focus of the day:

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ACTS 10 : 34, 37 - 43
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     During Holy Week we read the accounts from Luke and John, of Jesus' Passion. Now we have John's account of Easter joy. The women are the first to arrive at Jesus' tomb. John mentions only Mary Magdalen. The disciples don't believe the women; as Luke points out and Mark does too - in a complementary text (cf Mk.16:9-11). John only infers this. Along with Peter, he mentions the, "other disciple."
     The risen Jesus appears first to women - persons who were looked down upon at the time (as they are still). The proclamation of new life starts with the very people who are marked by death, marginalisation and mistreatment.

the first reading:

Today's texts announce God's victory over the power of death! Peter sermonises about post-Easter Eucharistic meals in which Jesus was understood to be present through those assembled, and charges his listeners who have shared in those meals, to proclaim God's power-for-life and to give witness to the risen Jesus!

Acts 10 : 34, 37 - 43

     Acts focuses on the mission of Jesus' disciples beyond His absence from them. Peter's address to the household of Cornelius, a Roman centurion, marks the start of the disciples' movement outwards - from Jerusalem to the gentile world. Peter had lacked either understanding or courage to proclaim publicly what God had done, in and through Jesus, until the moment after Jesus' resurrection when the Holy Spirit baptised and empowered the apostles to speak (Ac.2:1-4).
     It is the Holy Spirit who directs Peter to the house of Cornelius and would guide in detail the admission and baptism of the first gentiles (Ac.10:38 & vv.44-47) to become followers of Jesus' way. Peter proclaims a message which has the power-for-life. It is a message in continuity with the good news of Jesus; indeed of the whole Hebrew tradition of the Torah and the Prophets (v:43).
     Peter's proclamation is a sign of a continuing message as well as a continuing power. The apostle is the vehicle of the Spirit, bearing witness to Christ in the household of a non-Hebrew. It is part of the general movement recorded in the Book of Acts, in which the proclamation shifts from Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, to the ends of the earth (In terms of geographic distance, little old Aotearoa-New Zealand marks the end of the line of that extension)!

the response:

The psalmist speaks thanksgiving for God's faithful sustaining love.

Psalm 118 (117) : 1 - 2, 16 - 17, 22 - 23

     A song of thanksgiving and praise for God's mercy and power. The psalmist regularly bears witness to the surprising gift of new life just when none had been expected. The Hebrews can voice a song of thanksgiving, because YHWH is the one who hears and answers their expression of hurt and grief. It is YHWH, who resolves the experience of disorientation.
     The speaker affirms the intervening action of YHWH to give life, in a world where death seems to have the best and strongest sway. The song is not about the natural outcome of trouble, but about the decisive transformation made possible by this God who causes new life where none seems possible.
     Christians interpret the Easter events in terms of a continuity of God's transforming action. God took the "rejected one"(v.22) and made Him the foundation of the new Christian structure. The earliest preaching of the resurrection, found in this psalm the Christian community's interpretation of Jesus.

the second reading:

As in the first reading the text from Colossians announces God's victory over the power of death! The action of God brings  glorification" for all God's people. The resurrection of Jesus is THE event that makes a radical style of new life possible.

Colossians 3 : 1 - 4

     Christians have died with Christ and have, "been raised up in His company" in their baptism (v.1). Although they share Christ's risen life - that risen life is hidden and incomplete. Only Christ's return will complete the transformation of the Christian's present unglorified or incomplete state. This tension is the key to Paul's ethics.
     In the present, disciples of the risen Christ keep their attention on the "higher things" in store for them (v.2). This hope sustains their Christian practice. The promise of a full share in Christ's risen life should encourage disciples to assume their Christian responsibilities to change the world.
     Already in the present time believers can participate in the resurrected life of Jesus. Their understanding and behaviour are based on God's victory, in Jesus, over death. Even if the faithful disciple already shares in the resurrection life, a final revelation of Christ's future glory still awaits. That revelation will also contain the glory for those who believe (v.4).

the Gospel:

The early part of John's gospel, shows the possibility of a movement from "no faith" towards faith. For example, the mother of Jesus, Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman and the royal official(Jn.2:1-4:54). Now at the end of Jesus' story there are three more examples - the Beloved Disciple, Mary Magdala and later there will be the story of Thomas.

John 20 : 1 - 9

     The focus shifts from the possibility of faith, in the early chapters of John's gospel account, to the completion of the journey to faith here! John, the evangelist, skillfully looks back, from the vantage point of the Johannine community, describing the end of the story of Jesus. Here is the foundational experience of three people, whose meeting with the Risen Lord led them to faith. The account begins with Mary Magdala going to the tomb (Jn.20:1-2) and discovering it empty returns to tell Peter and the Beloved Disciple (John).
     The role of women varies from one society to another - but generally what women do is regarded as less important that what men do! This may explain why it was less dangerous for women to be by-standers at the crucifixion, or for them to go to the tomb first. Be-that-as-it-may, Mary's love overcame fear of death and society's prejudice. She was a strong woman. Jesus died for love. Mary's source of courage was the courage to love. Women today identify with Mary's courage. According to Hebrew law, the testimony of a woman wasn't valid. Mary's testimony is validated later by the testimony of the Beloved Disciple and Peter. That was important for the Johannine community, whose journey from "no faith" to "faith" depended on the announcement of Mary and the foundation experience of the first apostles.
     Mary and the two male disciples were looking for Jesus' body - but they didn't find it in the tomb. Earlier when Jesus was asked by the Sadducees (who did not believe in the resurrection of the body) He said, " ...have you never read in the Book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him and said: 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?' - God is not God of the dead! - but God of the Living!!"(Mk.12:18-27).
     Jesus understood His life was a continuation of and belonging to the same movement as the story of Sarah and Abraham etc.. For Jesus, the same power of God which was at work in the Hebrew ancestors, was at work in Him. The scriptures confirmed it! The God of the living was named by Jesus as the God whose power animated His practice. The same God, who after raising up a people from slavery and oppression through Moses, would be able to raise up other bodies.
        The Beloved disciple has now seen all the signs of death - tomb and wrapping clothes - both empty now (Jn.20:8-9). He saw and believed! The faith of this "founding father" and model disciple of the Johannine community, came from an awareness that death could not hold Jesus of Nazareth! Unlike Lazarus, who had to be untied, Jesus was free of the reality of death! A community founded on such an experience has its own journey to make. It is nourished further in this faith by reflection on the scriptural record of the practice of the first disciples.
     If someone dies for others and nobody follows their ideas, we could speak as though that person doesn't rise. Jesus says that when they hear His voice the dead will rise. He meant that when His message of God's reigning of love is heard by all - and a new society is created - all those who formerly lived that message are going to rise again. The crucifixion doesn't make any sense unless there is a resurrection. If death isn't conquered it doesn't do any good to conquer anything else in the world. Paul says the last enemy to be conquered is death!
     When there is justice throughout the earth - then will come the resurrection of the dead! The error of twenty-first century Christianity, has been to believe we can enjoy the reigning of God without changing the world! Many theologians say there is no other world than this one. We know almost nothing about resurrection - so we mustn't go on about it. I believe that the tombs of all those who loved others, are empty!

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