Surprises at the tomb LUKE 24:1–12
Sing Alleluia! The Lord is risen! “We are an Easter people and ‘Alleluia’ is our song” (St Augustine of Hippo). Today is a day of great joy, as we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord. Jesus defeated sin and death. “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1Pt 2:24). Usually on Easter Sunday, we read from the Gospel of John. However, today’s reflection is based on the Gospel of Luke (Easter Vigil Mass).
After the Jewish Sabbath, some women gathered early in the morning to anoint Jesus’ body with spices. They journeyed to the tomb out of love but were bereft of faith. Their faith was crushed when Jesus was crucified. Sometimes our faith is shaken because of sickness, the death of a loved one, a failed marriage, discrimination, breach of trust and loss of a job. Nevertheless, we walk tenaciously with the hope that things will get better.
The mere idea that the women were carrying spices was indicative of their belief that Jesus was dead. When the women arrived at the tomb, they encountered three surprises that changed their lives forever.
Firstly, the stone at the tomb was removed. How do we respond when God does the unexpected and removes stones (obstacles) from our life? Next, they discovered that Jesus’ body was missing. The sight of an empty tomb was disconcerting to them as they experienced emotions of loss and bewilderment. Mary of Magdala, in her grief assumed that grave robbers took the body away. “They have taken the Lord, and we don’t know where they have put him” (Jn 20:10).
Finally, the sight of two men wearing brilliant clothes terrified them. Their clothing illuminated the darkness of the tomb which symbolises life instead of death.
Then the men asked the women, “Why look among the dead for someone who is alive He is not here; He is risen” (Lk 25:4). These women were forced to embrace a new perspective since they were searching for Jesus in the wrong place.
Sometimes we seek fame, power, prestige, wealth and the pleasures of this world (self-indulgence) instead of God. These things are temporary and may make us happy for a while but they do not sustain us. So, why are we looking in the wrong places where we cannot find life? St Augustine of Hippo reminds us that only when we rest in God our hearts will become content.
When the faithful women returned from the tomb, they related their experiences to the disciples but were met with incredulity. The disciples thought that they were either dreaming or delirious since they were still reeling from the ignominy of the Cross. Also, in Jewish courts, women were not considered as credible witnesses. Yet, God commissioned women to spread the news of the resurrection to men.
As a result, Peter visited the tomb to corroborate the women’s story and found the linens (grave clothes) lying by themselves. The grave clothes probably symbolises a chrysalis. Jesus, therefore, emerges from His cocoon having been transformed into something more beautiful, a glorious body.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The Resurrection of Jesus is the crowning truth of our faith in Christ, a faith believed and lived as the central truth by the first Christian community…” (638).
Jesus’ resurrection is the cornerstone of our faith. If Jesus did not rise from the dead then our belief would be in vain (1 Cor 15:14). Like the women, we are commissioned by our Baptism and Confirmation to spread the good news of the resurrection to everyone.
The joy of the resurrection must become evident by the way we interact with others. When we are compassionate, forgiving and loving to those who intentionally hurt us, we are being lifted out of our tombs through the power of the resurrection as He draws us to become more like Himself.
Lord, grant that during this Easter season we may be inwardly renewed. Help us to die to self so that You may reign in us. May we serve as ambassadors of Your transforming power and love. Amen.
The Gospel Meditations for April are by Dr René Jerome Wihby, an assistant lecturer at the School of Education, The University of the West Indies, St Augustine Campus and attends St Paul’s RC, Couva.