Easter Message 2007
By Bishop Glen John Provost
"For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the
dead." John 20:9
We all love the thrill of a race. Our hearts surge with excitement at the
victory of the Olympic runner in "Chariots of Fire." We are moved to pity
and sorrow for the ill-fated runner of "Gallipoli" who cannot quite make it
in time to prevent the slaughter of his comrades on the battlefield. The
shear strength of competition moves us to set our sight on the runners and
the goal. A race is perhaps different from other sports, in that many
runners in unison all do the same thing to achieve only one goal. St. Paul
speaks of this in his letters. There are many runners in the stadium but
only one prize. St. Paul knew that to achieve our end we must pursue it with
the zeal of a runner, who knows he must be the first over the finish line.
That first Easter morning began gently like a sunrise. The three women went
to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus. This should have been done before
burial, but Good Friday had been the eve of the Sabbath and the law
prohibited any work. To bury Jesus in time before sunset and the coming of
the Sabbath required haste. Their zeal to anoint the body of Jesus clouded
even their reasoning. Here they were going to the tomb early in the morning.
Who would roll the heavy stone from the entrance to open the tomb for them?
No sooner had this thought crossed their mind, then they looked up and saw
the tomb with the stone already moved away. Frightened, startled, they
looked in and saw a young man all dressed in white who said, "He has been
raised" (Mark 16:6). Jesus had made the empty tomb a sign of victory.
Nowhere is this better seen than in the Gospel of St. John (John 20:1-9).
When Mary Magdalen brings the news to Peter and John that the tomb is empty,
they begin their race. The Gospel says simply, "They both ran, but the other
disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first." What
questions must have raced through their minds? Remember how we feel when we
are told that a favorite relative has just arrived. We want to greet him or
her, so we jump to our feet, race to the door, and arrive to see for
ourselves. As in a race, someone must arrive first, and that was John. Why
does the sacred writer make a point of telling us this? He gives us a clue
by telling us that John was the "disciple whom Jesus loved."
Recall the well known Scripture passage: love is a fire that all waters fail
to quench. For love a man will lose everything and think nothing of the
loss. The chief attribute of love is its single-mindedness. It sets its
sight on a goal and never deviates. For this reason it is like the runner in
a race, and for that reason John reached the tomb first. Love was his goal,
love was his motive, and love was his energy.
For forty days of Lent our goal should have been to be one with Jesus in His
suffering and death in order to share in His Resurrection. To be a good
runner we have fasted, prayed, and increased our works of mercy.
Strengthened by good works and religious observance, renewed in faith and
restored in hope, we come to the tomb and find it empty. If we seek the
risen Lord, then we like Mary Magdalen and John do not have far to look.
Jesus entered our darkened churches here at the Solemn Vigil of Easter, as a
bright candle anointed with His five wombs. He rose to wash in the waters of
baptism those who were baptized and sprinkled us all with Holy Water in
renewal of our baptismal promises. Christ Risen gives Himself to us over and
over again, in Word and Sacrament. He is present. He is real. He is
To all the good people of Lake Charles, the city and the surrounding area, I
extend my best wishes for a Blessed Easter. In a most special way, I offer
the greetings of Easter hope to those in our area who remain displaced as a
result of Hurricane Rita. You are not forgotten, and your sacrifices and
sufferings are not in vain. To you and all others who suffer, the lonely and
the sick, I join with Our Lord in saying, "By patient endurance you will
save your lives." Easter tells us, like St. Paul, that we can run the race,
win the prize, and await a merited crown of victory. The joy of Easter comes
from knowing a simple truth, a truth that a life with faith, hope, and love
in Christ is "a life worth living." When the motive is love, then nothing
can stop us. The goal is before us. The empty tomb gives testimony. The
victory is ours.