“The resurrection of Jesus is the crowning truth of our faith in Christ...” (Catechism 638)
Happy Easter to all of you. We have now passed through the desert and penance of Lent, celebrated the Paschal mysteries during Triduum (Holy Week) and the great Easter Vigil. And now, here at last, is the greatest feast of the Christian year, the celebration of the Lord’s resurrection. “The Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal.” (Easter Sequence)
“The first element we encounter...is the empty tomb...” (catechism 640) This is the first message of today’s gospel, “the tomb is empty.” “In itself it is not a direct proof of Resurrection; the absence of Christ’s body from the tomb could be explained otherwise. Nonetheless the empty tomb was still an essential sign for all. Its discovery by the disciples was the first step toward recognizing the very fact of the Resurrection.” (CCC 640)
It is a curious thing to note in today’s Gospel, Jesus is nowhere to be seen or heard from. The Church gives us this gospel as glimpse into the initial shock the disciples would have felt by seeing and hearing about the empty tomb. It is as if we, for a moment, were brought to that initial frenzy of trying to figure out what happened to Jesus. How would you react if suddenly your loved one’s grave was open and empty. “Where is he!?” This was Mary Magdalene’s panicked reaction.
She ran to tell the disciples. Peter and John then ran out to see the empty tomb for themselves.
What did they see? Burial shrouds lying of the floor of an empty tomb. Grave robbers would have either taken the expensive linens used to shroud the body, and left the corpse, or since Jesus’ body was anointed with myrrh and the cloth would have stuck to his skin, robbers would have taken everything. And they would be in a hurry.
Yet the cloth used to cover his face was set apart from the the larger shroud. Perhaps the way it was rolled or folded reminded Peter and John of something.
Whatever the case, Peter and John saw these two cloths in an empty tomb. They saw and believed. Since there were two of them, under Jewish law, they were now consid- ered witnesses that can testify.
This what our first reading calls us to be. “Chosen to be His ‘witnesses,’ the Apostles were ‘commissioned... to preach... and testify’ to all that they had seen - from His anoint- ing with the Holy Spirit at the Jordan to the empty tomb.” (Scott Hahn)
As members of His body the Church we are “children” of the apostolic witnesses. In the Gospel we heard that the cloth for his body was wadded up and tossed aside, while the cloth for his head was folded (or rolled). St. Paul tells “it is he who is head of the body, the church, he who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead.” Colossians 1:18. Perhaps Jesus was saying, as head of the body, his work is accomplished, it is finished, but the body, his Church still has a task to do.
That is why we still gather early in the morning on the first day of every week to celebrate the feast of the empty tomb. We are bearing witness to our belief in His Resurrection. And we wait in hope for what the Apostles told us would come - the day when our tombs will be empty and we too “will appear with Him in glory.
Happy Easter to all of you!
Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!
Father Robert Letona