"Breaking Open the Word" :
James Cavanagh is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. His weekly column, "Breaking Open the Word," is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Click here to visit the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Denver.
April 8, 2012: Easter Sunday
Overview: During the Easter season the first reading always comes from the book of Acts. Acts tells the story of how the kingdom of God established by Christ grew and expanded, fulfilling Jesus’ mandate in Acts 1:8. The story begins in Jerusalem and ends in Rome—but the end is really just the beginning of the Church’s mission, which continues to this day. And her message hasn’t changed.
In the first reading Peter addresses a Roman centurion and his household. His speech contains the essential Gospel message. When Peter finished, Cornelius and his family were baptized, thus becoming the first Gentile converts to Christianity. Baptism is “the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit” (CCC, No. 1213). In baptism one participates in Christ’s death and is raised to the new life of grace.
In the second reading Paul explains how this life in Christ has profound implications. One thinks and acts with the mind of Christ according to “what is above,” not according the flesh and what is below.
In the Gospel reading Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb early in the morning. Seeing that the stone had been rolled away she assumes that someone stole the body and so, without looking in, runs to tell Peter and the disciples. Peter and John hasten to the tomb, look in, and see that it is indeed empty. Well, not entirely empty, for the reading calls our attention to the burial cloths which were left behind. No one actually saw the resurrection, but the burial cloths and the disciples’ testimony bore witness to the fact: Christ is risen! This is the essential Gospel message.
Key verse: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Col 3:1).
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Christ’s resurrection—and the risen Christ himself—is the principle and source of our future resurrection. The risen Christ lives in the hearts of his faithful while they await that fulfillment. In Christ, Christians ‘have tasted … the powers of the age ‘to come’ and their lives are swept up by Christ into the heart of divine life, so that they may ‘live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised’” (No. 655).
Benedict XVI: “In baptism he takes us, as it were, by the hand, he leads us along the path that passes through the Red Sea of this life and introduces us to everlasting life, the true and upright life. Let us grasp his hand firmly! Whatever may happen, whatever may befall us, let us not lose hold of his hand! Let us walk along the path that leads to life” (Homily, March 22, 2008).
Life application: Our faith in the resurrection begins with the testimony of the apostles and ends with our own experience of Christ. The testimony of the apostles can take one a certain distance along the path of faith, but it’s our own personal encounter with the risen Lord through Scripture, prayer and the sacraments that we come to believe. Having died and been raised with Christ we no longer look at things from a human point of view; instead we now see things from God’s perspective and so think and act accordingly.
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. Cavanagh’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register.
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