In Revelation, John the Evangelist tells us what we can expect as followers of the risen Jesus: distress, endurance, and a kingdom. Although we are only eight days into our fifty day Easter feasting, we cannot ignore the distress weighing down our daily lives. Jesus’ resurrection does not erase individual suffering, but his glorious triumph over death cultivates endurance in our hearts. We remember that Jesus did not spare himself, and we ask for the strength to endure as he did. Imitating Christ helps us grow as members of God’s royal family. As beloved citizens of the Kingdom of God, we recognize our kinship with all people. Peter demonstrates his care for others as he heals multitudes of broken, suffering people. In the Gospel, Thomas accepts his own spiritual healing when Jesus helps him to believe. In times of difficulty, survival, and glory, we borrow Thomas’ declaration of faith: “My Lord and my God!”
Easter changes everything. Having been raised from the dead, Jesus shatters the frightful images that haunt humanity. Betrayal, torture, crucifixion, death, burial—these ter-rors pale in the brilliant glory of Jesus resur-rected. Today’s psalm guides our response to God’s power: “it is wonderful in our eyes.” To-day is indeed a day for wonder, for gasping in astonishment at Jesus’ resurrection. For all of human history, death had been final. In the Acts of the Apostles, though, Peter testifies that Jesus, who was publicly executed, was raised to life by God. John’s Gospel admits that the disciples “did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” Even Jesus’ closest friends were not expect-ing this innovation: life after death. In re-sponse to the Easter miracle, Paul tells us to become “a fresh batch of dough.” Everything, even our very selves, must become new. Easter changes everything.
From the proclamation of the Gospel at the beginning of the liturgy, we know that today is different, not only because we hear two Gospel passages, or because we hold palms and move in procession. Today begins Holy Week, a time set apart, a week in which to listen, pray, reflect, and take to heart the truth of Christ’s passion, crucifixion, death, and ultimately, resurrection. It takes a week, and a lifetime, to truly hear the message of Christ’s love. It is difficult for us to comprehend that Jesus willingly sacrificed himself, so we must hear the story again and again. Let this week be for us a new moment of faith in which we, together with the criminal who was crucified with Christ, cry out, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus knew that the scribes and Pharisees were trying to trap him. They put him in what seemed to be a no-win situation. Let the woman who was caught in adultery go, and he would have been accused of ignoring the law. Let her be stoned, and he would fail to show mercy toward her, contradicting his life’s message. Jesus’ response teaches three crucial lessons: none of us is free of sin; we are not the ultimate judges of others; Jesus is the mercy of God, in whom we can always trust. In Christ, God does something new. When we give our hearts to Christ, we have the hope of new life, a life in which mercy reigns.