Easter is the most significant celebration in the church year. Catholics celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Easter is actually an octave, lasting eight days.
Easter Sunday Readings (Vigil Mass)
(At least three, and up to all seven of the readings from the Old Testament below are used at the Vigil Mass. The third reading from Exodus 14 must always be included.)
- First Reading – Genesis 1:1—2:2 : The biblical account of the creation of the world by God in six days. In this passage, God creates light, the sky, land, seas, vegetation, animals, and humans, and rests on the seventh day.
- First Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 104: A prayer asking God to renew and refresh the earth with His Spirit. It praises God’s greatness and the beauty of His creation, including the mountains, oceans, and the creatures that inhabit the earth.
- Alternate First Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 33: This passage praises God’s goodness and righteousness, and acknowledges that the earth is full of His kindness. It speaks of God’s creative power and sovereignty over all of creation, and expresses the hope and trust that God’s kindness will continue to be upon those who put their hope in Him.
- Second Reading – Genesis 22:1-18: The story of God testing Abraham’s faith by asking him to sacrifice his son Isaac. Abraham obeys, but God ultimately provides a ram as a substitute sacrifice and blesses Abraham for his unwavering faith.
- Second Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 16: A declaration of trust and faith in God as the ultimate source of joy and fulfillment. It affirms that God is the author of life and will guide and protect the faithful, leading them to eternal joy in His presence.
- Third Reading – Exodus 14:15—15:1: The account of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea and the destruction of the Egyptian army. Moses, with God’s help, parts the waters of the sea, allowing the Israelites to cross on dry land, and once they have crossed, the waters close in on the pursuing Egyptian army, drowning them. The passage ends with a song of praise and thanksgiving to God for His deliverance.
- Third Responsorial Psalm – Exodus 15: A song of praise to God for His triumph over the enemies of the Israelites. It recounts the miraculous victory at the Red Sea and acknowledges God as the source of strength and salvation. The song affirms God’s sovereignty and His establishment of His people in a place of honor and inheritance.
- Fourth Reading – Isaiah 54:5-14: A message of comfort and hope to the exiled Israelites, assuring them that God will restore them and make them prosper once again. The passage uses the imagery of a married couple to depict the renewed relationship between God and His people, and promises that they will be protected and secure, with no fear of oppression or harm.
- Fourth Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 30: A song of thanksgiving to God for rescuing and saving the speaker from their enemies and the brink of death. It encourages others to join in giving praise and thanks to God, acknowledging His mercy and goodness, and trusting in His continued help and protection.
- Fifth Reading – Isaiah 55:1-11: An invitation to all who thirst to come to God and receive His salvation and blessings. It encourages people to turn from their wicked ways and seek God’s mercy, promising that His ways are higher than our ways, and His word will not return to Him empty, but will accomplish its purpose.
- Fifth Responsorial Psalm – Isaiah 12: A hymn of praise to God for His saving power and presence. It expresses confidence and trust in God as the source of strength and salvation, and encourages all to give thanks and proclaim His greatness among the nations. The passage ends with a celebration of God’s holiness and greatness, especially in the city of Zion.
- Sixth Reading – Baruch 3:9-15, 3:32-4:4: The passages emphasize the wisdom of God’s commandments and urge the people to seek wisdom and understanding through obedience to God’s law, rather than relying on their own understanding.
- Sixth Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 19: This passage praises the perfection and trustworthiness of God’s law, which brings refreshment, wisdom, and joy to the soul. It emphasizes the importance of revering God and following His commandments, which are more valuable than any earthly wealth or pleasure. The passage affirms that God’s words are the source of everlasting life.
- Seventh Reading – Ezekiel 36:16-17a, 18-28: A prophecy of restoration and renewal for the people of Israel. The passage describes how God will bring the people back to their land, cleanse them from their sins, and put a new spirit within them, enabling them to follow His commandments and live in righteousness.
- Seventh Responsorial Psalm (when baptism is celebrated) – Psalm 42: This passage expresses the longing of the soul for God’s presence and the desire to worship and give thanks to Him. It uses the imagery of a deer thirsting for water to depict the intense longing for God’s living presence. The passage expresses the hope that God’s light and faithfulness will lead the way to His dwelling place and that worship will bring joy and thanksgiving.
- Seventh Responsorial Psalm (when baptism is not celebrated) – Isaiah 12: A celebration of God’s salvation and deliverance. It expresses confidence and trust in God as the source of strength and courage, and encourages all to give thanks and proclaim His greatness among the nations. The passage affirms that drawing water from the fountain of salvation brings joy and encourages rejoicing and praise to God.
