easter The Sánchez Archives


Patricia Datchuck Sánchez


ACTS 10:34, 37-43
JOHN 20:1-9

Several years ago, the Italian film maker, Franco Zeffirelli (born 1923) offered the public his cinematic version of the good news of Jesus of Nazareth. In the film, after the crucifixion of Jesus on Calvary and his hasty burial, a member of the Sanhedrin was informed that certain followers of the itinerant teacher and healer were claiming that his tomb had been found empty. Others were spreading the news that they had experienced his risen presence. At that, the Jewish official moaned softly and sighed almost inaudibly, “. . . and so it begins.” And so indeed, the resurrection of Jesus marked the beginning of a new way of life centered in Christ Jesus, who died but now lives forever. By virtue of Jesus’ victory over sin and death, believers are offered a new perspective. Jesus’ cross and resurrection changed forever the way we look at death; it changed the way we look at life, at this world and at one another.

As the late Karl Rahner once explained, Jesus’ resurrection gives meaning to the Holy Saturday of human existence. “A strange, mysterious, silent day, a day without a liturgy, Holy Saturday is a symbol of everyday life which is a mean between the abysmal terror of Good Friday and the exuberant joy of Easter. For ordinary life is also mostly in between the two; the Holy Saturday of our life must be the preparation for Easter, the persistent hope for the final glory of God.” (The Great Church Year, Crossroad Pub. Co., New York: 1994).

To live the Holy Saturday of this life worthily, Rahner suggested, is to live in hope, doing what is possible and expecting God to do the impossible. It is to recognize the truth of the words of Tertullian (145-220 C.E.), viz. Caro cardo salutis, or the flesh is the hinge of salvation. The reality of Easter is that God is not simply up yonder or the totally other transcendent one. He has come to us, in the flesh and blood of human existence and therein has transformed who we are. “Since then, Mother earth has only borne children who are transformed. For Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning of the resurrection of all flesh.” (Karl Rahner, The Content of Faith, Crossroad Pub. Co., New York: 1992).

Another perspective on the resurrection was proposed centuries ago by Augustine (354-430 C.E.). “Give me a lover”, said the bishop of Hippo, “and he will understand the resurrection.” Expanding on Augustine’s thought, Gerald O’Collins (What Are They Saying About the Resurrection?, Paulist Press, New York: 1978) explained that the love between a man and a woman hints at the divine love revealed in the resurrection. “For God the Father to say, ‘This is the Son whom I love’ (see Mark 1:11, 9:7) was to say ‘He will not die’, or rather, ‘I will not abandon him to death’ (Acts 2:25-31). The fourth evangelist used similar love-language in his telling of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection: “Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.” (John 13:1) Love is not confined by the limitations of time or death. Parents do not tell their children, we shall love you for 10, 15 or 20 years. Children do not say, “I shall forget you when you die.” Lovers do not say, “I will love you for five years.” “Genuine love is committed and committing to the language of ‘forever’.” (Gerald O’Collins, op. cit.).

In Jesus’ resurrection, the loved children of the Father are promised that his forever love will travel with them to life beyond the grave. In the risen Lord, believers find a new perspective of hope and meaning with which to view the Holy Saturday of human existence. Jesus, who was dead and is now risen assures us of the saving transformation of all flesh. With every Easter celebration we are privileged to affirm again: “. . . and so it begins. . .”

ACTS 10:34, 37-43

When Luke wrote his second volume (his gospel being volume one) in the mid to late 80s C.E., the key protagonists of his Acts of the Apostles, Peter and Paul, had already died. But Luke chose not to mention the demise of these two heroes of the early church. Instead he left his readers with the impression that the ministries of Peter and Paul were still intact and that the apostles continued to speak to the church through the discourses attributed to them.

Calling Luke the first “historian” of the church, Jerome Crowe (The Acts, Michael Glazier Inc., Wilmington: 1983) has suggested that Luke’s literary style aligned him with historians like Livy, Flavius, Josephus and Tacitus, who wrote within a tradition of history established by Herodotus and Thucydides five centuries before. Like them, Luke presented “an orderly account” of the events pertinent to the early church, “but whereas the pattern they sought to establish arose out of the interplay of the human decisions of great men with a rather nebulous ‘fate’, Luke offers an insight into the ‘plan’, or ‘will’ of the one true God offering salvation to all people.”

