This Sunday's Readings
Genesis 1:1—2:2 (shorter form, Genesis 1:1,26-31a)
God creates the heavens and the earth.
Psalm 104:1-2,5-6,10,12-14,24,35 or Psalm 33:4-7,12-13,20-22
A song of praise to God, the Creator.
Genesis 22:1-18 (shorter form, Genesis 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18)
God puts Abraham to the test.
The Lord shows us the path of life.
The Israelites pass through the Red Sea.
The song of praise that the Israelites sang after crossing the Red Sea.
The Lord promises to redeem Israel.
A prayer of thanksgiving for God's redemption.
A call to return to the Lord who is merciful.
The Lord sends his salvation.
Israel is told to follow the way of God's commandments.
A prayer of praise for God's commandments.
The Lord will cleanse Israel for the sake of his holy name.
Psalm 42:3,5; 53:3,4 or Isaiah 12:2-3,4bcd,5-6 or Psalm 51:12-15,18-19
A prayer of praise for God who saves us.
Those who have been baptized have died with Christ.
God's mercy endures forever.
The women go to the tomb to anoint Jesus' body and are greeted by two men who announce that Jesus is risen.
Background on the Gospel Reading
Each of the four Gospels reports the discovery of the empty tomb after Jesus' death. At the Easter Vigil each year, we read from one of the Synoptic Gospels. This year we are in Lectionary Cycle C and we read from the Gospel of Luke. On Easter Sunday, the Gospel reading is always taken from the Gospel of John.
In each of the four Gospels, we learn that it was the female followers of Jesus who first went to the tomb. Luke reports that the women from Galilee go to the tomb to anoint Jesus' body, bringing with them the spices they had prepared. Luke names three women who found the tomb empty: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary, the mother of James.
Upon arriving at the tomb, the women find that the stone has been rolled away from the entrance. They enter the tomb but do not see the body of Jesus. Before the women have drawn any conclusions about this, they see two men dressed in dazzling garments. The women are said to be terrified. When these men speak to the women, they announce that Jesus has been raised from the dead. As if to prove their announcement, the men recall Jesus' own words to them. The women leave the tomb and report to the others what they have seen and heard.
These women disciples were faithful followers of Jesus who had probably served Jesus in many ways during his journeys. Luke tells us that they remained present with Jesus on his way to the crucifixion site and witnessed his death. They came to the tomb that morning expecting to serve Jesus once again by anointing his body. Instead, they were sent to minister in a different way, as messengers to Peter and the apostles.
Yet the apostles do not believe the women. Luke reports that the women's story seemed like nonsense. It is odd that Peter goes to the tomb at all. Perhaps Peter knew these women well enough to give their story credence. Perhaps he remembered something that Jesus had said that led him to hope that the women's story was more than nonsense. Without explaining why, Luke tells us that Peter goes to the tomb to investigate the women's story. He looks into the tomb, sees the burial cloths alone, and then goes home amazed.
We see in Luke's Gospel that the Twelve (who now number eleven because of Judas' betrayal) are identified as separate from the other disciples. These men were identified as Jesus' inner circle; they hold a position of authority in the community of disciples. At the start of his ministry, Luke tells us that Jesus chose the Twelve and named them apostles (Luke 6:12-16). The word apostle means “one who is sent.” During his lifetime, Jesus prepared these apostles to be his witnesses by sending them to heal the sick, to exorcise demons, and to proclaim the Kingdom of God.
Peter is singled out from among the Twelve. The authority of Peter and the other apostles will continue to be described in the Acts of the Apostles, which was written by the author of the Gospel of Luke. We can trace our faith in Jesus' Resurrection to these witnesses. Their teaching, their ministry, and their bold proclamation of Christ's saving death and Resurrection are the beginning of the Church's witness to salvation through Christ.