Easter Day – Alleluia! Christ is risen!


Colossians 3:1-7       St John:20:1-10


Alleluia!  Christ is risen!


Today in our Gospel we heard of the first moments, according to John, of the breaking in of a new reality in Creation – it is a very subdued account.

Mary Magdalene went to the tomb where Jesus had been buried while it was still dark. She went out of loving devotion – to anoint the dead body of her Lord, because it had been quickly buried just as the Sabbath began (on Friday night) and she chose, out of faithfulness not do this work on the Sabbath.

She sees the stone that had covered the grave had been taken away from the tomb. She looked in and saw that the tomb was empty, and she ran to tell Peter and John – “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”

Our proclamation of the Resurrection begins with a revelation of the absence of our Lord – as John recounts the events that happened – he and Peter ran to the tomb, they see the burial garments but not the Lord’s body – and John says when he looked in, he saw and believed!  Despite all of the preparations Jesus had made, it wasn’t until the actual disappearance of Jesus’ body, that belief in His Resurrection began to come to their minds.


The resurrection of Jesus is something that we can’t quite put our minds around.

Pope Benedict XVI, in his excellent book Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week, notes that in the gospel resurrection accounts there seems to be a “mysterious combination of otherness and identity.”

On the one hand, Jesus does not seem to be recognized when he appears.  Think of Mary Magdalene, mistaking Jesus for the gardener [John 20:15].  Or think of the two on the road to Emmaus, who are joined by a stranger, who speaks on and on with them as they walk, but is only known later in the breaking of the bread – at which point he disappears [Luke 24].  Or remember Jesus’ appearance at the Sea of Tiberias, where he calls out from shore to the disciples who are in a boat to ask if they have any fish.  They say no, so he tells them to cast out again, it is only after the catch, that they know him [John 21].  In every case, it is not by outward physical appearance that they recognize him, but by “a kind of inward knowing”. [Benedict]

On the other hand Jesus is clearly physically present to them – he tells them he is not only spirit, and proves it by eating a piece of fish in their presence – and yet his body is not restrained or confined by the laws of physics that we know.  He appears in their midst in a locked room – he is able to appear and disappear at will.

Jesus’ miracles of the raising of the son of the widow of Nain or that of Lazarus, pointed to the resurrection but where not the same.  They were resuscitated by Jesus, only to die again later.  But Jesus is now permanently beyond the reach of death.  He is showing us something utterly new.  As Benedict puts it, “Jesus’ Resurrection was about breaking out into an entirely new form of life, into a life that is no longer subject to the law of dying and becoming, but lies beyond it—a life that opens up a new dimension of human existence.”  Life has burst forth from the grave and opened his followers’ eyes to a new reality, a far greater glory that awaits us.   Truly a “mysterious combination of otherness and identity.”


When I was a young Christian, and people said, Christ is risen! and others responded, The Lord is risen indeed!  I wasn’t quite sure what they were talking about – was I supposed to be feeling something?  Did they actually see him?  Is there something I’m missing?  What do they mean by saying, Jesus is risen?

For one thing, it is simply an affirmation of faith – something we believe because of the many witnesses in the Bible who attest to it.  And the Apostles say, that unless Jesus rose from the dead, the whole of our Christian faith is worthless – they hold that it is as key to our understanding our faith as Jesus’ birth and his death on the Cross.  And the Apostles are all adamant in the Bible in stating that they have truly seen Him.

So first of all the Resurrection of Jesus is a matter of faith – we trust the Bible, which holds the testimony, the witness of the Apostles.

But secondly, people through the ages have experienced and into the present are experiencing in their lives the power of the risen Jesus to bring life out of situations that were very much like death.

  • For some it does include mystical experiences of visions and / or dreams – as promised by the prophets. St Paul saw the risen Jesus.  Many Saints through the ages have testified of a vision.  And today, many Muslims are converting to Christianity after seeing a vision of a man in white who comes to them in the night asking them to follow him.
  • For some it is the strange “coincidences” where nature itself seem to speak in direct ways at just the right moment, or unexpected encounters with just the right individual at just the right time that seems to have been lovingly arranged by someone.
  • Or for some it is the sudden unexpected love received from a stranger, that made the person wonder later, who was that?
  • For many it is experiencing profoundly Jesus’ mercy – the certainty of the forgiveness of sins.  Some were found in a place of real hell on earth and then were lifted out by a power and love way beyond them.
  • It is experienced by most as the ongoing inspiration by the Spirit of Jesus in our hearts revealing the truth about ourselves and our relationships, and leading us to a better place.
  • And it is communal too – Jesus promised us that whenever 2 or 3 are gathered in his name he is there in their midst. As we come to embrace Christian fellowship we know there is something added, something special in those friendships, in those communities – we attribute it to the presence of our risen Lord.

There are a myriad of ways that people experience the risen Jesus Christ.


Is there something we can do to know more and more the risen Christ?

In our Epistle today Paul says – If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

We’ve gone through the forty day Lenten fast – if you’ve participated, I hope it has been spiritually enriching.  This is one way to draw nearer to the risen Lord.  Maybe you experienced a deepening or renewal of faith.  Maybe there is something the Spirit of the risen Lord has brought to your mind – something that bound you, something that must stay in the grave.  Pray for the grace to leave it behind, and find a new and better country, to seek the things that are above, where Christ is.

As Christians we experience the risen Lord as coming to us.  But he also says we can participate in the work of being raised up, by putting to death sin and setting our minds on things that are above.  It is to cooperate with His Spirit that is within us to lift us into that new life.  And His love will lift us!


Jesus has promised us a another way to know his risen presence – and perhaps you too are longing for it today – the Pascal Feast!

It seems that many of the occasions of Jesus’ resurrection appearances were in the context of a meal.  The two disciples in Emmaus only knew him in the breaking of the bread.  And Peter says in his sermon in Acts: “God raised him the third day, and showed him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen beforehand by God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.” [Acts 10:40-41]  Remember Jesus’ inviting the disciples to breakfast on the beach at the Sea of Tiberias – it seems he even cooked them some fish!  [John 21]

He comes to eat and drink with us today – He says, Take, eat, this is my body; Drink this all of you, this is my blood of the New Covenant.  In this meal he establishes and strengthens our covenant with Him.

We receive in our hearts the presence of the risen Christ.  Jesus fills up the meaning of the Passover meal, with his own sacrifice.  His Passover means that judgement passes over us – peace comes to our hearts, if we’ve prepared ourselves by acknowledging our sins, and trusting in His self offering.  Then we know reconciliation with God, and His love is kindled in us.

As with the Israelites who stepped out of political bondage to the Egyptians, so do we step out of every situation of bondage and slavery to the past, to walk in faith, in a new adventure, all the time recovering our true humanity and our dignity on that walk.  The true and final Promised Land, is being opened up to us here and now, as we are made partakers of the Divine nature – and there is no better place on earth to be than with God.

And, as His Love is shed abroad in our hearts – that is the risen Christ in us.

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

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Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. Psalm 127:1,2