- Seventh Responsorial Psalm (alternate, when baptism is not celebrated) – Psalm 51: A prayer for forgiveness and renewal of the heart. It acknowledges the need for God’s cleansing and restoring power, and expresses a desire to serve Him in righteousness. The passage emphasizes the importance of a contrite and humble heart, rather than mere external acts of worship or sacrifice.
- Epistle – Romans 6:3-11: The significance of baptism in the life of a Christian. The passage teaches that baptism represents a dying to sin and a rising to new life in Christ, and emphasizes the importance of living in righteousness and holiness as those who have been united with Christ through baptism.
- Epistle Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 118: A hymn of praise and thanksgiving to God for His mercy and power. It affirms that God’s right hand has struck with power and that He is exalted above all. The passage also celebrates the fulfillment of God’s plan, especially in the exaltation of the stone that was rejected and its role as the cornerstone. The refrain “Alleluia” expresses joy and gratitude for God’s goodness and deeds.
- Gospel – Mark 16:1-7: The story of the women who went to Jesus’ tomb early on the first day of the week after his crucifixion. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance and a young man dressed in white was inside. He told them not to be afraid and informed them that Jesus, whom they were seeking, had risen from the dead. He instructed them to go and tell the disciples and Peter that Jesus would meet them in Galilee. The women fled from the tomb in amazement and terror, and did not tell anyone what they had seen. This passage emphasizes the resurrection of Jesus, the fulfillment of prophecies, and the beginning of a new era for his followers.
Easter Sunday Readings (Mass during the day)
- First Reading: Acts 10:34a, 37-43: The message of Peter to Cornelius and his household, in which he proclaims the good news of Jesus Christ, his life, teachings, death, and resurrection. Peter affirms that Jesus is the Lord of all, and that those who believe in Him receive forgiveness of sins and new life.
- Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 118: A hymn of thanksgiving and praise to God for His goodness, mercy, and power. The passage affirms that God’s right hand has struck with power and that He is exalted above all, and celebrates the fulfillment of God’s plan, especially in the exaltation of the stone that was rejected and its role as the cornerstone.
- Second Reading: Colossians 3:1-4 : Christians should focus on the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God, and to set their minds on heavenly things rather than earthly things. The passage reminds believers that their lives are hidden with Christ in God and that when Christ appears, they too will appear with Him in glory.
- Alternate Second Reading: I Corinthians 5:6b-8: Believers in Corinth must get rid of the old leaven of malice and wickedness and to become a new batch of dough without yeast, as they are truly unleavened. The passage uses the imagery of the Jewish feast of Passover to remind the readers that Christ, their Passover lamb, has been sacrificed, and that they should therefore celebrate the feast with sincerity and truth.
- Gospel: John 20:1-9: Mary Magdalene visits Jesus’ tomb on the first day of the week and finds the stone removed from the entrance. She runs to tell Peter and the beloved disciple, who both go to the tomb and find it empty, with the burial cloths lying there. Although they do not understand what has happened, the beloved disciple believes, as he sees and believes, while Peter remains puzzled.
Themes for Easter
The Easter readings focus on the goodness, power, and saving work of God throughout history, culminating in the ultimate victory of Jesus over sin and death through his Resurrection. They also emphasize the importance of faith and trust in God, dying to sin and being raised to new life through baptism, and seeking heavenly things rather than earthly ones.
- The Resurrection of Jesus Christ: The Gospel reading proclaims the central event of the Christian faith, the Resurrection of Jesus, which brings hope of new life and triumph over death.
- Death is not the final word: The Resurrection of Jesus assures us that death does not have the final say, and that new life is possible.
- God never abandons us: Even in the midst of suffering and death, God remains with us and offers us hope and comfort.
- New life from death: Through Jesus’ Resurrection, new life is possible, even in the face of death and despair.
- How Easter must change our hearts: Easter challenges us to let go of sin and selfishness, and to embrace the new life and hope that Jesus offers.
In summary, these themes emphasize the transformative power of the Resurrection, which offers hope, new life, and the assurance that God never abandons us. They also challenge us to let go of sin and selfishness, and to allow Easter to change our hearts and transform our lives.
Resources for Easter Sunday
The Jelly Bean Prayer is a fun Easter prayer for your family or youth ministry. Make up some jars of jelly beans to give away with the prayer during the Octave of Easter.
This is a great game for an open gym night with your teens. It goes with any light based theme, such as GLOW (God Lights Our Way) or “let your light shine” (discipleship). Also a fun Easter activity due to the “resurrection line.” 🙂
This reflection has youth imagine themselves at the discovery of the empty tomb. How will they respond? This reflection is based on the resurrection account from the gospel of Mark, which is read at the Easter Vigil Mass.
