Scripture Readings: Acts of the Apostles 10:34, 37-43; Letter of Saint Paul to the Colossians 3:1-4; Gospel According to Saint John 20:1-9

One of the clearest messages of this holy day is contained in the words of the angel at the empty tomb, which is heard at the Gospel account of the Vigil Mass of Easter Sunday: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” That is what the disciples unknowingly were doing: looking for their Master, presumed dead, simply in order to complete the elaborate burial customs.

However, the disciples encountered something else entirely, for though they thought that everything had ended in tragedy, and that they must pay adequate respect to their now deceased teacher, he in fact had risen.

The disciples, women and men alike, were not really expecting or ready to hear the words of the angel saying not to seek the living among the dead! The women were the first to arrive at the tomb and found the stone rolled back at the place where Jesus had been buried. It would have taken more than one person to do that, and in fact guards had been posted at the tomb. So how did the stone get rolled and no one witnessed the actual rising of the Lord?

“The Lord comes forth,” the psalmist tells us, “like a bridegroom coming from his tent.” The tomb was thrown open not to make a passageway for the risen Christ, but to provide the needed sign to all that Christ had truly risen, wondrously and mysteriously. Put another way: once the stones have been rolled away from human hearts, they can behold the resurrected Lord.

The empty tomb was a sign to Christ’s disciples. Seeing the empty tomb they could begin to comprehend what had been foretold to them, that Jesus would suffer and die for the sins of the world and then rise triumphantly in glory. When they pondered the empty tomb the Lord’s followers came to know that something significant had taken place, a change of fortune had occurred, and that the clock could not be turned back.

Over the next days and weeks, Christ revealed the glory of his resurrection to his disciples. Mystery accompanied his appearances, and called for eyes of faith that the Lord was really in their midst once again, yet now in a changed manner. Having tasted death, Christ became the conqueror of death once and for all. Death could not hold the Lord captive, being himself the author of life.

The resurrection occurred in the context of the community of believers. That is to say, if the Lord had not appeared to his band of brothers and sisters, the apostles and disciples, then how could we or anyone else have heard of the resurrection? Only an event such as this could reverse the sadness and even despair of these first followers of the Lord. They become, as a result of Christ’s resurrection, radiantly joyful, courageous and ultimately willing to give their life for the cause.

Belief in the resurrection is central to our Christian religion. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit we are being given even today eyes of faith, to perceive and know the power of the unconquered Sun of Justice, Christ the Lord. The greatest joy we can imagine or experience is an encounter with the living Lord who desires to be at the center of our existence as individuals, as community, as Church.

We are being called here and now to celebrate this festival of festivals with joy and thanksgiving for the victory Christ has won, the triumph over sin and death and the chance for us to partake of eternal life with the Holy Trinity and the Communion of Angels and Saints.

Let us hasten to partake of the banquet being offered to us, free of charge, costing only willing hearts ready to be transformed by the love of God poured into our hearts.

“Christ my hope has arisen,” we sing each day with Mary Magdalene during the Easter Octave during the Sequence at Mass. We are utterly amazed before this mystery, we confess our lack of comprehension, and yet we live with full confidence that it is true.

“We have put on Christ,” as a “new outfit,” so to speak, to announce to all we believe Christ is risen. We eat Easter eggs, symbols of life that springs from the shell like Christ from the tomb.

Who of us can fully understand or fathom the depths and full meaning of the resurrection? Presumably no one, for we are dealing with something that transcends human understanding and is a truth rooted in faith! The life we live is hidden now with Christ in God, Saint Paul reminds us. We live with and in a mystery. We cry out: Alleluia!

As followers of Christ, we are all called to be signs of hope to those we meet, living lives of peace and a willingness to forgive others, as God has forgiven us in Christ Jesus. May the risen Lord be our only hope!

Abbot Christian Leisy, OSB