HOMILY FOR EASTER SUNDAY YEAR B
HOMILY THEME: IN THE RESURRECTION JESUS CONQUERED
BY: Fr. Cosmas Ukadike CM
A very happy Easter to you dear friends and a happy New Month of April.
The celebration of Easter is the memorial of the Lords resurrection from the dead. It celebrates primarily the power of Christ over sin and death. It is victory for the children of God. The resurrection is the summit of the mystery of our Christian faith thus we proclaim: dying He destroyed our death and rising He restored our lives; a life that seemed hopeless and doomed for destruction.
Today’s gospel presents significant evidences of the risen saviour and his power to conquer death and come out victorious as the Lord of life and death.
Even though we do not need material evidences to believe in the resurrection power of Jesus Christ, whom the scriptures tells us has power to lay down his life and to take it up again (Jn 10, 18) and who also has power to do whatever he wills Ps 115, 3), yet he decided to present evidences as we see in the gospel: the heavy stone rolled away from the tomb so early in the morning (despite the presence of heavily armed security guards), the Empty tomb, and the grave clothes carefully arranged on the ground. Easter is about removing stones.
When Mary and the other women approached the tomb after Jesus’ death, they saw an amazing sight. They expected to see the stone still hiding the tomb, and they needed a way to enter the resting place of their beloved Master. The stone represented a barrier to their goal: to anoint the body of their beloved Master with spices. I’m sure their hearts were still downcast as grief flooded their spirits. “Who will roll away the stone?” they asked one another. But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away” (Mark 16:2-4 NIV).
Easter is all about removing stones. When those barriers disappear, hope emerges from the other side—new life in Christ. But remember, it is God who specializes in stone removal. Whether you are looking for a way in or a way out, Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Jesus’ death and resurrection opened the door to new life. The “stones” that imprison us or block our path have no power to destroy us. There is only One who can roll away your stones and bring joy, new life, and freedom- Jesus Christ.
The Empty tomb our hope of glory If is not true that the empty tomb signifies Jesus’ resurrection, would not have any of the Jewish religious leaders taken the short walk to Joseph’s tomb to verify this claim? Did not the Sanhedrin have every motivation to produce Jesus’ corpse (if it were available) and put an end to these “rumours” of a resurrected Jesus once and for all? The fact that Christianity began to gain converts in Jerusalem tells us that no corpse had been produced despite the Jewish religious leadership having every motivation to produce one. If Jesus’ crucified body had been produced, Christianity, with its emphasis on a resurrected Jesus, would have collapsed. St Paul would say: if Christ had not risen from the dead, our preaching is useless and so is our faith (1Cor 15, 14).
All four Gospels report that the tomb of Jesus was discovered empty by women. This point is especially significant given the patriarchal nature of first-century Israel. While it is true that, under very limited circumstances, women were allowed to testify in a court of law, it is also the case that, in first-century Jewish society, a woman’s testimony was worth far less than that of a man. If you were making up a story in an attempt to persuade others that Jesus had been resurrected, you would never have used women as your primary witnesses.
Yet the Gospels report that, while Jesus’ male disciples were hiding from the authorities out of fear of been arrested and killed too, it was women who were the earliest witnesses of the empty tomb, the first disciples of the resurrection.
Of course, there is more to the story than merely an empty tomb. The reason the tomb was found empty was that the man who was buried there had risen from the dead. And Jesus emphatically assured his disciples that “because I live you also will live” (Jn 14, 19b).
The Grave clothes
The presence of the grave clothes, not scattered at random around the tomb but arranged in orderly manner which must have been the key convincing element for the beloved disciple who saw and believed (Jn 20, 6-7).
The condition of the grave clothes indicates that Jesus’ body had not been stolen by thieves. And anyone who had come to remove the body (whether the authorities or someone else) would not have bothered to unwrap it before carrying it off). And even if one could imagine that they had (perhaps in search of valuables of rings or jewellery still worn by the corpse) they would certainly not have bothered to take time to roll up the facecloth and leave the other wrappings in an orderly fashion (Jn 20, 6-7).
The grave clothes here seem to have more theological importance as we see in the case of Lazarus who came forth from the tomb, still wrapped in his grave clothes (Jn 11, 44). He would need them again, for he would die a second time. However, when Jesus came forth from the tomb, he left his grave clothes behind, because he would never need them again. Death no longer held power over him. He conquered death.
We therefore, have every reason to believe that Jesus has truly risen from the dead and his death is our ransom to life. Death no longer Hs power over us, for he has taking our burdens of sin, slavery and death away.
May the joy of the risen saviour be our strength. Happy Easter to you! Fr. Cosmas Ukadike, C.M.