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Easter Sunday

March 27, 2016
Reflection by Professor Thomas Groome
Director, Church in the 21st Century Center

Thomas Groome, Professor of Theology and Religious Education at Boston College, is completing his fortieth year of teaching at BC. He also serves as Director of BC's Church in the 21st Century Center. Tom is widely recognized as one of the leading Catholic religious educators in the world and is known for his commitment to integrating faith with the everyday of life. One of his many widely read books is What Makes us Catholic: Gifts for Life (Harper Collins).  

Readings for Easter:
Acts 10: 34A, 37-43
Colossians 3: 1-4
John 20: 1-9 

"All Changed, Changed Utterly"

Since my Irish childhood, Easter always brings to mind W. B. Yeats’ powerful poem “Easter 1916.”  He wrote it in honor of the “Irish Rising” against British rule that began on Easter Monday 1916, the name and date deliberately chosen to echo the rising of Jesus. Yeats’ refrain throughout the poem is “All changed, changed utterly.  A terrible beauty is born.”  It captured well the rebirth of the Irish nation through that Easter Rising – one hundred years ago this year. It also names the import of Easter for all who believe that “Christ is risen.” If we really believe it!


Paul stated bluntly the high stakes of Easter faith: “if Christ has not been raised, then our faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14). But how can we wager on this Easter gamble? How can we thank God with rock solid faith “for giving us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3)?  

Pause and Reflect

  • What do you name as the meaning of Easter for your own life-in-faith”?
  • Recall some of the roots and foundations that help to sustain your Easter faith?

They Couldn’t Make This Up

What convinces me most of Easter is how the stories of Jesus’ resurrection so poorly portray his disciples. All of the accounts have them being incredulous, slow to believe, some were “startled and terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost” (Luke 24:37).  Even today’s Gospel says that the two male disciples “did not understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” Two other disciples on the Road to Emmaus were with him all day and didn’t recognize him – until he “broke the bread” with them. If this was made-up, the first disciples to craft these stories would surely have represented themselves in a better light – as expecting Jesus’ Resurrection.

If that wasn’t enough to convince that they couldn’t have made this up, read the rest of today’s Gospel story, John 20: 11-18 (too bad the Lectionary leaves it out). There we find that Mary Magdalene became the first to encounter – and believe in - the Risen Christ. And this is agreed by all four evangelists. As Mark 16:9 states explicitly, “he appeared first to Mary Magdalene.” So Magdalene was, as the early Church named her, “the apostle to the apostles” (not a prostitute – a later and total misrepresentation). Again, if this was a made up story, its crafters and their culture would never give the central leadership role to a woman; indeed, our Church still stumbles in this regard.

So, we can reliably confess that “Jesus was raised on the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:4); that bonded with Christ by baptism, we, too, are raised up and can “live in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). We can trust that “the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also” (2Corinthians 4:14), that even death has “lost its sting” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57). We know for sure that we will all die but just as surely “in Christ, all shall be brought to life” again (1Corinthians 15:22). Now death is no more than a “change of life” (Preface, Mass of Resurrection).  

So Yeats said it well: “all is changed, changed utterly; a terrible beauty (he meant “awesome”) is born.” After Easter no oppression can finally triumph, no evil have the last word, no cross be too heavy to carry, no addiction be beyond recovery, no sin be unforgiveable. Because “Christ Jesus . . . was raised to the right hand of God and intercedes for us” now nothing can “separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:34 and 38-39).

Reflect and Decide

  • How can you best celebrate the marvel and meaning of Easter?
  • How will you put your Easter faith to work tomorrow?

Even Our Bodies

So totally did the early Christians believe in Jesus’ resurrection as conquering death that they crafted the Apostles Creed to confess, “I believe . . . in the resurrection of the body.” Wow! Jesus’ victory over death is so complete that even our bodies will finally rise into newness of life. I’ll be ready for that; maybe I’ll get back my twenty one year old one, with all my hair and vital functions. Meanwhile, all of us can live with the hope that through death a “terrible beauty” will be (re)born in each of us.

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