When I visited the tomb of the Lord in Jerusalem in 2008, I was lucky to have met a Franciscan friar who made it possible for me to visit at a time in the evening when the tomb was usually closed to the public. It was one of my happiest spiritual moments to have been able to enter that empty tomb and spent ten minutes by myself in wonder and prayer at what happened in this tomb over 2000 years ago.
This pilgrimage into the empty tomb in the eerie silence that surrounded the Church of the Holy Sepulcher also gave me a better understanding of what the scripture says of Joseph of Arimathea who gave Jesus his own tomb which was hewn out of a rock.
Jesus’s tomb, like tombs in those days looked more like a small underground chamber. Now, the inner chambers of Jesus’ tomb are paved so that it is possible for one to descend into the tomb and come out safely. It is also lined up with light, so one can see his or her way through the rocky chambers that once contained the body of the Lord.
The tomb that I saw in Jerusalem conjured up for me the images of prison, darkness, cave, and spatial and physical limitations. It also brought up to my mind the thought of how the ancients saw death—there was a finality to death, and the tomb served as a memorial perhaps the last living symbol of the dead.
Thus, special efforts are made to preserve the tomb so that the dead will be remembered because for the people of Jesus’ times to be forgotten is to die twice. The graves are also tightly secured with enough room for the dead so that their spirits can move around if they so desired in the land of the dead without coming to earth again.
Whenever we celebrate Easter my mind always goes to that tomb where it all started and the significance of that empty tomb—we do not worship a dead God, but a living God who is with us in our world and beyond this world.
My prayer for you this Easter is that the splendor of the Risen Christ will banish any darkness in your life and any emptiness that you feel on this day.
St John Chrysostom refers to Christians as those who have come out from the cave of death and sin and who now are invited to live a new life pervaded with love, fraternity, reconciliation, and hope. Christians are those who have come back from the exile of sin into their true home, Jesus Christ.
My wish for you this Easter is that you may be profoundly touched by the splendor of the Risen Christ so that you may live a life of hope, charity, and justice. May you be the source of reconciliation everywhere you go, striving always to be a healer of broken lives, broken relationships, and broken people.
Easter celebrates the hope that truth once crucified will rise again. Easter celebrates that all our good works and commitments to doing the right things matter because they have an eternal value which will outlive us. Easter tells us that there are indeed things that matter beyond the shifting values and changing circumstances of this life. Easter tells us that evil will not have the last say and that the seeming triumph of good over evil, darkness over light, of injustice and oppression over justice and righteousness is only but temporary. Our good deeds do go before and beyond us; so, keep on doing good as it may not pay in the short term, but it has ultimate significance and value beyond today.
May you find hope—true hope—in Christ, the principle, source, and foundation of our hope as Christians. This hope, faith tells us, is found in the victory of God as you commit yourself to follow the way of Jesus—the way of truth, goodness, beauty, love, forgiveness, mercy, righteousness, virtuous life, mercy, and justice. Easter tells us that there is life beyond the shadows of death and that our friendship with God can never be destroyed by death because God is eternal.
As you celebrate this year in the midst of the current pandemic and the pain and burden of losses that we all carry, may you find inner strength and grace through these mysteries.
May you have the resilience that comes from faith to believe even when you are surrounded by shadows that your life is not a prison, but that you are a child of God living in the palace of your God who calls you every day into freedom and into the light.
So true are the words of that ancient hymn “because he lives, I can face tomorrow.” May you have the courage to face tomorrow knowing that the Risen Lord goes ahead of you and is risen to be your God in all circumstances, and in season and out of season.
Happy Easter, my friend. May Peace, love, joy, and hope fill your home and your heart. And May hope be born again to our world that is going through a time of anguish in this time of the pandemic. May God fill your heart with hope and courage wherever you feel empty today, Amen. I will keep your intentions today as I offer the Mass of Easter. Keep me in your prayers too.