a humble voice, without flowers, alone, before God, before us, let us say, “I do not know how this is, but I am certain that Christ is Risen and I have put a wager on it”. Brothers and sisters, this is what I wanted to say to you. Go home today repeating in your hearts: “Christ is Risen”.
- What stood out to you from the Gospel or Reflection/Homily?
- Head: We hear twice in this Gospel not to be afraid. How should the resurrection if we truly believe it, help to dispel even our greatest fears?
- Heart: Pope Francis asks you to repeat in your hearts ‘Christ is Risen’ so that like the women you will be filled with awe and joy. Describe a moment of true awe and joy you have experienced.
- Hands: How do you live in and be a witness to the joyful truth that “Christ is Risen’ even in the midst of so much evil and suffering in our fallen world?
Spend some time in prayer with one another:
- Conscious of what has just been shared, members briefly name/ describe their prayer needs.
- Intentionally call on the Holy Spirit to be present (e.g. “Come Holy Spirit, please be present as we pray”)
- Offer prayers of thanks and praise to God.
- Pray for each others’ prayer needs. Where appropriate, you may like to encourage the group to place a hand on the shoulder of the individual that you are currently praying for.
- Conclude your prayer time with another prayer of praise, perhaps praying the ‘Glory Be’