Easter Sunday (C)

///John 20:1-9 – Empty Tomb – Easter Sunday

///John 20:1-9 – Empty Tomb – Easter Sunday

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The Empty Tomb

Homilies | John 20:1-9

The Context

GOSPEL HARMONY – an attempt to compile the episodes of Jesus life in the canonical gospels into a single account.
      Matthew Mark Luke John
145 Carrying the cross passion 27:27–33 15:20–22 23:26–32 19:16–17
146 Crucifixion of Jesus passion 27:34–61 15:23–47 23:33–54 19:18–38
147 Myrrhbearers / Mary Magdalene at the Tomb resurrection appearance 28:1 16:1 24:1
148 Empty tomb resurrection appearance 28:2–8 16:2–8 24:2–12 20:1–13
149 Mary  Magdala in the Garden resurrection appearance 28:9–10 16:9–11 24:1–8 20:14–16
150 Noli me tangere resurrection appearance 20:17–17
151 Road to Emmaus appearance resurrection appearance 24:13–32
152 Resurrected Jesus appears to Apostles resurrection appearance 16:9–12 24:36–43 20:19–20
153 Great Commission resurrection appearance 28:16–20 16:14–18
154 Doubting Thomas resurrection appearance 20:24–29
155 Catch of 153 fish resurrection appearance / miracle 21:1–24
156 Ascension of Jesus resurrection appearance 16:19 24:50–53
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The 50 days of Easter

FR. PHIL BLOOM – It is important  to remember that today is just the beginning of a season which will last for fifty days. We have seven full weeks until Pentecost Sunday on June 5, 2022. We do not need to take in everything this morning. It is enough to go the mouth of the sepulcher, to join the disciples peering into it. As our eyes slowly adjust to the darkness, we see that the tomb is empty. Perhaps we also feel some of their confusion and anxiety.

Gospel commentary excerpts from a variety of sources. Click on links to view original source material and/or read more.

Mary Magdala visits tomb (v 1)

Early in the morning


1 first. ver. 19, 26. Ac. 20:7. 1 Co. 16:2. Re. 1:10.


Sundown on the First day of the week (v 1)

SERMON WRITER – People believe that the dead person’s spirit remains in the vicinity of the tomb for three days, so they commonly visit the tomb during the first three days after burial. However, Sabbath regulations prohibit such visits on the Sabbath, so the earliest that Mary can visit is sundown on our Saturday evening, which ends the Sabbath and begins the first day of the week.

AGAPE BIBLE STUDY –  “The first day of the week” for the Jews is the day we call “Sunday” (the seventh-day Sabbath (our Saturday) was the only day of the Jewish week that had a name).  It was the “first day” because it was the first day of Creation (Saturday was day #7; therefore, day #1 was our Sunday).  Resurrection Sunday became the first day of the New Creation in Christ!

As Catholics, we still observe the Old Covenant custom of beginning the next day at sunset; therefore, our Sunday Vigil Mass should occur at sundown on Saturday (unfortunately, this is not always strictly observed).

Clipart by Fr. Richard Lonsdale © 2000. Click image to view more clipart for this Sunday.

John’s “still dark” vs. Mark’s “sun had risen”

SERMON WRITER –  Mark’s Gospel places this visit “very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen,” John’s Gospel tells us that it is still dark…  John’s Gospel has used the words “dark” and “darkness” several times, usually to speak of spiritual darkness (1:5; 3:9; 8:12; 12:35, 46). Perhaps John’s use of the word “dark” in verse 1 reflects the darkness of Mary’s understanding at this point. Jesus will switch on the light for her in verse 16, but for the moment her world is as dark as it can be.

CATHOLIC RESOURCES: Light and Darkness Symbols in John’s Gospel


Mary’s Shock (v 1c-2)

She sees the stone removed from the tomb, and runs to Peter…


1 first. John 20:19, 26. Ac. 20:7. 1 Co. 16:2. Re. 1:10.

