It Is EASTER: We Share Our Joy and Our Hope

The readings from this reflection: Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23; Col 3:1-4; John 20:1-9


I grew up in a very Catholic and devoted family. I learned to love Jesus, our blessed Mother, the Holy Rosary, and the Church at a very early age. We did a lot of great things together and we enjoyed praying the Stations of the Cross with neighbors and friends. But nothing compares with the hope, the excitement, and the joy of Easter morning. I remember going to Mass with my brothers and sisters early in the morning, exactly at 5:30 a.m. And that is how it is depicted in John’s Gospel: early in the morning, while it was still dark…

Early in my life I learned the transforming power of the Resurrection, the biggest event of humanity. I did not learn only to say Happy Easter, I learned the meaning of those words…He was risen for me too!

I was an altar server for many years in my home parish and listening to the Gospel that brought us the story of the Resurrection was overwhelming for me. “Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb.” I remember helping the priest during Holy Week and preparing the Church for the most amazing moment of our life, Easter Sunday.

The stone was removed, and God transformed fear to peace, brothers into disciples, grief into joy, and work into mission. In the early morning, our identity, our mission, and our vocation changed forever! We became people of the Resurrection; we became followers of the risen Lord. We became EASTER PEOPLE.

 As Catholics, the Resurrection should mean everything to us. It is the fulfillment of God’s promise of redemption and salvation for all of us. Everything Jesus did and said for us and to us made sense in our minds and hearts around the empty tomb on Easter Sunday. We must remember the words: “HE HAD TO RISE FROM THE DEAD,” and we should be grateful because the tomb is empty. Let us rejoice and be glad.

One full of surprises
God loves to surprise us all the time. He surprised us with Jesus being born in a humble and simple way in Bethlehem from a young woman. An Angel announced his birth and an angel told us about his resurrection. And now He invites us to be surprised again as we embrace this morning with the joy of the Resurrection in our hearts. Imagine yourself walking with the disciples, early in the morning, and witnessing together that the stone had been removed. I believe we need this Easter morning in our faith and in our life.

I love Easter Sunday! We need the hope and the joy of Easter in our families, our communities, and our Diocese. We do not know what the disciples and friends of Jesus did between Friday and Saturday, but we know what happened on Sunday. Maybe they were afraid, terrified, fearful, and hopeless. Maybe they were frustrated, confused, and panicking. I am sure many of us can relate to their thoughts, emotions, and feelings when we go through tough times in our lives. But the same risen Lord that brought them joy and strengthened their hope is with us this Easter Sunday.

Today, we celebrate Easter, and we celebrate that God is present in our lives and he can roll away the stones in our own lives. He can restore our faith, our hope, and our strength. Jesus can bring light to the darkest spots in our lives: That is the miracle of Easter, that is the transforming power of the Resurrection.

John’s experience was unique. John ran into the tomb with Peter; he got there first, he bent down, saw the burial clothes there but did not go in. We can approach with joy the celebrations of Easter. We must go in … we must enter the experience of Easter so we can share with others and give testimony that in fact He is risen in our own lives.

We still have a lot of work to do. There is a powerful quote on Easter that says:

“The joyful news that He is risen does not change the contemporary world. Still before us lie work, discipline, sacrifice. But the fact of Easter gives us the spiritual power to do the work, accept the discipline, and make the sacrifice.” – Henry Knox Sherrill.

I believe Easter can empower us to embrace or to continue our Mission in the Church. We need help and we need every person and every sacrifice. We must continue building God’s kingdom and we must encourage one another to run to experience the risen Lord. They need to “see,” too, that the stone had been removed.

Now I recall the words of Pope Francis in 2019: “Easter is the feast of tombstones taken away; rocks rolled aside. God takes away even the hardest stones against which our hopes and expectations crash: death, sin, fear, worldliness.” Easter enables us to face our fears, concerns, sins, frustrations, disappointments, and sufferings with faith, hope, peace, and joy. Easter reminds us that only Jesus can roll away the stones in our lives. We can walk in faith and surrender ourselves to Him, trusting in His love but also His power in our lives. We, too, can have a unique experience with the risen Lord. Like Pope Saint John Paul II said: “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.”

Happy Easter!

Father Francisco “Paco” Gordillo is the pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, Webb City, MO, and St. Ann Parish, Carthage, MO