There are so many riches in the Easter readings that we can easily be overwhelmed with impressions and concepts. We doubt how the Creation reading from Genesis 1 could be fitted in with the Easter narratives. Further glancing at the list of readings however leads us to see that all are interconnected and all possibly hinting at differing aspects of the wondrous truth of Resurrection. Pondering on four of them might lead us to see a possible theme beginning from Creation, continuing through Baruch, to the Gospel and ending with a challenge written by Saint Paul.
Genesis 1, 1-2, 2
In the first reading we celebrate Creation. Night and day come at the beginning. Light pulls back the great curtain on the vast stage of pre-creation darkness. Sun, moon and stars not being deities in their own right, but part of God’s creation, mark times of festivals and seasons. Earth emerges with all its beauty, mountains, seas, vegetation, beasts and insects. We note the solemn repetitive wording “God saw it was good” and the final climactic “God saw it was very good” with the creation of humankind. God delights in his handiwork. God’s pleasure in contemplating Creation is unmistakable as He blesses the seventh day and renders it holy.
Baruch 3, 9-15.32-4, 4
In Baruch, we read how God continues to tend Creation with loving care even after the seventh day. In this passage, Wisdom is manifest, especially in the verses 3, 32-37 where earth and animals obey the omniscient One. Stars joyfully acknowledge God by responding “Here we are!” Indeed we can almost hear their echo resounding through the vault of heaven while the following verse expresses their ongoing pleasure and delight, “They shone with gladness for him who made them”.
Mk 16, 1-7
A later verse in Baruch “Afterward she (Wisdom) appeared on earth and lived with humankind” leads us to consider the life of Jesus of Nazareth in the context of Creation. God became incarnate in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, a human being in history. His earthly existence consisted in sharing this life of God Creator with others, through his healing touch and his simple but demanding teaching. He yearned to communicate something of the wonder and love of the Universe, created by his Father. “My Father goes on working and so do I” (John 5, 17). This belief was to cost him his life, leading inexorably to his crucifixion.
Three days after the crucifixion, contrary to all expectations, God raised Jesus from the dead to a glorious existence beyond apparent earthly extinction. The resurrection of Jesus needs to be seen in the context of the universal resurrection of humankind. This truth had already been dimly perceived by Jewish people in previous centuries and was reiterated by Jesus himself as we read in chapters 6 and 11 of John’s Gospel. Resurrection is for everyone. The resurrection of Jesus was joyfully proclaimed by his faithful women followers, the Apostles and eventually by all Christians. This event marks an evolutionary step in human history, a quantum leap in the understanding of the mystery and meaning of our existence.
The Gospel for Easter Sunday this year is from Mark 16, 1-7. The timing of the resurrection, very early in the morning of the first day of the week when the sun had risen, heralds the first day of the new age of recreated humanity. Mary Magdalen and her companions loved the Lord and went to his tomb with spices for his anointing. They were met at the grave by a young man who told them that Christ had risen and had already gone ahead to Galilee where Peter and the other disciples would find him. Astounded by the apparition and amazed at the news that Christ had risen, Mary Magdalen and her companions rushed away from the tomb and refrained from telling the disciples what they had seen and heard. Fear and terror gripped them as this was a revelation totally beyond their comprehension. They were frightened to the core of their being at this glimpse of a reality utterly beyond their understanding. Centuries after the event, we now are tempted to ask would it only be later that their tongues were finally loosed to express something of their experience at the tomb, their extraordinary foretaste of an encounter with horizons beyond their wildest imaginings. Were they themselves so caught up into the mystery of resurrection knowing that this too would be in store for themselves – a glorified existence after death, a truth so astounding that they were utterly lost for words? Later verses of the Gospel give the impression that the women did eventually break their silence and proclaim the good news. Given the enormous significance of the message of Christ, we might easily believe that there was a time lag between the women’s encounter at the tomb and their eventual courage to announce the Risen Christ.
Col 3, 1-4
In Colossians 3, 1-4 we return to the truth of universal resurrection, of eternal life in store for every living person on this earth. Though we have all learned that eternal life has been promised each of us through our baptism, it can very easily be forgotten in the humdrum routine of daily living. We need this inspiring exhortation from Saint Paul to remind us of the true aim of our existence. This is not an easy task for anyone. Saint Paul reminds us that it is an ongoing struggle where we strip ourselves of all attitudes, even cherished principles and opinions which would hinder our attaining our ultimate goal, that of living in everlasting glory with Christ the Risen Lord.
Sr Mary O’ Byrne OP