“Early in the morning on the first day of the week,” the words which begin both Luke’s gospel at the Vigil Mass and John’s in the Day Mass, call us to a sense of wonder and joy as we celebrate the day of resurrection. It is a day for new beginnings: just as the first reading of the Vigil Mass proclaimed the creation of light on the first day, so “at the first sigh of dawn” a new light shines in the world. God, by raising Jesus has begun a new creation, snatching new life out of the jaws of death, as it were. So we, too, at our darkest hour of suffering can glimpse the first glimmer of light in a new dawn. The disciples had accepted Jesus’ death as final, as both gospels make clear in different ways: Mary Magdalen is looking for a dead body in John’s gospel and the disciples think the report of the women is “nonsense” in Luke’s. But the truth of the resurrection is that something happened on that first Easter morning to turn the grieving women and the unbelieving disciples from their confusion and despair to a belief that Jesus was with them in a new way.
With that dawning realisation there was no turning back. It was a belief that would propel them all over the known world of the time to bear witness to the fact that Jesus was alive, as the first reading for the Day Mass proclaims: “God raised him to life and allowed him to be seen.” They bear witness to a personal encounter with the risen Lord: Jesus lives and is with them again, with the disciples who had betrayed him and fled, with the women to whom he had given new dignity in their lives and who, because of that, could stick with him to the end and through the end to a new beginning.
The renewed life of which the Easter stories tell us calls us to a week of celebration after which our discipleship should be, as the alternative second reading suggests, as fresh and wholesome as the smell from a batch of newly baked bread.
Fra Angelico’s painting of the resurrection beautifully portrays the wonder of that first Easter morning.
Sr Celine Mangan O.P