Scripture reflections: Easter Sunday and Second Sunday of Easter

21 March 2024

Scripture reflections for Easter Sunday (31 March 2024) and the Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday – 7 April 2024) Year B.


O God, who on this day, through your Only Begotten Son have conquered death and unlocked for us the path to eternity, grant, we pray, that we who keep the solemnity of the Lord’s Resurrection may, through the renewal brought by your Spirit, rise up in the light of life. Easter Sunday Year B, 31 March 2024.

First reading:
Acts 10:34, 37-43
Responsorial psalm: Ps 117(118):1-2, 16-17, 22-23
Second reading: Colossians 3:1-4 / 1 Corinthians 5:6-8
Gospel: John 20:1-9.
Link to readings

We greet this day with thanksgiving and praise. Christ our hope is risen and we want to announce it by our life and our joy. This is how we see Peter in the First Reading. He is addressing Cornelius and his household, recounting Jesus’s life and death, and how, as a witness to it, Peter has been ordered to proclaim Christ’s resurrection to his people.

St Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians (Second Reading), encourages us with the practical example of getting rid of the old yeast, to be completely renewed through Christ, in sincerity and truth. The Psalm is a joyful Easter song celebrating Christ’s triumph. It will be a refrain for us throughout the season.

In the Gospel, after Mary of Magdala finds the stone rolled away from the tomb, she runs to tell Peter and John. By seeing the empty tomb and the discarded cloths, they slowly come to realise that Jesus has truly risen. Let us pray that we, too, will witness to the resurrection in our lives.

You must know how even a small amount of yeast is enough to leaven all the dough, so get rid of all the old yeast, and make yourselves into a completely new batch of bread, unleavened as you are meant to be. Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed; let us celebrate the feast, then, by getting rid of all the old yeast of evil and wickedness, having only the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

I come to my place of prayer and take the time to become aware of being in God’s presence. How do I feel on this day of Resurrection? I may wish to consider my Lenten journey, or perhaps ponder briefly on what Holy Week has shown me or taught me this year. I turn to the risen Jesus and speak to him of my love and gratitude. St Paul speaks of baking bread and compares us to a new batch of bread.

I consider the unleavened bread Jesus used at the Last Supper. Jesus, the Bread of Life, wants us to be completely united with him. He sacrificed himself for this. As I ponder, I also give thanks.

What is Paul asking me to do? What is the old yeast in me that maybe Lent has revealed? I ask the Lord that I may be open so that he can show me. I listen. Perhaps I can imagine Jesus making the bread, sifting the flour so that all is sincere, kneading the dough so that I am moulded by truth.

In what way then can I come to celebrate this feast with greater love and joy? With new life? I turn to the Lord, praying for all those I love that they may have a fuller sharing in this new life. I reflect on our sad and suffering world and ask the Lord to breathe his new life of love and peace to all nations. I end my prayer with a ‘Glory be . . . ‘

JOHN 20: 1–9
It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb,’ she said, ‘and we don't know where they have put him.’ So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first; he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed. Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.

Maybe I light a candle as I prepare to pray. Whether I feel joyful or not, the light can help me focus on today’s amazing feast. I breathe gently, allowing the flickering light to awaken my faith and hope. I speak to Jesus of my love and of my joy in his triumph over death.

When I am ready, I read the Gospel a few times. I ponder Mary of Magdala. The obstacle she feared has been removed. But how does she respond? Is she even more fearful now, or is she totally confused, still in the dark? How would I respond in this situation?

I then consider Peter and John. They, too, seem shaken and uncomprehending. I note John’s deference to Peter. Would I do the same, or rush headlong in? Like them, I examine at the cloths; I look at the stone. How do I react? What can block me? I speak to the Lord about how I feel. Like the apostles, do I need to read the scriptures more carefully? I may need to consider this.

I turn to the Risen Lord and speak to him of my love and gratitude for all that he has suffered and won for me.

