Posts Tagged 'Mark 16:1-8'

For April 8, 2012: Easter Day, Year B

The Reading            Isaiah 25:6-9

Isaiah the prophet foresaw the disaster that overcame the people of God when they were taken into exile in Babylon. In today’s reading he foresees them rejoicing in their redemption and return to Jerusalem through the power of God. We  Christians read into this Jesus rising to destroy death and sin, and for all peoples. Hallelujah!

 

The Epistle            1 Corinthians 15:1-11

The Corinthians were, like humans in all times and places, a bit thick-headed. In today’s reading Paul underlines for them the main points of the gospel story: Jesus truly did die for our sins and rise again, appearing to the apostles (“Cephas” is Peter) and even to a soul as misguided as Paul had been. Hallelujah!

 

Further thoughts

As the selection today from the gospel of Mark ends, two ladies named Mary, grieving for Jesus, have just gotten news so astonishing that they can neither believe it nor share it, and they run away.

This may help explain why it is customary that one of the readings for Easter Day be Acts 10:34-43. Peter’s simple but stirring summary of the Good News fills in the rest of the story. Even better for us Gentiles, Peter insists that the resurrection is no longer merely a Jewish affair: Jesus lived and died and lives again for anyone from any background who believes in him.

Today’s other readings drive home much the same point, though in somewhat different ways. Isaiah, looking forward from the hard times around the exile in Babylon, shows us the mountaintop where the Lord will prepare the feast of feasts. For those of us who have (or could use) memberships at a gym, the allure of marrow and fat may be a little hard to understand—but what human could resist the allure of an end to grief, frustration, disgrace or fear of disgrace, and even death itself? What is more, Isaiah tells us, The Lord will feast all peoples, take death from all nations, and wipe tears from all faces—all of them.

It falls to Paul to summarize the Good News, though here he is reminding the Corinthians rather than announcing it for the first time. Paul takes the rest of the account in a different direction. We know that Jesus is risen, Paul tells us, because he appeared in the flesh to Cephas or Peter, the other apostles, and many other believers; we know that Jesus died for people’s sins, Paul tells us, because the scriptures say so; but the fact that Jesus appeared even to the likes of the church-persecuting monster Saul of Tarsus (for Paul’s phrase “untimely born” can be paraphrased as “congenitally deformed”) is how I am to know that Jesus’ death and love are enough even for my sins.

And that is astonishing good news indeed.

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For April 7, 2012: the Easter Vigil, Year B

The Epistle            Romans 6:3-11

Jesus is both God and man, both high priest and sacrifice, and ready to forgive, if we can forget ourselves long enough to reach for the life he offers.

 

Further thoughts

With the Easter vigil begins the last and greatest day of the Triduum, the three holiest days of Christendom. What extraordinary stories this night tells!

We hear of a God in the business of producing wonders: God who can pull the universe out of nothing, God who can make rainbows, God who can part seas and change hard-headed humans’ minds.

More astonishingly, this God, as Jesus, has willingly taken on human life, and not just selected bits at a suitably high socioeconomic status but the ordinary person’s whole quotidian sequence. Then, in a shocking irony, this God-and-man has allowed the religious establishment to convict him on trumped-up charges and have him executed horribly and shamefully.

The gospel news that knocks the two Marys speechless dazzles us still: this disgraced-and-dead Jesus has not only not stayed dead, but rather he lives body and all, God and man.

But even this life after death is neither the end of the surprises nor the biggest one. The readings from Isaiah and Ezekiel, with their promise of abundance and salvation and real hearts of flesh, set us up for a magnificent, healing, joyous cosmic punch line. As with the best jokes, this one is with us, not on us. For Jesus knows the absolute worst of humanity (yea, even unto adolescence), how judgmental we can be and how obsessive about the unacceptability of what we really are inside; nevertheless he’s setting the best crystal, spicing up the deviled eggs, carving the roast beast, and loosening the corks on the best wines ever, just for us, once we get over ourselves enough to die to our own shame.

The punch line is delivered by the letter to the Romans, and it is this: once we’re dead to shame, we’re alive to receiving the love of Jesus and sharing it—and when we do, the magnificent, healing, joyous party is on NOW.