Again, I love the contrast between what is happening on the human level as the disciples hear about Jesus no longer being among the dead, as they encounter the empty tomb, and even more so as they encounter the resurrected Jesus. And on the other hand, the amazing transformation that has happened to Jesus over the last few days. For us people taking in the Resurrection is a process, for Jesus it is the reality that transformed Him forever. And not only Him, but us too, the whole cosmos in fact, because of Him.
Imagine, as we read the accounts of the Gospels where Jesus meets his disciples, we notice that the wounds on Jesus’ body no longer have pain in them; there is a scar, a memory, but they are so completely healed that they present a stark contrast to how they appeared just a few days ago. In three days, while Jesus was being in the tomb and working out the deep healing invisible to the eyes, He was so utterly transformed that even His wounds from the terror of Good Friday no longer hurt. In three days! This is how shocking the whole story of the Resurrection is for us. How mind-blowing, how surprising. We simply cannot take it in, not instantly. For us this transformation is going to take much longer, but what Resurrection reassures us, among other things, is that our bodies matter. We Christians believe in the resurrection of the body, which means that God brings His message of Resurrection to every aspect of our being.
It is women who encounter Jesus first on what we now call Easter morning. This is one of the stories that the Gospel writers share with us:
“When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” (Mark 16:1-8)
They heard what had happened and they were afraid. Because no one had ever risen from the dead before. Yes, they witnessed Lazarus being brought back to life, but Lazarus had had to go through death again some years, I guess, after Jesus brought him out of the tomb. Jesus will not. This is different. “When Jesus rises from the dead, He leaves his grave clothes behind” (Fr. Barron). Something about this very fact spoke to me last night during the Vigil Mass. During last few days the altar in the church was bare, to signify that Jesus had died. Now during the Vigil, there is a moment when the altar is ‘robed again’. A lady from the parish where I attended the liturgies was bringing a cloth to robe the altar. As she was walking through the church, it looked as if she was carrying the robes which Jesus left in the tomb after the Resurrection. Then she handed them to the priest, and both of them spread it over the altar. It looked like Jesus was laying down His garments on the altar, as that is where we will remember His death and resurrection through celebrating the Eucharist. At this table we will, daily if you like, remember what He had done, and the glorious transformation that He undertook. And to this table He invites us to partake in these same mysteries, all year round. Now, for the rest of the year we will sing Alleluia to celebrate this mind-blowing fact.
The grave is empty, and Jesus meets us in the ‘Galilee’ of our own lives, in places familiar, in everyday realities, He meets us and He brings His new life there, to us. If Good Friday seemed like the first winter that had no recollection of any previous spring, Easter Sunday is quite the contrary, the everlasting spring that even in the fiercest of winters never ceases to inspire its promises of hope. God’s eternal spring is now present in all seasons, all situations in life, as a sure hope that God is with us. May we each encounter the risen Jesus in a new way this year. And may this encounter be as surprising as it was for Jesus’ disciples that first Easter morning. Happy Easter! Alleluia!
© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 5th April 2015)
Photo by © Iva Beranek