7 APRIL 2024
God of everlasting mercy, who in the very recurrence of the paschal feast kindle the faith of the people you have made your own, increase, we pray, the grace you have bestowed, that all may grasp and rightly understand in what font they have been washed, by whose Spirit they have been reborn, by whose Blood they have been redeemed. 

First reading: Acts 4:32-35
Responsorial psalm: Ps 117(118):2-4, 15-18, 22-24
Second reading: 1 John 5:1-6
Gospel: John 20:19-31
Link to readings

On this Second Sunday of Easter, the readings invite us to believe and trust God’s mercy. According to the ways of the world, mercy does not really make sense, but this is the very faith Paul speaks of as that which ‘conquers the world’: forgiveness begets forgiveness, mercy begets mercy, love begets love (Second Reading). Our need for, and joy in, such graces is echoed in the Psalm, where we can join with the psalmist in saying: ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his mercy endures forever!’

The Acts of the Apostles (First Reading) shows that the mercy of the risen Lord continues to be poured out through the ministry of his apostles, while in the Gospel we see Jesus himself being the model for mercy for his fearful and doubtful friends.

The US journalist Cathleen Falsani wrote: ‘justice is getting what you deserve; mercy is not getting what you deserve; grace is getting what you don’t deserve.’ This coming week, let’s pray that, though completely underserving of such a gift of grace, God’s divine mercy will have its effect in us, freeing and opening us to love ever more deeply.

1 JOHN 5: 1–6
Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ has been begotten by God; and whoever loves the Father that begot us, loves the child whom God begets. We can be sure that we love God’s children if we love God himself, and do what he has commanded us. This is what loving God is – keeping his commandments. And his commandments are not difficult, because anyone who has been begotten by God has already overcome the world. This is the victory over the world – our faith. Who can overcome the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God; Jesus Christ who came by water and blood, not with water only, but with water and blood; with the Spirit as another witness – since the Spirit is truth.

How am I feeling as I come before the Lord in prayer? I take my time to settle, to become still, as I bring my true self to this time of prayer. Whatever is going on in my life now, I ask the Holy Spirit to help me believe that God is already victorious.

I read this letter from St John carefully, slowly, taking great care to notice what I am hearing, and how it is touching me. I pause whenever I feel moved to. I might be drawn to the word belief. Considering today’s Gospel, does this word challenge me? Do I presently identify more closely with faith or with doubt? How does this leave me feeling?

Love is mentioned more than belief here. Is this how I more readily show my faith, my belief, by loving? Do I feel Christ’s Spirit helping me to love and to receive love? Do I trust this witness to his victory over the world, my world? I spend some time in the company of the Spirit of truth. I rest in God’s love for me. I savour, with Christ, the joy of his Easter victory. I speak to the Lord from the heart, if so moved, before ending with Glory be . . .

I n the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood amongst them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you,’ and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father send me, so I am sending you.’

After saying this he breathed on them and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. For whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.’

Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord,’ he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you,’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him: ‘You believe because you can see me. Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’

This Gospel lends itself to being prayed imaginatively. So, I read and re-read the text, before composing the details of the scene. I see myself moving through the gloomy darkness of the room to push at the heavily bolted doors. I taste the atmosphere of fear – the disciples were the targets of the authorities. I might even sense the shame of the group – they had also let Jesus down badly. Do I notice how they avoid one another’s glance?

I might like to continue to pray in this way, lingering in any places that move me; Jesus appearing, speaking words of peace, showing his wounds, breathing on the gathered group. I might move to the account of Thomas’s uncompromising honesty, and to Jesus’s later appearance. What do I notice about Thomas, or about Jesus’s sensitivity?

How am I responding to the events of the Gospel? Is Jesus saying something to me? ‘As the Father sent me, so am I sending you,’ perhaps? How do I feel? I remain with the Lord, in a quiet corner of the Upper Room. We are alone. Do I want to bring something to him now – a struggle, a weakness, an uncertainty, a conviction? Perhaps I end echoing the words of the believer: ‘My Lord and my God!’

Courtesy of St Beuno’s Outreach in the Diocese of Wrexham, UK