Saturday, April 3, 2021

Empty Tomb and the Reality of the Resurrection

Easter Sunday - The Resurrection of the Lord: 04 April 2021

Mass Readings: Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-9

(The Resurrection of Christ, 2006. Mosaic, by Fr Marko Rupnik, SJ, at St. Stanislaus College Chapel, Ljubljana, Slovenia.)

1. Empty tomb means entering into the mystery of God's life

“They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him” (John 20:2). These are the first words of Mary Magdeline to the two close disciples of Jesus, Peter and John which she must have uttered with utter disbelief, panic and fear when she did not find Jesus in the tomb. The first Easter day is filled with full of emotions. Horror or fear grips the disciples as they find that someone had carried away the body of Jesus. We also notice confusion as they saw the empty tomb and the clothes lying on the ground. “Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed.” (John 20:8). As we celebrate Christ’s Resurrection, we praise him for his glory. Christ’s resurrection is something very special. It is rising from death and he will die no more. It’s about someone who has risen to an entirely new form of life, eternal life. It is a mystery of the reality of God's way of acting and perfecting us. So that we are not locked ourselves or to lie buried in the tomb of our own inadequacies of sin, evil habits, discouragement, doubt or to flee from what we fail to understand, or to close our eyes to problems or deny them.

We notice in wonder and awe, peace and joy as the disciples finally realized what all this meant – that Christ has risen from the dead. We can imagine the scene by ourselves and how both Peter and John must have accompanied Mary Magdeline hurriedly back to the tomb. The very physical absence of Jesus at the wake of his death put the disciples in utter confusion and powerlessness. All that they went through including Mary, the mother of Jesus must have been sufficient for the rest of their lives to recollect and to mourn. Fascinatingly, the very empty tomb will be a cause of their joy and a new vision for a new life in Christ Jesus. Encountering Jesus in the empty tomb is the experience of Easter. Since the crucifixion of Jesus, several incidents take place in quick succession. As we read the last chapters of all the four Gospels, the sequence of things happening especially the resurrection narratives call for amazement and wonder. Christ is risen and now things have to be moved quickly in order to keep face with the Risen Lord.

2. A new dawn is inevitable if we believe in Jesus

The Risen Lord speaks very little in the resurrection episodes. However, the resurrected Jesus begins to speak boldly in and through the words and actions in the lives of the disciples and those who believed in him. The resurrected Jesus does not manifest his glory either to the scribes or to the Pharisees or to the Roman rulers. The disciples begin to experience immense strength and power. This is what we see in today's first reading taken from the Acts of the Apostles chapter 10. Peter is now no more Peter that we see before the crucifixion of Jesus, betraying, confused, imprudent or hasty. After experiencing the Risen Lord Peter is bold, energetic and filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus calls us in spite of our unworthiness and incapacities, the Master knows how to make us worthy and capable. In the physical absence of Jesus, a new era of Jesus movement begins. The empty tomb is no more a symbol of fear and helplessness. The very empty tomb becomes a sign and symbol of Jesus' very presence among them, in fact, bolder than before his death. Perhaps our Lord is teaching us an important lesson that is nothing is impossible for God. In fact, Jesus defeated death itself, we rejoice and are glad. We are filled with hope, and that we can make a difference.  

With the rising of Jesus from the dead, death is no more a barrier to the fullness of life. Death cannot put any more limits on human life. In fact, with this great episode, human life was overcome by the snare of death.  Here Christ’s humanity enjoyed a new and glorious existence, perfectly radiating the glory of his divinity with his new form of life. And that’s what God makes available to us, a share of his own life, a share of God’s own glory, which will glorify our bodies at the time of our own resurrection from death.

3. Easter is a once and for all event

With the resurrection, the short but robust public ministry of Jesus comes to an end in one sense but in another sense, it continues or renews with its complete vigour and energy as disciples become more and more Christ-centered. The Easter event puts an end to the timidity and unfocused life of the disciples. Easter makes the disciples new persons with special blessings and graces. There is no more denying, betraying, or looking for a place of power. Easter is more of reinvigorating experience and the disciples would gather more witnesses to Christ than he himself did during his public ministry. With the resurrection, Jesus would not be doing things of healing, preaching, and breaking of the bread by himself directly but in and through his disciples.  Jesus will continue to live in eternity with the Father. The salvation that is won by Jesus through his passion, death and resurrection will be continued to be celebrated with the breaking of the bread and sharing of wine at the Eucharist. The memory of Jesus will continue to be celebrated in the length and breadth of this world.  

A new dawn, a new morning is very important to make our life meaningful after such a long time of suffering or worn out lifestyle. Chaos and painful experiences could become opportunities for us to encounter the Risen Lord. Easter calls us for a life of renewal. The power of the resurrection makes all things new and fresh. All the more, Jesus gives us the strength as we move ahead in the life of light and love to chase away the dark moments of our lives when we meet evil and emptiness. May this Easter be a sure sign of hope, peace and joy. 

Christ is risen. Alleluia! 

Questions for Reflections:
1. How does the joy of this risen Jesus want to touch you this Easter Day?
2. What would have been your reaction if you had taken the place of Mary Magdeline and found the tomb empty?
3. Where will you place yourself in the experience of Risen Jesus?
4. How can you be an Easter person concretely in your family, community, parish or workplace?

Prayer: Risen Lord, as we celebrate your resurrection, we give you thanks for your glory. Fill our hearts with your love, so that we too may renew the face of the earth. Give us courage Lord, that this renewal may inspire us to do what we can to bring about a change for better in our own lives and in our world.   We make this prayer through our Risen Lord. Amen.  

- Olvin Veigas, SJ

03 March 2021


Joilin said...

Reflections are really captivating and blend of thought provoking insights! The celebration of the Easter is made fruitful and complete by your meaningful timely reflections. Thank you very much Olvin. Wish you happy Easter.

Johnvi said...

Wisest reflections Olvin! The Joy shared is the Joy doubled. The Joy of Easter is widened by your heartening reflections. Thanks for sharing your joy and peace of Easter. Christ is Risen indeed, Alleluia. My best Seasonal wishes to you.