Scripture in Depth
The Easter Sunday Mass is not itself the paschal liturgy. That took place at the culmination of the Easter Vigil. Rather, this is the first of a series of Masses that belong to the great fifty days. In them we reflect upon the post-Easter revelations of the risen Christ and the fruits of our redemption in him. The readings are the same every year.
Reading I: Acts 10:34a, 37-43
New Testament scholars regard the “kerygmatic” speeches of the Acts of the Apostles, not as records of what was actually said by Peter or others on a particular occasion, but as samples of the “kerygma,” or basic message of the earliest Jerusalem church.
While Luke undoubtedly had a hand in giving them their present shape, they enshrine very early christological patterns. This sermon, for example, contains the following points:
(1) The earthly ministry of Jesus, culminating in his death, met with Israel’s rejection of the proffered salvation. The word “tree” calls attention to the scandalous nature of Christ’s death: “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” (Dt 21:23; see Gal 3:13).
(2) Christ’s resurrection was God’s vindication of Jesus and all that he had stood for, in face of his contemporaries’ rejection of it. This “no-yes” interpretation of Golgotha and Easter is characteristic of the earliest period.
(3) The apostles witness the events from the beginning of the earthly ministry through the post-resurrection appearances.
Note, too, the suggestion, present elsewhere, that the context of the resurrection appearances was, at least sometimes, a meal. The roots of the Christian Eucharist lie not only in the Last Supper but in the meals that the risen Lord celebrated with his disciples after his resurrection
Responsorial Psalm: 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23
Psalm 118, with its reference to the stone rejected and made the headstone of the corner, was perhaps the earliest psalm that the primitive community applied to the death and resurrection of Christ. It was the basic Old Testament text for the “no-yes” interpretation of the earliest kerygma.
Reading II: Colossians 3:1-4
“If you have been raised with Christ” is a common turn of phrase. It means “If (and of course you are).” Colossians is more positive than Rom 6 (see the Easter Vigil service) that baptism includes both the dying and the rising with Christ. But it still maintains two reservations: the resurrection with Christ has to be implemented by constant moral effort; it is a hidden reality that is not finally revealed until Christ’s Second Coming.
Gospel: John John 20:1-9
This text is a combination of two different traditions.
The one is the well-attested and reliable tradition that Mary Magdalene (other names are added in various forms of the tradition, but there is no consistency here) visited the grave of Jesus on Easter morning, found it empty, and reported the fact to the disciples.
The other, less attested tradition is of Peter’s visit to the grave (see Lk 24:12). (In the earliest and strongly attested tradition, Peter was the recipient of the first appearance located in Galilee.)
To the less attested tradition John has added the race between Peter and the “other disciple,” probably with a symbolic significance. The “other disciple” comes to faith in the resurrection through the mere sight of the empty tomb.
In the earlier tradition, however, the disciples come to faith in the resurrection through seeing the risen Lord.
Reginald H. Fuller
**From Saint Louis University