2 to the. John 13:23; 19:26; 21:7, 20, 24. They have taken. ver. John 20:9, 13, 15. Mat. 27:63, 64.


Mary sees but fails to see

NAB NOTES – Mary sees the stone removed, not the empty tomb.

SERMON WRITER – She concludes, logically enough, that someone has taken Jesus’ body from the tomb. Perhaps it was the authorities visiting one further indignity on Jesus. Perhaps it was grave robbers. Imagine the emotional impact of finding the desecrated grave of a loved one. Mary has been grieving. Now she is shocked—horrified.

Mary goes to Peter & John

SERMON WRITER – Mary goes to Peter, in part, because he is a leader of the disciples. Also Peter (18:15-18, 25-27) and the beloved disciple (19:26-27) remained in the vicinity rather than fleeing with the other disciples, so they were witnesses to Jesus’ death.


SERMON WRITER – This beloved disciple appears five times in this Gospel.

  • The first was as the disciples celebrated the Passover meal with Jesus. “One of (Jesus’) disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him” (13:23).
  • At the cross, “when Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing there, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’” (19:26-27).
  • When Mary Magdalene saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb, “she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved” (20:2).
  • When Jesus appeared to the disciples by the Sea of Galilee, “That disciple therefore whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It’s the Lord!’” (21:7).
  • Later, “Peter, turning around, saw a disciple following. This was the disciple whom Jesus sincerely loved…. (Peter) said to Jesus, ‘Lord, what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If I desire that he stay until I come, what is that to you? You follow me.’ This saying therefore went out among the brothers, that this disciple wouldn’t die. Yet Jesus didn’t say to him that he wouldn’t die, but, ‘If I desire that he stay until I come, what is that to you?’” (21:20-23).

Early Christians believed that this beloved disciple was John, the son of Zebedee, but there is no scholarly consensus today concerning that. The scriptures don’t identify the beloved disciple, so he could have been John—or one of the other apostles—or Lazarus, whom Jesus loved (11:3). We know only that he was male and a disciple (19:26-27). Anything beyond that is speculation.

“They have taken the Lord and we don’t know where”

Note the plural “we”

AGAPE BIBLE STUDY – Mary’s “we” confirms the Synoptic accounts that she was not alone, and other women came with her.  Luke 24:10-11 records that Joanna and Mary of Clopas, the mother of James, went with her to tell the Apostles the news of Christ’s Resurrection. (see Mt 27:56, 61; 28:1; Mk 16:1; Lk 24:10)

See the chart “Harmony of the Gospels: The Resurrection.”

Peter & John’s Confusion (v 3-4)

They run to the tomb


3 Luke 24:12.

4 outrun. 2 Sa. 18:23. Le. 13:30. 1 Co. 9:24. 2 Co. 8:12.


Superiority of Peter

AGAPE BIBLE STUDY – If this “other disciple” is indeed St. John, he is a much younger man than St. Peter, and it is reasonable that he should run faster and arrive first.

He did not enter the tomb, however, because he recognized the priority and the superiority of Peter, the one to whom Jesus entrusted the “keys of the Kingdom” with authority over Jesus’ Kingdom of the Church (Mt 16:16-18).  All the previous lists of the Apostles name Peter first followed by Andrew, and John follows James, his brother.  However, from now on, when the Apostles are named, John comes immediately after Peter, who continues first in the lists (see Acts 1:13).

Tomb’s opening likely to the east

AGAPE BIBLE STUDY> – There must have been enough daylight for the two Apostles to see into the tomb’s interior, suggesting that the opening was to the east.

  • There may be a connection to the instructions for God’s desert Tabernacle that the entrance was always to face toward the east (Ex 27:13; 38:13).
  • The entrance gate to the Jerusalem Temple was also in the east, with the Sanctuary’s Holy of Holies in the Temple complex’s westernmost part.

