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Sunday Scripture: Remembering our reasons for happiness

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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

By Father Timothy Schehr

Easter Sunday: Acts 10:34-43; Colossians 3:1-4 or 1 Corinthians 5:6-8; John 20:1-9

Happy Easter! This is the greeting we will hear from so many this Sunday. People want us to enjoy our day with family and friends. But the readings for this feast give us even more profound reasons to be happy.

The first reason, of course, is the Lord’s victory over death. God’s children have been subject to death ever since Adam and Eve stepped out of the Garden of Eden. But now death’s fearful hold over us has been broken; Jesus has won the victory. Death can never again dominate human life in the same way.
Paul has perhaps the most famous summary of this truth in his words to the believers in Corinth: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).

Other details in this Sunday’s Gospel also contribute to this message of victory. It is still dark when Mary reaches the tomb of Jesus. But by the end of the reading we can almost feels the soft warm rays of the sun brightening up the scene.
Then there is the stone rolled away from the entrance of the tomb. Its mass and weight are no longer needed for its original purpose: to seal a tomb separating the dead from the living. Now the stone has become a door flung wide open to allow the good news of eternal life to enter the world.
Similarly, the garments shrouding the body of the Lord now lie in heap on the floor of the tomb. Robbed of their original purpose, they now testify to the Lord’s victory. And the cloth covering the Lord’s face is folded up in a separate place, perhaps a final statement that the Lord’s work of salvation is finished.

Peter’s message to the house of Cornelius gives further meaning to the happiness of Easter. In the first reading we hear him say that forgiveness of sins is open to everyone who believes. This of course includes even us, although we are far removed from Peter’s time and citizens of nations never even imagined in Peter’s time.

Peter’s arrival at the home of Cornelius marks an important step in the church’s proclamation of the good news. Once again the limitations of human weakness are shattered by the power of the Holy Spirit. Peter may never have ventured beyond the Jewish world had the Spirit not taken the initiative and opened his mind to realms beyond his homeland and his people.
As the reading begins, Peter has done what was unthinkable for him earlier. He has stepped into the household of a Roman centurion. And even more astounding, that Roman centurion is more than ready to hear the good news. Not only Cornelius but also his entire household is moved to accept the Gospel.

Paul gives us more reasons for happiness this Easter. If the second reading comes from Colossians this Sunday we will hear Paul speak of new life in Christ. Paul’s readers have plenty of reason to set their hearts on things that pertain “to higher realms” where Jesus sits in glory.
If First Corinthians is chosen for the second reading, we hear Paul talk about a brand new diet for his readers. The old diet was too heavy on earthly resources. Believers should try a new and more spiritually nourishing diet based on sincerity and truth.
So when we greet each other this Sunday let’s remember our reasons for happiness reach way beyond the colorful eggs and good food we will enjoy with family and friends. Happy Easter!

Father Schehr is a faculty member at the Athenaeum of Ohio.

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