Easter Sunday 2024 Franciscan Gospel Reflection

Sister JulieAnn Sheahan

March 28, 2024

Franciscan Friar Fr. Paul Gallagher reflects on the Gospel readings for Easter Sunday. As we walk through the next days, we keep our eyes on Jesus.

The content is edited by Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Anne Marie Lom and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. To read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here Franciscan Gospel Reflection March 31 2024. Excerpts are from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Photos: Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Victoria Masil, Holy Family Convent

Note: There are three possible Gospel readings for the celebration of Easter this year. Mark 16:1-7 is read at the Easter Vigil Mass, John 20:1-9 is recommended for Masses in the morning, and Luke 24:13-35 is an option for afternoon celebrations. The vigil Mass is usually when the new members of the community are baptized and welcomed to the Lord’s Table for the first time. It is a beautiful and faith-filled celebration. However, the majority of people typically attend one of the Masses on Easter Sunday morning. Therefore, the focus here is on the text from John’s Gospel.

John 20:1-9

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.


This familiar Gospel may seem an unusual choice for Easter, because the Risen Lord is not encountered. Rather, the text centers on the empty tomb and the first disciples’ encounter with the absence of Jesus. Belief in the resurrection for John’s community was not based on their first-hand experience of the risen Christ, but on the testimony and faith of the Christian community. This is true for all of us also. Our faith journey has its beginnings on the faith and testimony of those who have come before us.

Other Gospels have the women going to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus. That is not how John begins the discovery of the risen Jesus. He begins by stating that it is still dark. Mary of Magdala does not go to anoint the dead body of Jesus, but she goes to the tomb before the dawn of a new day. When she encounters the tomb with the stone moved aside, she presumes that someone has removed the body, and she goes to report to Peter and the other disciple what she has discovered. They too are in the dark about what has really taken place. The possibility that Jesus has risen is not even a consideration. By including that Mary had first believed that the body was stolen, John confronts those who suggested that the Christians’ belief in resurrection could more easily be explained if it were a fact, that someone removed the body.

Throughout his Gospel, John commonly uses a lack of understanding by those who encountered Jesus as a tool for Jesus to offer further explanation that will lead to deeper faith and understanding. Think of the account of the woman at the well, the man born blind, and even Martha and Mary. Mary’s lack of comprehension is not a problem because she has faith in Jesus; the understanding will continue to develop within her as it does within the early disciples. In a like manner, the text ends with the beloved disciple going into the tomb, seeing the wrappings, and believing, but not fully understanding what has taken place. More needs to be revealed for the disciples to come to fuller understanding of what has taken place.

The texts that will be used throughout the Easter season will highlight this development. Next Sunday the text will describe the disciples’ first encounter with the risen Lord in the upper room. In a few weeks, the Gospel will describe the two disciples returning from the road to Emmaus.

Reflection Questions:

  1. If Mary had not gone to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus, why do you think she might have gone to the tomb so early in the morning?
  2. Why would you go to the tomb?
  3. At the beginning of this Gospel John says that it was still dark. What do you think John meant by that simple statement?
  4. Have you ever roamed about in the dark? Why?
  5. Do you ever find yourself praying in the dark? Is there prayer that feels right in the dark?
  6. Why do you think John tells his community that Mary of Magdala went to the tomb first? (He could have easily not included that piece of information in the text.) What does it say to you?
  7. How would you feel about going into the empty tomb and joining Peter and the beloved disciple?
  8. Is it possible that you are being invited today to go into a dark and empty tomb in some way?
  9. Can you take some time now to talk with God honestly and openly about your situation, your feelings as you approach this Easter, and what you need God to teach/show you about the life that God desires to reveal to you?

Article Comments:

Sister Anne Marie Lom 03/30/2024 @ 2:10 pm

Is it possible that you are being invited today to go into a dark and empty tomb in some way? It seems to me that each new day can be seen as a dark and empty tomb…full of the unknown, looming wars, possible dangers, impending chaos! Then, I can invite the Risen Jesus into my doubts, fears and anxieties! I am confident and unafraid with Jesus at my side! The Light of the World has already overcome all darkness. I need not face anything that Jesus has not already faced and transformed. Alleluia, He is here, He has risen, He has already reversed evil and darkness and transformed them into His own marvelous light. I stand before the tomb of a new day full of hope.


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