Bergognone, Christ Risen from the Tomb


He is risen! Alleluia!

What does the Resurrection mean? The Resurrection means that Christ is risen and because of it, forgiveness wipes out sin; love overcomes hate; and life triumphs over death. The Resurrection is a historical truth and an eternal one: Jesus the man who suffered, died, and was buried, is alive and with us, even today.  Jesus is raised, and shows himself to be the Messiah, the one for which the disciples were waiting. He is the one whom the disciples will encounter in the Upper Room, the one with whom they will break bread and break open Scripture. They will encounter his forgiveness, and feel his very breath and spirit upon them. Before long, they will even be asked to touch his wounded side. The Resurrection is a real encounter of flesh, food, touch, and breath.

But it begins with an empty tomb.

Mary Magdalene is at the tomb early, even before the sun rises. She waits in vigil for light to come. Her vigil, though, was for the sake of anointing a dead body, for what else could she reasonably have expected to find at the tomb? But instead of a corpse, she finds a stone rolled away. Instead of the stink of death, empty space. That emptiness, she immediately realizes, signifies more than absence. It’s an absence that is paradoxical, an absence that speaks to a living presence. The emptiness of the tomb is a sign of a phenomenon much bigger than she alone can comprehend. Puzzling out what it means will take time and others. And so she runs to Peter and to the other disciple, who themselves race back to the tomb. They, too, cannot immediately make sense of what it all means, but we know that the “other disciple” declares that he saw, and he believed. The Resurrection is encountered, discovered, and interpreted in community.

For us, too, the Resurrection begins with an empty tomb. Just as the Easter vigil starts in darkness, and ends in light, our own experience of the Resurrection starts with those empty spaces of our lives.  Before we can receive the fullness of Christ, we must allow him to make room within us to enter in. Before we can know the giftedness of new life, we must have space for this gift to grow, a space that at first might even appear like only death. But while we may think of emptiness as only absence, as a lack, as not-having, it’s in emptiness that Christ carves out a place that He may enter in. An emptied out heart is a spacious heart. It’s when our hearts grow more spacious, through being emptied, that Christ can enter in. Thus we heard the words of St Paul at the Vigil Mass that remind us that since we are united to Christ in death, we are also united to Christ in life (Romans 6:5).

When Jesus is raised from the dead, he goes out, out of the space of death and into the space of new and abundant life, to be with those whom he loves. To those whom he loves, he brings mercy, peace, and new mission. We also are called to peer into the emptiness of the tomb, but not to linger there too long. Instead, let us like Mary, Peter, and the other disciples run the race to seek Christ. If we seek him, we will find him in our relationships, our families and our communities, and in our very hearts, where we like the “other disciple” may see and believe.