All early Christian churches had an east-facing entrance, including St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.


Alleluia, Run to Jesus!

Bringing the Good News to Others

FR. MATTHEW JARVIS O.P. – Mary Magdalene has just run to tell them: ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ Something must have happened – but what?

Dumbfounded, [Peter and John] simply had to run and see for themselves.  Was this a desperate dash in a panic, fearing some further ignominy had been inflicted on the body of Jesus? Or was there a hint in their minds of some other tantalising possibility…? Either way, we can sense the sheer thrill of running. A moment of complete physical exertion and racing hearts, a trial of exhaustion and expectation. For this moment, they seem to forget everything, ignore everything, focus their entire being on answering this one pressing question: where on earth is Jesus? It is only a moment later, when the Beloved Disciple follows Peter into the tomb, that he believes at last: ‘he saw and he believed’. Having run to seek Jesus, he takes only a moment of quiet meditation to understand what Scripture had taught them, and what Jesus had promised all along.

The disciples will now run all over the world, bringing the good news to others.  We should run with them too, bringing the Risen Jesus to those we meet.


Inside the Tomb (v 5-7)

Burial cloths rolled up


5 saw. ch. 11:44; 19:40.

6  John 6:67–69; 18:17, 25–27; 21:7, 15–17. Mat. 16:15, 16. Lu. 22:31, 32.

7 John 11:44.

B. Blayney, Thomas Scott, and R.A. Torrey with John Canne, Browne, The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, vol. 2 (London: Samuel Bagster and Sons, n.d.), 80.


Jesus’ grave clothes

SERMON WRITER – The grave clothes serve three functions:

  1. They provide visual evidence of Jesus’ resurrection. The body is gone, but the grave clothes remind us that Jesus body was there.
  2. They provide evidence that Jesus’ body was not stolen. Grave robbers would not leave behind valuable linen cloth, and neither grave robbers nor Jewish authorities would take time to remove clothing from a body, delaying their escape and increasing the risk of discovery. Indeed, the orderly scene that John describes here is not what we would expect at the scene of a robbery or abduction.
  3. They serve a theological function. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, Lazarus emerged from the tomb still wrapped in his burial clothes. Jesus had to command bystanders to free him so that Lazarus might resume his normal earthly life (11:38-44). However, when Jesus emerged from the tomb, he did so unencumbered.


RELATED: Relics Associated with Jesus



RELATED: Relics Associated with Jesus


The Sudarium of Christ

AGAPE BIBLE STUDY – There are two relics known as the sudarium of Christ (also spelled soudarion).

  • One has the image of the face of Jesus on the veil of the woman who used it to wipe Jesus’ face as He struggled while carrying the Cross to Golgotha.  She is known as Veronica (a name meaning “true image”).  This holy cloth is in Rome.
  • The other is the cloth placed over Christ’s face when His body was removed from the cross and used in His burial because it contained His bloodstains.

According to tradition, the blood must accompany the body; that is why a person who died a violent death was not washed before burial.  The face-cloth, soudarion, is a precious relic kept at the Camara Santa of the Cathedral of San Salvador, Oviedo, Spain.  Scientists tested the blood on the soudarion and found that it matches the blood type of the bloodstains on the Shroud of Turin; they are type AB positive.


SOURCE: James Wetzstein, Lutheran pastor.

John Saw and Believed (v 8-9)

But did not yet understand


8 and he. John 20:25, 29; John 1:50.

9 they. Mat. 16:21, 22. Mar. 8:31–33; 9:9, 10, 31, 32. Lu. 9:45; 18:33, 34; 24:26, 44–46. that. Ps. 16:10; 22:15, 22, etc. Is. 25:8; 26:19; 53:10–12. Ho. 13:14. Ac. 2:25–32; 13:29–37. 1 Co. 15:4.


John believed what?