A major feature of the histories of Herodotus, Thucydides and their literary successors were the discourses which were placed on the lips of their key figures. While purporting to reproduce the thoughts and words of the speaker to whom they were attributed, the discourses were actually a literary technique for communicating the author’s own ideas and insights. So also in Acts, the discourses functioned as a vehicle for the Lucan proclamation of the gospel. Notice the fact that this discourse, like all the others, contains the key elements of the earliest kerygma or basic message of salvation, e.g. that Jesus’ death was in accord with God’s foreordained plan, that he was raised from death as foretold in scripture, and that witnesses saw him in his risen state.

In general, the discourses or speeches attributed to Paul presented the kerygma as intended for a gentile audience, while Peter’s were geared toward Jewish listeners or readers. In today’s first reading, however, Peter is portrayed in the uncharacteristic posture of preaching to gentiles. Luke’s intention is clear: Peter, as the recognized head of the church is giving his approval to the gentile mission and all its consequences, e.g. Jews and Gentiles, united by faith in Christ, would no longer be separated by ethnic differences or rules of clean/unclean. Moreover, Peter’s kerygmatic discourse represents the fulfillment of the mandate Jesus had issued at the end of the Lucan gospel, viz. that the good news of forgiveness and salvation should be preached in his name “to all nations” (Luke 24:47). Perhaps it could be said that in the wake of Jesus’ resurrection, Peter and other Jewish Christians began to realize the challenge of embracing a more universal perspective regarding salvation, viz. that “everyone who believes in him has forgiveness of sins through his name” (vs. 43) This challenge was proferred within the context of the conversion of the gentile Cornelius and of his whole household. Given extensive coverage by Luke (Acts 10:1-11:18) the Cornelius event was landmark decision for the early community and a model for this developing missiology.

The universal implication of Jesus’ resurrection, viz. that all flesh has been loved and transformed by God (Augustine, Rahner) requires that those who celebrate its reality this Easter look on even the most distant and disparate among us from a new perspective, viz. one of love.


Due to the advances in medical science, particularly in the latter half of the twentieth century, a phenomenon known as the “near death experience” has become almost commonplace. Victims of heart attacks or other serious physical trauma, who would otherwise have died, can now be resuscitated and go on to live normal lives. Many, who have survived such an encounter with death have said that their lives were radically altered by the experience. Values and priorities were adjusted. People and relationships became more important than things. The trivialities which had previously received so much effort and attention faded into insignificance in order that the truly essential aspects of human existence could be better attended. In a sense, the author of this short pericope from Colossians would have his readers give similar consideration to their life in Christ.

Through baptism, the believer has died with Christ and rises with him to a new life of grace and glory. That experience of dying and rising should radically alter the values, priorities and subsequent life-style of the believer, such that his/her heart is set “on what pertains to higher realms”, and his/her intent is “on things above rather that on things of earth” (vss. 1,2). Unfortunately, the Colossian recipients of this letter were being pulled in other directions.

Epaphras had founded the church at Colossae and probably brought the gospel to other cities in the Lycus’s valley as well (Laodicea, Hierapolis). Paul also had ties to the city, through his relationships with Philemon, Onesimus, Apphia and Archippus. Although it remains a part of the disputed Pauline corpus, the letter which was sent in Paul’s name to Colossae is consonant with the apostle’s theological concerns.

False preachers (2:4,8) plagued the city, attacking both the supremacy of Christ and his true humanity while offering in its place an amalgam of pagan astrology, proto-gnositicism and an aberrant form of Jewish mysticism. Lest they be swayed by these errors, the author of Colossians reminded his readers that their baptismal commitment to Christ required that they be renewed daily in the death and resurrection of Jesus.


Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), the Italian poet, philosopher and statesman once wrote, “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in time of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.” Closer to our own times, the situation ethicist, Joseph Fletcher remarked, “The true opposite of love is not hate but indifference. Hate, bad as it is, at least treats the neighbor as a thou, whereas indifference turns the neighbor into an it, a thing. . . the one thing worse than evil itself is indifference to evil. In human relations, the nadir of morality is manifest in the phrase, ‘I couldn’t care less’.” Although most of us probably do not think of ourselves as careless or indifferent, we need only recall the experience of Kitty Genovese who was murdered on a busy New York street in 1964 while her shouts for help went virtually ignored by dozens of neighbors. More recently, after little Elisa Izquierdo (1989-1995) was tortured and killed by her mother, neighbors, teachers and welfare authorities were forced to admit that their apathy in her regard made them somehow complicit in her death. Carelessness or passivity in the face of wrong doing is at the heart of this excerpt from Paul’s letter to Corinth.

