Easter Sunday, Year C
Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Col 3:1-4 or 1Cor 5:6b-8; Jn 20:1-9
Introduction: This is a homily/Scripture reflection in a book, titled: ‘Every Week God Speaks We Respond’, Cycle B, intended to be published in the future by Reverend John Tran Binh Trong.
It was published in Vietnamese in the US 2008 and republished in Viet Nam 2011. To keep the author’s writing style, this homily has not been edited and may not be by a hired hand. However, if readers would like to point out mistake(s) in spelling and grammar and/or to suggest English phrases and expressions, it would be greatly appreciated by the author, whose English is not his mother tongue and who did not live in the US until his adulthood. Passive sentences are used intentionally in this context as to avoid using the first personal pronoun ‘I’ when applicable, that might be associated with any idea of egotism, in accord with the French saying, known as: ‘Le moi est haissable’ (The ego is detestable).
In the early fifties of 1950, in order to slander Catholicism, the Vietnamese communists promoted a whispering campaign against the Vietnamese Catholic Church, saying the Catholics worship a dead god on the cross. What they said is only half-truth. The other half they did not say is the God made man had risen.
It was written in the prophets and psalms that the messiah must suffer and rise from the dead on the third day (Lk 24:46). In addition, Jesus himself predicted that he would suffer, die and rise on the third day (Mt 16:21; 17:9; 17:23; 20:19; Mk 8:31; 9:9; 9:31; 10:34; Lk 9:22; 18:33; Jn 2:19). If so, who testified to his resurrection?
At first, the disciples did not believe in Jesus’ resurrection as Saint John’s Gospel of today tells us: For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead (Jn 20:9). When Jesus appeared to the Apostles, they thought it was a ghost (Jn 24:37). Then they saw him, ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead (Acts 10:41). In a court of law, one witness is not valid as it says in Latin: testis unus, testis nullus, meaning one witness is no witness.
In this case, not only one witness testified, but also eleven witnesses, eleven Apostles testified to Jesus’ resurrection. How did they testify to his resurrection? They testified to Jesus’ resurrection before the Sanhedrin, i.e., the Supreme Council of the Jews. They underwent persecutions, imprisonments, trials and deaths to witness to his resurrection. Therefore, we can say Jesus’ resurrection was a historical fact. If Jesus has not risen from the dead, then he would be only man. As man, he could not save us from sin and death. If he has not risen from the dead, then Jesus could not defeat death and could not invite us to share his resurrection. Then we would die like animals and plants through the cycle of birth to death without resurrection.
The Christian faith is rooted in Jesus’ resurrection. According to Saint Paul: If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is void of content and your faith is empty too (lCor 15:14). To echo St Paul, we can say further: If Christ has not risen from the dead, then to pray, to attend mass and to keep God’s commandments would be in vain. Someone else said: If Christ had not risen, then Christianity would have vanish like smoke on Good Friday and the Apostles would have returned to their fishing and tax collecting careers, and Jesus would have been forgotten in a short period of time.
When meditating on the mystery of salvation, we must not forget that Jesus’ suffering, death on the cross cannot be separated from his resurrection. There can be no resurrection without suffering and death, and Jesus’ death has no meaning if there is no resurrection. Christ’s resurrection has transformed the lives of the Apostles, the lives of Mary of Magdala and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.
Christ’s resurrection has transformed the lives of millions and millions of people who have put faith in him. His resurrection is to strengthen their faith and sustain their hope. Hope should bring joy and reason to live their lives when they face difficulties and problems of life such as sickness, disease, worry, anxiety, loneliness and fear.
In a few moments, we are going to renew our baptismal promises. Most of us were baptized when we were tiny infants. Our parents and godparents supplied what was lacking in us. They made the profession of faith for us. They made promises to reject sin and Satan and its empty promises on our behalf. Today each one of us must profess our faith in the risen Lord, not in a mechanical way and in a routine fashion. We cannot depend on the faith of our parents and godparents forever. We have to learn to stand on our own feet as far as faith is concerned. We must ratify the faith we received at baptism, if we expect to be mature Christians.
One of the baptismal promises we are going to make is to renew our belief ‘in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died and was buried and rose from the dead and is now seated at the right hand of the Father’ (Renewal of Baptismal Promises). This faith in Jesus Christ is also, what we proclaim in the profession of faith Sunday after Sunday after Sunday. Therefore, if our renewal of faith at baptism is not to be an empty promise, then we have to take it seriously, and to live and practice what we promise.
Prayer for rising in grace with the risen Lord:
Oh risen Christ!
By your resurrection, you destroyed sin
and overcame death.
In Lent, we have died to sin and vices.
May we rise now in grace with you? Amen.
John Tran Binh Trong