OUR GOOD NEWS: Today we proclaim Jesus resurrection, the worlds greatest Good News.
Pauls selection reminds us that todays feast is to be celebrated with Easter resolutions and last-minute spring housecleaning so that we can become genuinely recommitted disciples. He used a homey example of yeast to make his point. Like one rotten apple in a bushel, a little yeast ends up "infecting" the entire lump of dough.
Jews took very seriously Moses command to "have your houses clear of all leaven" at Passover time. This annual ritual gesture symbolized a fresh, new beginning following repentance and reformation of life. Paul figuratively invited Corinthian Christians and invites us to a vigorous spring housecleaning that would remove sin and its destructive effects from ourselves and from within the community. He drew a further Passover parallel by interpreting Christs death as the Sacrificial Lamb, whose blood accomplished two things. It spared Israelites from divine vengeance intended for Egyptian oppressors and marked them out for liberation from cruel slavery.
Our Gospel selection assures us that Jesus resurrection is not naive, wishful thinking but grounded in historical events. These have been handed down from trustworthy witnesses and are interpreted as fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. By telling his story of the first Easter morning, the author of Johns Gospel shows that Christianitys central belief is grounded upon three separate kinds of evidence, each sufficient in itself. We have the testimony of an empty tomb (todays selection), the personal witness of chosen followers (other apparition accounts and 1 Cor 15:5-8), and finally biblical prophecy (see Lk 24:13-35).
The appearance of Mary Magdalene no doubt was dictated by the tradition that several women first discovered the empty tomb. But the author was really interested in the reaction of the two men; and so, tradition duly acknowledged, Mary leaves the scene for the time being. Next to appear is Simon Peter. As elsewhere in Johns Gospel and in other New Testament books, Simon Peter represents Church leadership. Thus, he is first among the disciples to leave for the tomb and also first to enter, the "other disciple" deferentially stepping aside. Peter then officially "notarizes" the various historical, factual details. "He observed ... and saw." Note that he is not criticized for unbelief. His role is official witness, and he fulfilled it.
Third to arrive at the tomb is "the other disciple." This mysterious figure is found only in Johns Gospel, and only in scenes at the end: at the Last Supper, beside the cross, and in a subsequent apparition account. He was first to arrive at the tomb, and the first who comes to faith when confronted with the evidence found there. "He saw and believed."
Todays Gospel is a profound story explaining how and why Christians in every generation are justified in their belief that the Lord has risen indeed.
OUR GOOD NEWS: The story of ancient Israel is the story of God and of us, his people.
Our first reading is best appreciated through its historical background. During the centuries of Israelite monarchy, politics and religion overlapped and intertwined. God himself owned the whole land; he ruled as sovereign Lord, while the human king served as administrative deputy. A unique covenant arrangement bound the nation to God so that secular prosperity depended upon religious fidelity. But because the people preferred other gods and irresponsible behavior, a Babylonian army conquered Judah, destroyed the capital city Jerusalem and carried off her leading citizens into exile. Having abandoned God, Israel was necessarily abandoned by him; she only got what she richly deserved.
God however prefers love and forgiveness rather than strict, impersonal justice. Retributive justice - giving others their due - cannot be his final word. Through prophets, God proclaimed restoration and rebirth. Sure enough, the brutal Babylonian empire fell to Cyrus the Persian. Exiles gradually returned and Jerusalem slowly came back to life. For those who had mourned their beloved holy city, this was a time to "rejoice, be glad, exult, exult!" Jerusalem had again become a nurturing mother to her children who would drink greedily and with great delight at her milk-laden breasts. Isaiah then quoted God's solemn promise to spread peace and prosperity over the whole land, like a river overflowing its banks to cover an entire valley. Instead of a wearisome journey marked by loneliness and want, returning exiles would be mothered by Mother Jerusalem - nursed, carried in her arms, lovingly fondled.
Unexpectedly and dramatically, the metaphor of Jerusalem-as-mother shifts. God himself becomes the "mother" who "comforts her son!" For the first time, the Bible dared to speak of God as like a woman. Israel lived like an island within a larger pagan world, where goddesses (and priestesses) encouraged blasphemous concepts of the divinity and sexual excess among worshippers. All the more powerful, therefore, this image of God "as a mother," which reveals a side of his being - passionately loving, gentle, nurturing, comforting.
What does this story mean for us? Like a tender, caring mother, Isaiah's God is a welcome balance to the "masculine" characteristics we often ascribe. Second, the purpose of God's coming into our lives isn't to hassle us or impose unrealistic demands but to bring the joy and peace of the Messianic age in which we are privileged to live. The Church has become our new Jerusalem, mediating blessings of salvation, bringing fullness of life to a despairing humankind.