FR. PAUL TURNER – When they saw that the body was missing and the burial cloths were left behind, the beloved disciple “believed.” But the next verse says that “they did not yet understand the Scripture that [Jesus] had to rise from the dead.” So, what did he believe? Some commentators, including Saint Augustine, thought that he believed what Mary Magdalene had told them; namely, someone had stolen the body. However, others say, no, the beloved disciple clearly believed in the resurrection based on the evidence he saw with his own eyes. He just had not yet understood all the scripture passages that could have prepared him for this day. He believed because of what he saw, not because of what he had read or heard.


Peter’s silence

BR. MICHAEL A. PERRY, OFM – Peter denied knowing Jesus during his trial, condemnation, and crucifixion. Perhaps his silence is the result of his feelings of guilt, shame, and total inadequacy. These feelings oftentimes provoke silence. He was but one of the many disciples and friends who had abandoned Jesus at his darkest hour. There is no confession of faith by Peter, as was the case of the ‘other disciple’. Rather, he gathers information and then returns to the “locked room” where he and the other disciples and friends of Jesus took refuge.

Jesus’ Resurrection predictions:

  • Matthew 12:38-40; 16:21; 17:9, 23; 20:18, 19; 26:32; 27:63
  • Mark 8:31-9:1; 9:10, 31; 10:32-34; 14:28, 58
  • Luke 9:22-27
  • John 2:18-22; 12:34; chapters 14-16

Jesus’ statements of his Resurrection as prophetic Messianic “sign” :

  • Matthew 12:1-8; 16:21; 17:9, 22, 23; 20:18, 19; 26:32
  • Mark 9:10
  • Luke 9:22-27, 44
  • John 2:18-22

Four Stages of Belief

LIFE APPLICATION BIBLE – People who hear about the resurrection for the first time may need time before they can comprehend this amazing story. Like Mary and the disciples, they may pass through four stages of belief.

  1. At first, they may think the story is a fabrication, impossible to believe (20:2).
  2.  Like Peter, they may check out the facts and still be puzzled about what happened (20:6).
  3. Only when they encounter Jesus personally are they able to accept the fact of the resurrection (20:16).
  4. Then, as they commit themselves to the risen Lord and devote their lives to serving him, they begin to understand fully the reality of his presence with them (20:28).


Finding Hope in the
Empty Tomb

SR. Scholasticah Nganda – I don’t know what you are dealing with right now. I don’t know if you are scared, overwhelmed or if you feel secure. But right now, I am thinking about hope. And asking: How do we find hope in the empty tomb? How will the absence ever become Presence in the reality of our daily struggles and challenges? Jesus is risen and walks with us in every aspect of life. He is present even in the most unusual situations. He is the reason for our hope, and “the empty tomb is our reason for existence”

[During the Covid lockdowns and quarantines in 2020], the church’s absence (empty tomb), her literal emptying, can function as a symbol of her trust in God’s ability to meet us regardless of the location. The church remains the church whether gathered or scattered and continues to be a beacon of hope to a world on the verge of despair.

Jesus is Alive!

R. KENT HUGHES – The great goal our text sets before us is to believe as Peter and John believed. If we can obtain that height, our lives will be changed! A living Christ is an all-powerful Christ! A living Christ is a present Christ! A living Christ is a Christ who gives us life now! A living Christ is a Christ who gives us life in eternity! A living Christ is a Christ who gives victory!

Related Page: Discussion Questions

CROSS REFERENCES SOURCE: B. Blayney, Thomas Scott, and R.A. Torrey with John Canne, Browne, The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, vol. 2 (London: Samuel Bagster and Sons, n.d.).