Evidently, a certain man in the Corinthian community had formed a union with his step-mother. It is not clear whether the man’s father was alive or dead; nevertheless such permissiveness was unacceptable even by pagan standards. Not only were the Corinthians tolerant of the man’s behavior but it seems that some “were disposed to be proud of the situation, looking on it as a rather fine assertion of Christian liberty.” (F. F. Bruce, Paul, Apostle of the Heart Set Free, Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, Grand Rapids: 1991). Reminding them that such a situation should have made them “sorrowful” rather than “boastful” and “inflated with pride” (5:1-6) Paul likened the man’s behavior to a leaven or yeast. Just as yeast eventually affects the entire piece of dough, so, warned Paul, could the aberrant behavior of one unredressed sinner corrupt the whole community.

In the ancient world, leaven was regarded as an impurity and became a symbol of sin and corruption. On the eve of Passover, faithful Jews swept their houses clean of leaven and baked only unleavened bread in observance of the feast of their freedom and belonging to God. Perhaps Paul was alluding to this custom when he called the Corinthians to get rid of the old yeast of corruption and wickedness and replace it with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

During the Christian Passover which is Easter, believers are called to attend to the “leaven” of sin and apathy in their own lives and to assume responsibility for the “leaven” which threatens to corrupt the life of the community as well.

JOHN 20:1-9

One of the key doctrines of the Christian faith, the resurrection of Jesus is also one of its greatest mysteries. Fortunately, the fourth evangelist has offered his readers a guide to help them make their way through his gospel toward a better understanding of the risen Jesus. Variously referred to as the beloved disciple or the one whom Jesus loved, the identity of this unnamed guide continues to be debated among scholars. Some have suggested that the beloved disciple was not an historic person but a symbol of the true disciple who remained close to Jesus and was the first to believe in his resurrection (vs. 8). Others have suggested that Lazarus was actually the beloved disciple; still others have posited John Mark. More credible is the solution offered by Raymond E. Brown, who suggests that the beloved disciple and the source (not the direct author or redactor) of the underlying historical tradition of the fourth gospel are one and the same, John, son of Zebedee. “The combination of external and internal evidence associating the Fourth Gospel (sic) with John son of Zebedee makes this the strongest hypothesis, if one is prepared to give credence to the Gospel’s (sic) claim of an eyewitness source” (The Gospel According to John, Vol. I, # 29, Doubleday, New York: 1966).

An able guide, the beloved disciple was nearest to Jesus at the Last Supper (13:23-26); he remained at Jesus’ cross with Mary and was entrusted by Jesus with her care (19:25-27). He was with Simon Peter when Mary of Magdala brought news of the empty tomb (20:2). First to arrive at Jesus tomb, he saw and understood what Mary had not. While she thought that Jesus’ body had been taken, the beloved disciple realized, by the orderly arrangement of the burial cloths, that Jesus’ body had not been stolen but that he was indeed risen. He believed. “It is as if his faith is less the result of human effort and understanding than the effect of Christ’ love within the disciple” (Wilfrid Harrigton, The Saving Word, Michael Glazier Co., Wilmington: 1980). Later, while fishing with Peter, the beloved disciple would recognize his resurrected Lord standing on the shore and point him out to Peter (21:7). In concluding his gospel the fourth evangelist identified the disciple Jesus loved as the authoritative source of his work (21:24).

Like the angel interpreters (Matthew 22:5, Mark 16:5, Luke 24:4) of the synoptic resurrection narratives, the beloved disciple helps the readers of the gospel to sort out the mystery of Jesus’ resurrection and come to faith. “The lesson for the reader is that love for Jesus gives one the insight to detect his presence. The Beloved Disciple (sic), here as elsewhere the ideal follower of Jesus, sets an example for all others who would follow.” (Raymond E. Brown, op. cit., Vol. II, # 29A). As our model and Easter guide, this loved disciple calls us to consider and rejoice with him in the mystery of God’s love for us incarnate, crucified and risen.

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Illustration prepared by Julie Lonneman.

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