Easter Sunday, Year C, Catechist

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Catechist Background and Preparation

To prepare for the session, read all the readings.

Acts 10:34, 37-43
Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23
Colossians 3:1-4 or 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8
John 20:1-9

Spend a few minutes reflecting on what these readings mean for you today. Was there a particular reading that appealed to you? Was there a word or image that engaged you?

Read the Word in Liturgy and Catholic Doctrine sections. These give you background on what you will be doing this session. Read over the session outline and make it your own. Check to see what materials you will need for the session.


The Word In Liturgy

Peter’s preaching in the first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, presents the entire scope of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and its meaning for the world. Beginning with John the Baptist, Peter recounts the essential story of Jesus’ coming, preaching, overthrow of the powers of evil, his passion, death, and resurrection, and the forgiveness of sins that results from these events. He speaks as one of the chosen witnesses who ate and drank with Jesus after his resurrection, thus emphasizing the real, physical nature of the resurrection.

In its context in Acts, Peter’s speech is momentous. It provokes an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon its hearers. Peter delivers it to Gentiles gathered in the home of Cornelius, who is a virtuous and devout non-Jew. In the context of its Easter Sunday proclamation, the passage retains its urgency and eruptive power. It both announces the whole message of the good news of Jesus, centering on his resurrection, and states the universal import of that message in the good news of forgiveness of sins for Jew and Gentile alike.

The gospel passage from John tells the story of the resurrection in terms more personal than those of Peter’s speech in Acts. Set in the darkness of Mary Magdalene’s early morning pilgrimage to the tomb, the gospel is an account of several lights dawning: daybreak itself; the disciples’ discovery that the tomb is empty and their dawning awareness of what that fact meant; and finally, the beloved disciple’s coming to believe that Jesus has been raised from the dead.

Most striking in this account is the role of the beloved disciple (assumed in the tradition to be John). Having heard the story of Mary, he outruns Peter to the tomb, yet allows Peter to enter first. Both enter the tomb, but the beloved disciple alone is described as believing. Why is John the first to reach the tomb and to believe? The simplest explanation is the most likely one: the author of John’s gospel wished to show the power of love to put the believer in touch with the truth of the resurrection. The figures of Peter and John are not in competition with one another. The beloved disciple however, because of his love for Jesus, comes more quickly to discern and to believe that Jesus is risen.

The empty tomb, though important, is not the sole basis for Christian belief in the resurrection. The grave could have been robbed of its corpse, as indeed Mary first assumed. John’s account, like that of the Synoptics, shows that the disciples did not expect the resurrection, and found it hard to believe until the risen Lord himself appeared to them (for “they did not yet understand the scriptures. . .”). Crucial to their faith in the resurrection were their subsequent personal encounters with the risen Christ, encounters described in various ways in the gospels proclaimed throughout the Easter season. Thus we have, alongside the positive proclamation of Acts, a gospel account today that only begins to unfold the meaning of the event of the resurrection in the lives of those who witnessed it.


Catholic Doctrine

“On the third day he rose again, in fulfillment of the scriptures. . .”

The unconditional and overwhelming love of God for us made visible in the incarnation does not disappear and fade with the death of Jesus on the cross. Indeed, that passionate love of God for us is enthroned upon the cross, which becomes the pulpit of God’s truth. That message of divine love is deepened in the death and entombment of Jesus. That love transcends the tomb in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

The chains of death are truly broken. Just as the divine nature took on our humanity (in all things but sin), so too the resurrection of Jesus was accomplished in a real human body. The Risen Lord is not a ghost who returns to haunt the disciples, nor some sort of resuscitated corpse. The resurrection of Jesus is a passing over from death into a new life, a new existence.

That Jesus rose from the dead is an actual, historical event and not a psychological or spiritual experience of the disciples. This is not some myth or wish-fulfillment on their part, or ours. Those first disciples witnessed something totally unexpected and surprising and which they only gradually understood. And in understanding it, they were willing to be martyred in telling the good news of the resurrection.


Posted in: Sessions C