Here we are preparing to celebrate the Lord's Resurrection with very few details to describe what took place. Why is this so? How come the gospel writers fail to provide us with details, facts, clues,, or even insights? It is because the Lord's Resurrection remains a somewhat indescribable mystery. But to assist us in our faith they do provide two kinds of stories that have been passed down in reference to the Resurrection.
One story has Jesus appearing to all sorts of people in a variety of places. These stories were
told, and spread throughout the believing community, to encourage and strengthen followers and newcomers to the community. Then there are other stories that focus on Jesus' empty tomb. One of these stories is what we have for our Easter morning gospel reading. Although these two types of stories are different, they are both used to strengthen the faith of all who looked to Jesus as the true Messiah.
Celebrating the Lord's Resurrection at Easter is acknowledging that this is the greatest of all feasts that we have in our church. This solitary act, this promise fulfilled, is the very definition of our faith. We believe that for the faithful "...life is changed, not ended." When we die and leave our earthly bodies and existence, we journey towards life in the heavenly Kingdom. I recall reading a beautiful homily that Fr. Mike Hayes preached some 15 years ago to his parish in Moose Lake, Minnesota. Here is some of what he shared:
"We are Christians not because we believe in sin,
but because we believe in forgiveness.
We are Christians not because we believe in the Law,
but because we believe in freedom.
We are Christians not because we believe in suffering and death,
but because we believe in Life, Love, and Joy."
What great and encouraging words for all of us who claim to be Christians...followers of the Resurrected Lord! Fr. Hayes had a motto that he freely shared with his family, friends, and parishioners: "Life, Be in It!". That's a great way to capture the essence of our Easter celebration..."Be, in It." And the way that we are 'in It', is by believing that what Christ experienced we too will someday experience.
Such a hopeful message is what Mary of Magdala proclaimed to the disciples after she saw Jesus' empty tomb. And it was similar to the reaction of Peter and "the Beloved Disciple" (young John). They believed when they saw the tomb empty except for the burial linens (the Shroud).
Our gospel-lesson adds a truly human dimension to the narration by noting that Pater and John had a footrace to the tomb...competing to get there first. Biblical scholars read into this fact by saying that the true competition was between church leadership (represented by Peter) and disciple followers of Jesus (represented by John). They point out that the 'Beloved Disciple' being younger,outran Peter getting
to the tomb first, but also comes to a moment of faith prior to Peter...he believes in the Resurrection first. Ultimately, Peter would come to believe...it's just that his response will come later.
Be encouraged my brothers and sisters. Stay safe and healthy until we 'come-out' of isolation and reassemble as a true community of faith. Patience is a key component to faith, and faith gives our patience true hope. We yearn for Easter life and already share in it when we are joyful and acknowledge our life and faith which are true gifts from God. In my morning prayer this morning, Psalm 64 gave me the words of encouragement that I needed to begin another day in preparation for the celebration of Easter. Here is part of that Psalm:
"...they will tell what God has done. They will understand Gods' deeds.
The just will rejoice in the Lord, and fly to Him in refuge. All the upright hearts will glory."
This is our message and here is our mission... to tell of what God has done through His Sons Resurrection, to understand God's deeds for all of us, and to rejoice and go to Him for protection. Is there anyone of us who doesn't know what we are celebrating this Easter Day? Like Mary of Magdala, Peter and the 'Beloved Disciple, we have to look at what the empty tomb presents to us, that indeed He is
Risen from the dead. That all of the prophecies that foretold this were true. And that our faith is built on a firm foundation...an empty tomb is the fullness of faith for us. It is true....do not be afraid....He is truly Risen... Alleluia.