The word of the Lord came to me, saying: Son of man, when the house of Israel lived in their land, they defiled it by their conduct and deeds. Therefore I poured out my fury upon them because of the blood that they poured out on the ground, and because they defiled it with idols. I scattered them among the nations, dispersing them over foreign lands; according to their conduct and deeds I judged them. But when they came among the nations wherever they came, they served to profane my holy name, because it was said of them: “These are the people of the Lord, yet they had to leave their land.” So I have relented because of my holy name which the house of Israel profaned among the nations where they came. Therefore say to the house of Israel: Thus says the Lord God: Not for your sakes do I act, house of Israel, but for the sake of my holy name, which you profaned among the nations to which you came. I will prove the holiness of my great name, profaned among the nations, in whose midst you have profaned it. Thus the nations shall know that I am the Lord, says the Lord God, when in their sight I prove my holiness through you. For I will take you away from among the nations, gather you from all the foreign lands, and bring you back to your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees. You shall live in the land I gave your fathers; you shall be my people, and I will be your God.(P) The word of the Lord.
A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me. Cast me not out from your presence, and your Holy Spirit take not from me. (R)
Give me back the joy of your salvation, and a willing spirit sustain in me. I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners shall return to you. (R)
For you are not pleased with sacrifices; should I offer a holocaust, you would not accept it. My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn. (R)
Brothers and sisters: Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.
For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection. We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin. For a dead person has been absolved from sin. If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.
We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him. As to his death, he died to sin once and for all; as to his life, he lives for God. Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as being dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.(P) The word of the Lord.
After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. His appearance was like lightning and his clothing was white as snow. The guards were shaken with fear of him and became like dead men. Then the angel said to the women in reply, "Do not be afraid! I know you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: "He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him." Behold, I have told you."
Then they went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed, and ran to announce this to his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them. They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid! Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me."(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
There was a Sunday school student who could hardly answer any of the questions that he was asked. Every time he was asked a question, he thought for a long time before answering and still got it wrong. This went on and on and on. The Sunday School teacher was becoming pretty frustrated, and decided to ask an easier question. She asked, "Who are we celebrating at Easter?" The student thought for a very long time. That made the teacher very angry, so she screamed, "Jesus Christ!" As soon as she had said that, the student turned quickly and headed back to his seat. "Get back here! I did not ask you to leave yet!" The teacher yelled. The student replied," Oh! I'm sorry, I thought you called the next student."
Friends, Easter is all about a person by the name of Jesus Christ. Many people mock and attack the name of Jesus Christ. They take the Lord Jesus' name in vain and disgrace it. But for us the name "Jesus Christ" is the most wonderful and powerful name in existence. The word "Jesus" comes from the Greek and Hebrew word "Yeshua" or "Joshua" means literally "God is salvation", and the word "Christ" comes from the Greek word "Christos" or the Hebrew word "Messiah", meaning "anointed". So Jesus Christ is the anointed one of God who came to save people from the darkness of sin. He died on a wooden cross, not for his wrong doings but for the sins of the world so that people would not be condemned, and he rose again on the third day as he had predicted. His Resurrection from the dead has changed the lives of people - yesterday, today and tomorrow. We gather tonight to celebrate this great and joyful event which gives meaning to everyone's life and everything else.
Today we heard four texts from the Old Testament and an Epistle and a gospel passage from the New Testament of the Bible. Among the six texts, the resurrection story from the gospel of Matthew is central to our celebration of Easter as it concerns the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The resurrection itself is not described anywhere in the text presumably because no one, not even the guards, have seen Jesus coming out of the tomb. Our Lord Jesus Christ effects his own resurrection by virtue of his divine power. Even though not a single person has witnessed the actual rising of Jesus many experience the effects and what follows. Matthew depicts the extraordinary effects produced by the resurrection on the cosmos and upon the people who were in heaven and on Earth.
First, the Earth shakes at the moment of the resurrection. Second, an angel of the Lord descends from heaven and rolls back the stone not to let Jesus out, but to let the women in and then sits upon it. His appearance is described as lightning, and his clothes shining white as snow. Third, the guards at the tomb are so afraid of the whole thing that they shake and become like dead men. Fourth, the women are also afraid because they came to the tomb only to anoint Jesus' body. But now they are alarmed and terrified to discover the empty tomb. However, they see the Risen Christ a little later while on their way to inform the disciples about it which suggests that the Risen Christ cannot be seen, unless he allows himself to be seen by those who are looking for him. The women were looking for Christ so they see him, whereas, the guards who did not look for him, do not see him.
Friends, everyone present on that first Easter day and the days following felt the effect of the resurrection. What effect does the resurrection have on you? We have had forty days of preparation through prayer, spiritual reflection, fasting, and penance to prepare for the celebration of Christ's resurrection. If you have sincerely prepared yourselves and looked for him with devotion and faith, (I believe at least some of you might have), I am sure the Resurrection of Christ will affect you personally. If you do not yet experience or see him, please remember the comforting words of the angel to the women, "Do not be afraid. Peace to you! Jesus is risen from the dead. He is going ahead of you. You will see him. When you do see him you will be filled with wonder and joy, and moved to embrace him and worship him."
Friends, like Mary Magdalene and the other women, let us go back into the world tonight in holy fear, yet with great joy, to share the good news of Christ's resurrection with families and friends, all men and women, believers and unbelievers. I wish and pray that as you go about spreading the message you and all those waiting and looking for him may truly see him, and be blessed by him in abundance.(P) Amen.
Happy Easter, Alleluia!