Gospel Reflection for Easter Sunday
Are Our Tombs Empty? (from my book ‘A Shepherd’s Voice’, 2007)
A Blessed Easter to all!
Our gospel today invites us to reflect on the message of the empty tomb witnessed by Mary of Magdala, Simon Peter and the disciple Jesus loved. The empty tomb manifests the fulfillment of Jesus‘ promise that on the third day He will rise again.
A tomb or a grave where the remains of the dead are buried can be described as an enclosed place in which a dead human body rots or decomposes. We recall how Jesus used this image to describe the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Scribes: ―Alas for you scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who are like whitewashed tombs that look handsome on the outside, but are full of dead men‘s bones and every kind of corruption.‖ (Matthew 23:27) We also note how Martha warned Jesus about the stench of the remains of Lazarus who was already in the tomb for a few days: ―Lord, by now he will smell; this is the fourth day.‖ (John 11:39) A tomb, then, with a decomposed body inside would not be pleasing to our sense of sight and smell.
A tomb with a dead, decomposed body inside it could symbolize death and sin. When we are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness like the Pharisees and Scribes, we sin and are displeasing in the eyes of God and others. When we succumb to our selfishness, we allow evil to take over our lives; sin and death have power over us.
Nevertheless, on this Easter day, the tomb of Jesus Christ is empty. There are no bones, there is no filth; nothing remains. He has risen from the dead. He is victorious over the pangs of suffering and death. He has triumphed over evil and sin. In the words of Clarence Hall: ―You can put truth in the grave, but it won‘t stay there. You can nail it to the cross… and shut it up in a tomb, but it will rise.‖ (Mark Link, S.J., Daily Homilies: Seasons and Feasts, p. 158, 1987)
Are our tombs empty? Have we cleansed our lives of the decomposing effects of sin? The victory of Christ over sin and death is ours, too. The early morning resurrection scene challenges us to see GLORY after our humiliating experiences, to see JOY after all the painful events of life and to see HOPE amidst all of life‘s depressing situations. Like the disciple who saw and believed (John 20:9), we reaffirm our belief in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The resurrection in our lives can be seen only with the eyes of faith through which Christ will constantly tell us: BELIEVE!
In one of my Easter homilies, I shared this beautiful explanation of Easter from Mark Link, S.J.. I hope these words encourage us to celebrate the Easter mysteries.
“The good news of Easter is that nothing need defeat us anymore-not discouragement, not misfortune, not rejection, not pain, not even death. The good news of Easter is that we don‟t have to wait until we die to share in the power of the resurrection. We can begin to do it right now. Easter holds out an invitation to each of us in this church this morning. It invites us to let Jesus help us trust once again, after we‟ve had our trust betrayed. It invites us to let Jesus help us love once again, after we‟ve had our love rejected. It invites us to let Jesus help us hope once again, after we‟ve had our hope dashed to pieces. It invites us to let Jesus help us pick up the broken pieces and start over again, after we were ready to give up. This is what Easter is all about. It‟s the good news that the risen Jesus is in our midst right now, in this church, on this Easter morning. It‟s the good news that Jesus has triumphed over evil and death, and so will we, if we but open our hearts to him. It‟s the good news that Jesus is ready to work miracles for us, if we but let him. It‟s the good news that nothing can destroy us anymore-not pain, not sorrow, not rejection, not sin, not even death itself. This is what Easter is all about. This is what we celebrate as we now prepare to break bread together on this great birthday of our Christian faith..” (Mark Link, S.J., Sunday Homilies: Year C, pp. 71-72, 1987)
Indeed, for every Good Friday, there is an Easter Sunday! Let us sing Alleluia to the Lord!
By Bishop Mylo