[Mass for the school children.] [display_podcast]
We Catholics have the incredible gift of being able to celebrate Easter for eight days – we call that the Octave of Easter – and so today I can still say to you, “Happy Easter!” We celebrate Easter for eight days because it’s that important to us. This is the time when we remember that Jesus loved us so much that he died for our sins on the cross. But not only that, he rose from the dead and promised that we will one day too, because even death cannot stop God’s love for us. That’s why we celebrate Easter Day for eight days, and the Easter season for fifty whole days! Isn’t that wonderful? We are so blessed to be Catholic!
On this Easter day, we have two wonderful stories in our Scripture readings. In our Gospel, the Apostles are all upset about Jesus’ death and they don’t know what to do about it. They followed him for three whole years and they never thought it would end up with Jesus dying on the cross. So they went back to what they used to do before they met Jesus – they went fishing. Only they didn’t have much luck with it. They go out fishing all night long and catch nothing. Nothing – not even an old tire or a shoe or anything!
But Jesus, now risen from the dead, appears to them on the shore as they’re coming in. He asks them what they caught and they tell him: nothing. At this point they don’t know it’s Jesus, probably because after he rose from the dead, he looked a little different. So he tells them to put the nets out again and for some reason, even though they had to be tired and frustrated, they do it. And who would believe it – they caught so many fish it stretched the nets to the breaking point! Then they realize it’s the Lord, and he feeds them breakfast there on the shore – he feeds them just like he always did.
And this gives them courage to do what they did in the second reading. Here they are healing a crippled man, and teaching the people, just like Jesus used to do. Then when the religious leaders confront them, they stand up to them, witnessing to their faith in Jesus who they knew had risen from the dead.
At the beginning of the Gospel, the Apostles were so sad and confused they didn’t know what to do. They thought they had to go back and do what they used to do before they met Jesus, and to make things worse they turned out to be very bad at it. They can’t even catch one fish until Jesus appears to them. Then they catch all sorts of fish. And I think that huge catch of fish is a symbol for what they were going to do next. Because they now knew that Jesus was risen and still wanted to work in them, they were able to go out and do the same things Jesus did. Just like they caught a huge number of fish on the shore that morning, they were now catching huge numbers of people to follow Jesus. Our first reading says they “caught” about five thousand people to follow the Lord! Isn’t that wonderful?
The reason we celebrate Easter so much and for so long is because it is at Easter that we find out that Jesus is never ever ever going to leave us alone! He may have died on the cross, but God wasn’t going to let a little thing like death stop us from knowing him and his love for us. God still works in our world. He wants us to do the things the Apostles did. He wants us to take care of the sick and to teach other people about him. And even if those things sound like they might be pretty scary to do, we can do them with courage because Jesus is still working in us and around us and through us.
This is such an exciting time for our faith that people in the early church, whenever they would see a brother or sister in Christ, they would say to them, “The Lord is risen!” and the person would say back to them “He is risen indeed!” and then they would both say “Alleluia!” So let’s try that…
The Lord is risen!
He is risen indeed!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!!!