Homilies and Reflections for Easter
An Easter video homily from Bishop Robert Barron. “Friends, Happy Easter! Christ is risen—Alleluia, Alleluia! Recently, I had a public conversation with the popular historian Tom Holland. Someone from the crowd asked him, “What’s the call of our time?” and he said, “Let Christianity be weird.” When I was coming of age, there was a tendency to reduce Christianity to just another vague mysticism or moral system. If that’s all Christianity is, who cares? I’m with Tom Holland: let Christianity be weird, because Christianity is weird. And a lot of the weirdness focuses on the thing we celebrate today: the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead.”
An Easter homily from Bishop Robert Barron. “The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the foundation of the entire Christian faith. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, we should all go home and forget about it. As St. Paul himself puts it: “If Jesus is not raised from the dead, our preaching is in vain and we are the most pitiable of men.” But Jesus was, in fact, raised from the dead. And his resurrection shows that Christ can gather back to the Father everyone whom he has embraced through his suffering love.”
Since Jesus is risen from the dead, our hearts and our lives ought to change to reflect that reality.
A reflection for Easter from Scott Hahn. “Jesus is nowhere visible. Yet today’s Gospel tells us that Peter and John ‘saw and believed’. What did they see? Burial shrouds lying on the floor of an empty tomb. Maybe that convinced them that He hadn’t been carted off by grave robbers, who usually stole the expensive burial linens and left the corpses behind.” Continue reading.
More Thoughts on Easter
God Is Always at Work
Easter is the most important feast in the Catholic liturgical calendar, as it celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Through his death and Resurrection, Jesus has triumphed over sin and death, and offers us the hope of new life and salvation.
The readings for Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday remind us of God’s goodness, power, and saving work throughout history. From the Creation Story to the Exodus from Egypt, God has been at work, leading his people to freedom and new life. In the Epistle reading, St. Paul exhorts us to die to sin and live for God, emphasizing the importance of baptism and faith in Jesus. And in the Gospel reading, we hear the amazing news of Jesus’ Resurrection, which brings hope and new life to all who believe.
A Message of Hope
This message of hope is especially important in our world today, where there is so much suffering, pain, and despair. We are all touched by the effects of sin and death, whether in our own lives or in the lives of those around us. But the Resurrection of Jesus offers us a way out of this darkness. It reminds us that death is not the final word, and that God never abandons us, even in our darkest moments.
As we celebrate Easter, we are called to let go of sin and selfishness, and to embrace the new life and hope that Jesus offers. We are called to let Easter change our hearts and transform our lives, so that we may become more fully the people that God created us to be. We are called to be bearers of hope and agents of new life, bringing the light of Christ to a world that is so often shrouded in darkness.
Meaning through Faith
Luke’s writings in the Bible remind us that God sent his Son to free us from sin and death and to live without fear. This message is just as important today as it was in the time of the early Christians. Sometimes, religion can become focused on ceremony and lose its true meaning. The Resurrection of Jesus is a powerful reminder of the transformative power of our faith.
The message of the empty tomb was initially confusing to the disciples. They couldn’t understand where the body had gone and what had happened. However, when they were reminded of Jesus’ words, the message began to make sense to them. Similarly, the experiences of our lives can sometimes be confusing and difficult to interpret without faith. We need to remember that, through the Resurrection, God has the power to transform our lives.
The early disciples were so energized by the shock of the Resurrection that nothing, not even death or persecution, could stop them from spreading the Good News. We too, as Christians, must be willing to hear the message of transformation and then spread it to others. We should not keep the Good News to ourselves, but share it with others so that they too can experience the joy and hope that comes from knowing Jesus.
Rejoice and Be Glad
So let us rejoice and be glad this Easter, as we celebrate the triumph of Jesus over sin and death. Let us give thanks to God for the gift of new life, and let us renew our commitment to follow Jesus, the risen Lord, wherever he may lead us. May the hope and joy of Easter fill our hearts and our lives, now and always.
Reflection Questions for Easter
- In what ways does the risen Christ appear in your life?
- What does the Resurrection mean to you personally?
- How has the message of Easter transformed your life?
- What areas of your life need transformation through the Resurrection?
- How can you share the message of the Resurrection with others effectively?
- How has the Resurrection brought you hope during difficult times?
- What steps can you take to deepen your faith in the Resurrection?
- In what ways can you live without fear, trusting in God’s presence in your life?
- How can you be a source of new life and hope for those around you?
- How can you keep the joy of Easter alive in your heart all year round?
- Where do you turn for guidance and clarity when life becomes confusing?
- What practical ways can you spread the Good News of the Resurrection in your daily life?
Quotes and Social Media Graphics for Easter
Let us go forward with the joy of Jesus’ Resurrection, knowing He is always by our side!Pope Francis
We proclaim the resurrection of Christ when his light illuminates the dark moments of our existence.Pope Francis