April 9, 2023
I am struck by the fact, as recorded in the Gospels, that the disciples of Jesus are surprised by the empty tomb (cf. John 20:9; Luke 24:4; Luke 24:21-24; Mark 16:3; Matthew 28:5ff.). The Lord had foretold His Passion, Death, and Resurrection, but as we know from the Gospel accounts, the disciples did not understand or fully appreciate what was said (e.g. Luke 9:45). The tragedy of Calvary remained imprinted in their hearts and minds. Nonetheless, the tomb remains empty.
The world and its many tragedies are forcing us to encounter the cross. We are horrified by wars, violence, disease, and challenges that defy resolution or any remedy. Threats and disasters seem to be only minutes away—both originating from man and from nature. We could, like the disciples, be tempted to discouragement.
The liturgy of the Church strives to convey this sense of loss. On Good Friday in the ritual of the Catholic Church, the tabernacle is empty, no Mass is celebrated, and no decorations embellish our already simplified rituals. The Church’s ancient rites summon the Book of Lamentations to reflect Her sentiments: “How lonely she is now, the once crowded city!” (Lamentations 1:1).
How the disciples must have sensed this desolation! Mary of Magdala cries out, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him” (John 20:2). However, soon after this desolation, a realization slowly overtakes that the sun has risen on a new day, seemingly like any other, but gloriously different. There are rumors (cf. Luke 24:22-23). There are apparitions (cf. Luke 24:4). And, as surely as the dissipating twilight at the break of day, a perception dawns that something completely new has happened, something we never thought possible, something to change our lives. The tomb is empty, and He has risen. Happy Easter!