In the dark hours after Jesus was crucified, the disciples were on the verge of despair. Jesus had been put to death; he was gone, laid in a tomb. Was this the end? Did anything have meaning anymore? They still wanted to believe in him, yet they were struggling to open their minds and hearts to all that He had taught them of his pending death – and the resurrection.
There is a quiet contrast between those dark hours and the early morning that heralded the dawn of the first Easter Day. It was then that Mary Magdalene and the other women disciples went to the tomb and found that it was empty. Mary believed that the body of Jesus had been taken away. When she ran to tell Peter and John what she believed had happened, she sought the help of men whose individual behavior had been very different at the time of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. Peter had denied three times that he even knew Jesus, but John had stayed close to the cross and remained with Jesus to the end, as had Mary, the mother of Jesus, and her sister Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene herself. But now, united in grief, Peter and John run to the tomb, see the burial clothes and believe what, until then, they had failed to understand: “that He must rise from the dead.”
For all of these disciples, the truth of the resurrection dawns upon them slowly. According to John, it comes to Mary Magdalene in a uniquely personal way when, according to the Gospel, she remains at the tomb, weeping, and sees a man, whom she thinks is the gardener. Only when He speaks her name does she realize that He is Jesus.
Not one of Jesus’ band of followers witnessed the resurrection itself; but Christ, in His love, sought out the disciples, opened their hearts and reawakened their faith by appearing to them now, risen from the dead. The change that then came about in his followers was a new beginning, inexplicable in human terms, for it was a glimpse of the world to come when we shall see God “face to face.” In the words of St. Bede: “Christ is the morning star who when the night of this world is past reveals to his saints the eternal light of life”
Do you remember in that Gospel passage that three of the people mentioned in the story ran in the aftermath of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead? Mary Magdalene ran to tell Peter and John that the tomb was empty where the body of Jesus had been laid. Peter and John then run to the empty tomb to see for themselves.
Running excitedly but with a purpose is indeed a fitting response to the experience of Christ’s resurrection. If we truly believe that the empty tomb is not some trick, that the body of Jesus had not been stolen or hidden, but that Jesus indeed had risen from the dead, then we cannot just sit back complacently or amble along indifferently as if nothing unusual had happened. The resurrection of Jesus changes the lives of us who are believers, spurring us on to run the course of our lives with the excitement of knowing that something miraculous has happened, so extraordinary that we are compelled to follow the way that the Lord has shown us and invite others to join us on this spiritual journey to a most remarkable destination that is the fulfillment of our fondest dreams.
The risen Lord appears to those who have received the gift of faith, that gift of the Holy Spirit, which brings us into a relationship with Jesus. It enables us to see beyond what is immediately obvious into the world of God, where we can experience a whole new life. St. Paul expresses this experience of faith in terms of death and rebirth. When we believe in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, we are enabled to die to the things of this world and come alive to the things of God. All that used to be important to us is no longer so. Our whole sense of values changes. We begin to see with the eyes of Christ so that we can know His Father as our Father and love others as He loves us. Like the disciples, however, we have to grow in our faith. Like them, we have to follow the call of Jesus, to listen to His word, to allow a relationship with Him to develop. Without Jesus, our world is an empty tomb. So, let us open our hearts to the gift of the Spirit who will enable us to see what is not visible to the eyes of our body, and to believe that the Lord is truly risen. May you have a blessed Easter!!