St. Michael Cathedral
Acts: 34a, 37-43
Colossians 3: 1-4
John 20: 1-9
We greet this Easter Day with the bright promise of new life. Where just a few weeks ago a snow storm reminded us that winter does not give up easily, we now can behold buds on the trees, daffodils and forsythia blooming and enjoy the warmth that permeates the air. Spring does beckon us to new life! And indeed, we can have faith in this new life because of what we celebrate in our lives: Our Savior’s promise to us has been fulfilled. When all seemed lost, disciples scattered, hopes were dashed and mourning dominated the scene, that first Easter morning changed everything.
Last month, with a group of pilgrims, I visited the Holy Land for the first time in my life. Those who had been there told me: “Bishop, you will never read the Scriptures the same again; seeing the places where Jesus walked, was crucified, died and rose will give a whole new meaning to the Scriptures.”
Toward the end of the pilgrimage, we were to have Mass in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Arriving early, we waited in line to descend to the shrine of the empty tomb; a place sacred to Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christians. Everyone stood in line with reverence, knowing that we were about to visit one of the holiest places on earth. I must admit that it was a great privilege to be there, to say a prayer at that site and to ponder on the world-changing event of the Resurrection. But merely visiting and praying at the tomb is not enough, I had to take the time to meditate on how that Resurrection event changed my life; how it affects my life each and every day.
For Mary Magdalene, Peter and John, entering that empty tomb left them mystified. Had the tomb been desecrated by the Romans? Was the body of Jesus taken away a cruel prank? And yet, for them, the words of Jesus had to have been on their minds. He promised that He would overcome all the evil in the world; could He have overcome our worst fear – death itself? Our celebration of Easter is the affirmation of the same Faith that Mary Magdalene, Peter, John and the other disciples affirmed when they realized the tomb was empty not for some human reason, but that God had vindicated Jesus, who gave over His entire will to the Father, even until death, but was raised to new life. Each one of us approaches Calvary in our lives, whether through illness, disappointments, feeling betrayed by promises broken and yet, Jesus has shown us that even in facing the most dire of situations, His Life can help us overcome all the fears and failings that we face. The news of the empty tomb spread quickly, from Mary Magdalen to Peter and John, to the other disciples. They received the good news with great joy. Others were mystified and perplexed and obstinate in their unbelief. But God’s promise was fulfilled; even the finality of the tomb could not restrain the beauty of divine love. This is the message we celebrate this Easter Day!
Truly, we can raise our voices singing “Alleluias” because Jesus has given us cause to rejoice. Nothing, not even death itself, can prevent the love of God from illuminating the darkest places of our world, the darkest places of our own lives. One may be able to physically visit the site of the sepulcher in Jerusalem, but our faith tells us that its light touches every corner of our world because the Resurrection is the event to save us all. The empty tomb is not seen merely with physical eyes; it has to be viewed with the eyes of Faith. A Faith that matters each and every day; a faith that is living and breathing and as fresh as this Easter morning.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, may we welcome the light that has overtaken the darkness, may we live the life that our Risen Savior calls us to live and may we take the message of the Resurrection, as Mary Magdalene, Peter and John did, to all those whom we meet. This is the good news of Easter! Amen! Alleluia!