The Church gives several options for the Gospel reading on Easter morning. The option discussed here, Lk 24:1-12, is also the Gospel reading for the Easter Vigil. Another option, Jn 20:1-9, is discussed
here. Lk 24:13-35, suggested for masses later in the day, appears here.
Luke wrote his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, in part, to encourage his readers to find evidence that Christ was still alive and at work in the world. Jesus’ own ministry reached its climax in the resurrection. It continued after his ascension in the explosive growth that the apostles led with boldness in the Spirit. In Luke’s thinking, God had sent the Son specifically to reveal the resurrection so that humanity could live without fear of death.
‘Then they returned from the tomb and announced all these things.’ (Lk 24:9)
How has the risen Christ appeared to you?
How can you help others understand Christ’s presence?
This message was sorely needed in Jesus’ day. Although no one would call Jesus’ world secular in the modern sense, the Greco-Roman world had some of the same “disenchanted” aspects as does our own contemporary life. Although religious belief was widespread, Hellenistic thought also produced more atheistic literature than any other Western culture before our own. For many at that time, belief in and service to the gods was a requirement of holidays and sacred seasons or the ceremonies of family and nation. Very little literature of the day speaks of religious obligations arising from personal piety or spiritual development.
Jews were an obvious exception to this. One of their responses to the corrosive influence of Greco-Roman culture was the development of intense devotion. Many Jews recognized in each fulfillment of the Mosaic law an opportunity to encounter God’s own wisdom. Each commandment was an invitation to divine communion. Christians with backgrounds in this kind of Jewish piety had a comparatively easy time finding Christ’s presence. The implications of the resurrection made intuitive sense to them.
Greco-Roman converts in Luke’s community, lacking such piety, experienced greater difficulty. Luke’s account in this Sunday’s Gospel passage shows one way he taught them to find Christ. A moment of wonder for the women—seeing the empty tomb—led to a moment of interpretation by the men in dazzling garments, who reminded the women of Jesus’ own teaching. The combination of their experience at the tomb with their recollection of the message of Jesus stirred belief in the women, who then went and announced what they had seen. The wonder would have made no sense without Jesus’ own words to interpret it. The angels first, and then the women, played a critical role in bringing the apostles, and every subsequent Christian, to belief. This is the lesson Luke taught his Greco-Roman readers.
We are those messengers today. We bring the good news that Christ is alive and still at work in the life of every person. So many of our brothers and sisters have become numb to the evidence all around them that Christ is alive and active. With no interpreters to help make sense of the signs of Christ’s presence, the significance of these moments slips by, and the anxieties of everyday life eventually drown them out.
One of Luke’s favorite motifs is the arrival of the divine in the midst of the everyday. Angels sing to shepherds tending their flocks, a miraculous catch turns fishermen into apostles, and a tax collector meets Jesus at his customs post. A messenger is always necessary to bring transformation out of a moment of wonder. We must be that voice, showing all that Jesus Christ is still alive and at work among us.