Womb of Earth Gives Birth

Hesychius of Jerusalem: Hidden first in a womb of flesh, he sanctified human birth by his own birth. Hidden afterward in the womb of the earth, he gave life to the dead by his resurrection. Suffering, pain and sighs have now fled away. For who has known the mind of God, or who has been his counselor if not the Word made flesh who was nailed to the cross, who rose from the dead and who was taken up into heaven? This day brings a message of joy: it is the day of the Lord’s resurrection when, with himself, he raised up the race of Adam. Born for the sake of human beings, he rose from the dead with them. On this day paradise is opened by the risen one, Adam is restored to life and Eve is consoled. On this day the divine call is heard, the kingdom is prepared, we are saved and Christ is adored. On this day, when he had trampled death under foot, made the tyrant a prisoner and despoiled the underworld, Christ ascended into heaven as a king in victory, as a ruler in glory, as an invincible charioteer. He said to the Father, “Here am I, O God, with the children you have given me.” And he heard the Father’s reply, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.” To him be glory, now and for ever, through endless ages. Amen. EASTER HOMILY 5–6.

SOURCE: Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Luke), Edited by Thomas C. Oden, InterVarsity Press ©2005, Used with permission.

John 20:1-9

1. The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.

2. Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.

3. Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre.

4. So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre.

5. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying: yet went he not in.

6. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeing the linen clothes lie,

7. And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.

8. Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed.

9. For as yet they knew not the Scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxv) The Sabbath being now over, during which it was unlawful to be there, Mary Magdalene could rest no longer, but came very early in the morning, to seek consolation at the grave: The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre.

AUGUSTINE. (de Con. Evang. iii. 24) Mary Magdalene, undoubtedly the most fervent in love, of all the women that ministered to our Lord; so that John deservedly mentions her only, and says nothing of the others who were with her, as we know from the other Evangelists.

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. cxx) Una sabbati is the day which Christians call the Lord’s day, after our Lord’s resurrection. Matthew calls it prima sabbati.

BEDE. Una sabbati, i. e. one day after the sabbath.

THEOPHYLACT. Or thus: The Jews called the days of the week sabbath, and the first day, one of the sabbaths, which day is a type of the life to come; for that life will be one day not cut short by any night, since God is the sun there, a sun which never sets. On this day then our Lord rose again, with an incorruptible body, even as we in the life to come shall put on incorruption.

AUGUSTINE. (de Con. Evang. iii. 24.) What Mark says, Very early in the morning, at the rising of the sun (Mark 16:1), does not contradict John’s words, when it was yet dark. At the dawn of day, there are yet remains of darkness, which disappear as the light breaks in. We must not understand Mark’s words, Very early in the morning, at the rising of the sun, ἡλίου ἀνατεέλαντος to mean that the sun was above the horizon, but rather what we ourselves ordinarily mean by the phrase, when we want any thing to be done very early, we say at the rising of the sun, i. e. some time before the sun is risen.

GREGORY. (Hom. in Ev. xxii.) It is well said, When it was yet dark: Mary was seeking the Creator of all things in the tomb, and because, she found Him not, thought He was stolen. Truly it was yet dark when she came to the sepulchre.

AUGUSTINE. (Con. Evang. iii. 24) Now took place what Matthew only relates, the earthquake, and rolling away of the stone, and fright of the guards.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxv. 4) Our Lord rose while the stone and seal were still on the sepulchre. But as it was necessary that others should be certified of this, the sepulchre is opened after the resurrection, and so the fact confirmed. This it was which roused Mary. For when she saw the stone taken away, she entered not nor looked in, but ran to the disciples with all the speed of love. But as yet she knew nothing for certain about the resurrection, but thought that His body had been carried off.

GLOSS. And therefore she ran to tell the disciples, that they might seek Him with her, or grieve with her: Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved.

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. cxx) This is the way in which he usually mentions himself. Jesus loved all, but him in an especial and familiar way. And saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid Him.

GREGORY. (iii. Mor. ix.) She puts the part for the whole; she had come only to seek for the body of our Lord, and now she laments that our Lord, the whole of Him, is taken away.

