Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 4, 2001
Why are Easter readings different?
By SR. LOUISE ZDUNICH, NDC
Why, since Easter, do we have the First Reading at Mass taken from the New Testament instead of the Old? And why is the Second Reading from the Book of Revelation?
My response will not be a complete analysis of either the book of Acts or the book of Revelation but I will touch on how and why these texts are suitable for the readings after Easter.
Notice the tone of both first and second readings at these Sunday Masses, as well as the Gospel. The tone is triumphant and joyful. From the Resurrection or Easter, we are no longer sorrowful or waiting to be rescued.
Instead we proclaim Christ's victory over death with numerous and jubilant alleluias and chants full of life and energy. For Christ is risen and we are an empowered people, a resurrection people.
The First Reading for Sunday is taken from the book of Acts which tells us of the marvellous success and joy of the disciples spreading the Good News to the ends of the earth. They travel all over; they convert people by the thousands; they heal the sick.
From cowards running away at Jesus' death they have been transformed, by the power of the Spirit, into fearless followers and preachers of Jesus' word. They are threatened and thrown into jail but nothing silences them.
The Second Readings from Revelation complement very well the first readings, bringing us into contact with the risen Lord. We see God's power and glory in every moment of history for Jesus has triumphed over sin and death. We begin to realize that no matter what we do or who we are, Christ is the victor and power of the universe.
To begin to understand the book of Revelation, we have to look at the context of the times in which it was written. Christians were undergoing unbelievable persecutions, sometimes entire communities being martyred.
But they had this deep conviction that Jesus who was triumphant over death was with them in the Spirit. They knew that they too would be victorious. We, too, profess this same faith when we proclaim: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
Of course, Revelation is difficult to understand because it mixes the past, present and future. We are used to being so logical that we fail to grasp the meaning of its dynamic and spiralling form. It is a symbolic universe in which the authority of Christ, as victor, stands as a triumphant power in spite of the community's suffering.
Although readings from Revelation are used in the liturgy during a short period of time, the joy and power of its message continue through the rest of the Church year and throughout our lives.
Power and justice truly belong to the risen Christ and not to any earthly authority. By the victorious power of Christ, we are exhorted to resist the temptation to compromise with evil.
We must share Jesus' message and bring his love and his compassion to our world today. We are co-creators with Christ and we must help create a better world, his kingdom on earth.
Christ is victorious over sin and death, giving us his power in the Spirit but we have to respond to God's love. This love does not force us. It is a gentle love that invites: "I stand at the door and knock; if one of you opens the door, I will come in and have supper with you" (Revelation 3:20).