The Resurrection of the Lord: Doctrinal Homily Outline for Easter Sunday (Year A)

Signorelli_Resurrection_detail_1500Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline for Easter Sunday (Year A), April 20, 2014, (1) provides insights into the Sunday Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)

Central Idea and Doctrine: The Resurrection of Christ and of us. Practical application: Joy.

To view the Lectionary 42 readings, click here.

Reading 1 Acts 10:34a, 37-43

Peter proceeded to speak and said:
“You know what has happened all over Judea,
beginning in Galilee after the baptism
that John preached,
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth
with the Holy Spirit and power.
He went about doing good
and healing all those oppressed by the devil,
for God was with him.
We are witnesses of all that he did
both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem.
They put him to death by hanging him on a tree.
This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible,
not to all the people, but to us,
the witnesses chosen by God in advance,
who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
He commissioned us to preach to the people
and testify that he is the one appointed by God
as judge of the living and the dead.
To him all the prophets bear witness,
that everyone who believes in him
will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”

  • In Acts, St. Peter announced the Gospel to the god-fearing Cornelius and his household after God showed Peter the Gospel was for Gentiles, too.
  • Peter summarized Christ’s public life. Our focus, of course, is on his Resurrection:
    • “This man,” this Divine-human man, we would say, “God raised on the third day,” or rather, he raised his own body from the dead through his Divine power.
    • “[A]nd granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us,” the Apostles and disciples, some five hundred in all.
    • “[T]he witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” Our Lord ate and drank with them both as the sign of human fellowship but also to show his body was really alive, that he was not a ghost or apparition of some kind.
    • “He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead.” This was the Apostles’ commission to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20).
    • Peter concludes, “To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.” That is the key: Through faith in the person of the Risen Christ, we will be forgiven of our sins. Of course, there is much more goodness we can receive through the Risen Lord, but forgiveness is the first step, the basis of the divine life the Blessed Trinity can build on if we want to cooperate.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23

R/ This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Israel say,
“His mercy endures forever.”

“The right hand of the LORD has struck with power;
the right hand of the LORD is exalted.
I shall not die, but live,
and declare the works of the LORD.”

The stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the LORD has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes.

  • The “builders” or leaders of men rejected Christ: The Chief Priest, the Sanhedrin, the Pharisees, the scribes, the Sadducees, Herod, and Pilate.
  • But Christ has become the cornerstone of another building, the Church, the assembly of all who are in a right relationship with the Blessed Trinity, sharing God’s life.
  • Why does Christ’s Resurrection matter to us? It matters for a very personal reason. Christ’s Resurrection matters to us because his Resurrection makes possible not only the forgiveness of our sins but also our own resurrection: Each of us can rejoice and say with the Psalmist, “I shall not die, but live,” and as a consequence, I will be able to “declare the works of the LORD.”

Reading 2 Col 3:1-4

Brothers and sisters:
If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ your life appears,
then you too will appear with him in glory.

  • What can St. Paul mean when he says both “you have died” with Christ and “you were raised with Christ”?
  • St. Paul seems to be saying that when we were baptized, both our death and our resurrection from death were hidden inside it.
  • Baptism is a death to our fallen nature and sins. We are no longer to seek happiness in futility, where it cannot be found.
  • Baptism is also our own resurrection in Christ. What is above is our Master, who is our guide and model. Our glorious resurrected bodies are not visible now because the one who will give them to us is in heaven, which we can’t yet see.

Gospel Jn 20:1-9

On the first day of the week,
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture
that he had to rise from the dead.

  • This passage from the Gospel of St. John is the discovery of the empty tomb of Christ by the good women and Peter and John on Easter morning.
  • Mary of Magdala understandably assumed the Roman or Jewish authorities had taken Jesus’ body away. St. John says that they did not yet understand that the Old Testament Scriptures predicted that the Messiah would not only suffer death but that he would rise from the dead. St. John is saying that when he saw the empty tomb he believed Christ had risen from the dead. Soon this Resurrection would be confirmed to their five senses when Christ appeared to them, and even ate and drank with them, as he taught them over the next forty days.

Doctrine: The Resurrection of Christ and of Us

  • In the Creed we recite, “I believe . . . he rose again on the third day” and “I believe in the resurrection of the body.”
  • What was resurrected on the third day? Jesus’ body. Death is a separation of the body from the soul. Jesus’ human soul remained united to the divinity of Christ. The Son of God reanimated and transformed his earthly body into a glorified body that morning.
  • The Resurrection is a real, historical event, “attested to by the disciples, who really encountered the Risen One” (CCC 656). It is also a “transcendent event: “[T]his event is mysteriously transcendent insofar as it is the entry of Christ’s humanity into the glory of God” (CCC 656). Calling it transcendent does not mean it was “unreal,” or “mystical,” or, worst of all, “a delusion.” This real event was transcendent in that it went beyond any natural human or material power in creation. It was a work of God giving Christ’s body supernatural power and glory.
  • When we look for our own resurrection, what are we anticipating? Again, bodies die, not souls. We anticipate the resurrection of our bodies, as we recite in the Creed. This is why Christ’s Resurrection means the world to us.
  • “Christ, ‘the first-born from the dead’ (Col 1:18), is the principle of our own resurrection, even now by the justification of our souls (cf. Rom 6:4), and one day by the new life he will impart to our bodies (cf. Rom 8:11)” (CCC 658).
  • If we are faithful we will live in glorified bodies united to our redeemed souls, possessing everything good we are capable of, securely, forever.

 Practical Application: Joy

  • Christ’s Resurrection is a joyful event. Our own resurrection will be the best “day” of our life.
  • But how much joy is in our lives now? How can we get joy? Can we grow in it?
  • These questions may seem pointless to ask because natural joy usually comes unbidden, sometimes totally unexpectedly. It may arrive at the end of a long hard road, when one has either suffered, or worked, or both, and the goal is reached or the evil is vanquished. Joy can also arrive when a sudden good turn happens. It is always more of a gift than an effect of something we cause.
  • We Christians can cultivate joy by being close to the risen Christ. Because he is God he is every happiness and joy. In fact, every human happiness is some reflection of the happiness which he possesses to an infinite degree. Just as God revealed his name, “I AM,” to Moses, meaning God is the being who is existence itself, we can also say not only is God loving, God IS love. God is not just beautiful, but God IS beauty. God IS truth. God IS joy.
  • Our source of joy now is twofold.
    • One is that we are redeemed from our sins and given the promise of eternal life, not just life without end but the fullness of life, love, and happiness.
    • Our other source of joy is closely related to this promise and it is a reality now. It is that we have become children of God, sharers in his nature. We have the noble task of living as prophets, priests, and kings in this temporal world, which it is our task to reform and perfect. Hope, optimism, and cheerfulness ought to characterize us and they are all within our everyday grasp.
  • Malcolm Muggeridge, that eminent British journalist who made a late-in-life conversion to Catholicism, wrote, “All I can claim to have learnt from the years I have spend in this world is that the only happiness is love, which is attained by giving, not receiving: and that the world itself only becomes the dear and habitable dwelling place it is when we who inhabit it know we are migrants, due when the time comes to fly away to other more commodious skies.” In other words, earthly happiness is the result of self-giving love in this place we will only occupy briefly and so love all the more.
  • And right now the way to proceed is by Muggeridge’s insight: “the only happiness is love, which is attained by giving.” We only find fulfillment now through that gift of self.
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