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. cxx) Some of the Greek copies have, taken away my Lord, which is more expressive of love, and of the feeling of an handmaiden. But only a few have this reading.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxv) The Evangelist does not deprive the woman of this praise, nor leaves out from shame, that they had the news first from her. As soon as they hear it, they hasten to the sepulchre.

GREGORY. (xxii. in Evang.) But Peter and John before the others, for they loved most; Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre.

THEOPHYLACT. But how came they to the sepulchre, while the soldiers were guarding it? an easy question to answer. After our Lord’s resurrection and the earthquake, and the appearance of the angel at the sepulchre, the guards withdrew, and told the Pharisees what had happened.

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. cxx) After saying, came to the sepulchre, he goes back and tells us how they came: So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre; meaning himself, but he always speaks of himself, as if he were speaking of another person.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxv) On coming he sees the linen clothes set aside: And he slooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying. But he makes no further search: yet went he not in. Peter on the other hand, being of a more fervid temper, pursued the search, and examined every thing: Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, and the napkin, that was about His head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Which circumstances were proof of His resurrection. For had they carried Him away, they would not have stripped Him; nor, if any had stolen Him, would they have taken the trouble to wrap up the napkin, and put it in a place by itself, apart from the linen clothes; but would have taken away the body as it was. John mentioned the myrrh first of all, for this reason, i. e. to shew you that He could not have been stolen away. For myrrh would make the linen adhere to the body, and so caused trouble to the thieves, and they would never have been so senseless as to have taken this unnecessary pains about the matter. After Peter however, John entered: Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed.

AUGUSTINE. (Tract. cxxii) i. e. That Jesus had risen again, some think: but what follows contradicts this notion. He saw the sepulchre empty, and believed what the woman had said: For as yet they knew not the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. If he did not yet know that He must rise again from the dead, he could not believe that He had risen. They had heard as much indeed from our Lord, and very openly, but they were so accustomed to hear parables from Him, that they took this for a parable, and thought He meant something else.

GREGORY. (Hom. xxii. in Evang.) But this account of the Evangelist1 must not be thought to be without some mystical meaning. By John, the younger of the two, the synagogue; by Peter, the elder, the Gentile Church is represented: for though the synagogue was before the Gentile Church as regards the worship of God, as regards time the Gentile world was before the synagogue. They ran together, because the Gentile world ran side by side with the synagogue from first to last, in respect of purity and community of life, though a purity and community of understanding2 they had not. The synagogue came first to the sepulchre, but entered not: it knew the commandments of the law, and had heard the prophecies of our Lord’s incarnation and death, but would not believe in Him who died. Then cometh Simon Peter, and enteredinto the sepulchre: the Gentile Church both knew Jesus Christ as dead man, and believed in Him as living God. The napkin about our Lord’s head is not found with the linen clothes, i. e. God, the Head of Christ, and the incomprehensible mysteries of the Godhead are removed from our poor knowledge; His power transcends the nature of the creature. And it is found not only apart, but also wrapped together; because of the linen wrapped together, neither beginning nor end is seen; and the height of the Divine nature had neither beginning nor end. And it is into one place: for where there is division, God is not; and they merit His grace, who do not occasion scandal by dividing themselves into sects. But as a napkin is what is used in labouring to wipe the sweat of the brow, by the napkin here we may understand the labour of God: which napkin is found apart, because the suffering of our Redeemer is far removed from ours; inasmuch as He suffered innocently, that which we suffer justly; He submitted Himself to death voluntarily, we by necessity. But after Peter entered, John entered too; for at the end of the world even Judæa shall be gathered in to the true faith.

THEOPHYLACT. Or thus: Peter is practical and prompt, John contemplative and intelligent, and learned in divine things. Now the contemplative man is generally beforehand in knowledge and intelligence, but the practical by his fervour and activity gets the advance of the other’s perception, and sees first into the divine mystery.

SOURCE: ECATHOLIC 2000 Commentary in public domain.