Gospel Reflection Apr 4 – Fr. Morris
Sunday, April 4
Easter Sunday the Resurrection of the Lord
John 20: 1 – 9
On the first day of the week,
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture
that he had to rise from the dead.
The contemplation of the Empty Tomb—how many generations of saints and mystics, theologians and pastors. have attempted to guide souls in reflecting upon this great mystery of the Faith!
The Empty Tomb, as a factual claim, is also by necessity a communal claim and a communal belief of the Church. But the Empty Tomb is also an individual exigency, a confounding reality that we must come to terms with personally. If the Tomb is empty because the disciples came and took the body; or the Roman authorities did, or sneaky agents of the Sadducess or the Pharisees, or particularly-adept hyenas who had devised a method for rolling boulders away….. or any of the other alternative explanations offered by unbelievers over two millennia, then we too can explain away that unoccupied vault easily enough. We have seen enough political spin, military psyops, institutional corruption, and social manipulation in the pages of the newspapers to say “well, it could happen” when presented with these alternatives.
But if that Tomb is empty because of what the disciples’ claimed –that Jesus is the Messiah who rose from the grave–then we are faced with a radical new facet of reality to accept, wrangle with, and contextualize. Authentic scientific breakthroughs shake their respective fields for years, as the new knowledge is tested and questioned, older theories are grudgingly revised, and new hypotheses are advanced on the basis of this new knowledge. So the Empty Tomb was a radical shakeup of the old world and its certainties; not only for believing Jews as they struggled to reconcile their expectations for the Messiah with this new revelation, but also for pagans who struggled to accept that rather than a multitude of human-like gods, there was one True God who became human in order to save His creation.
It is an irony that we live in a time when “non-belief” is claimed, but yet our contemporaries believe in all sorts of unverifiable philosophical theories and quasi-metaphysical dogmas that rival anything the Christian church has ever claimed. Our claims are in many ways less flights of theoretical and philosophical fancy than what non-believers themselves hold to be true!
What is the claim that we as Christians pronounce to be true on this Easter morning? The simple truth that the tomb is empty because “Jesus Christ is Risen! He is Truly Risen!”
-Father Matthew Morris