They Have Taken The Lord Out Of The Tomb

A Reflection by Fr. Peter for Easter Sunday (Year B).
Acts 10:34, 37-43 – Colossians 3:1-4 – John 20:1-9.

At Easter, we celebrate the power of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The Lord is truly risen! Alleluia.! Alleluia! In the words of St Mary Magdalene in today’s Gospel Reading, they have taken the Lord out of the tomb. It’s true – the body of Jesus is no longer in the tomb. Now, the body of Jesus that rose on Easter morning was changed from the body of Jesus that was buried at sunset on Good Friday. It was not a resuscitated dead body – that is, a body restored to life like that of Lazarus, and the son of the widow of Nain, and the daughter of Jairus. Rather, the risen body of Jesus was a glorified body, a body that was totally living and totally life-giving. In His resurrection, Christ conquered death to give us life.

Recall that Paul compares the body before resurrection to a seed, and the body after resurrection to the plant that emerges from that seed. St Paul writes that, What you plant is a bare seed… not the full-bodied plant…. When the body is buried, it is mortal; when raised, it will be immortal. When buried, it is ugly and weak; when raised, it will be beautiful and strong. When buried, it is a physical body, when raised, it will be a spiritual body” (1Cor 15:37, 42-44). From St. Paul’s analysis, then, we can affirm that Jesus rose with a spiritual body: ‘spiritual’ not in the sense of ‘invisible’ but in the sense of ‘immortal, imperishable, divine and powerful’. At Easter, we Christians rise from Lent with the glorious power of Christ. The message of Easter reminds us that we do not have to wait until we die physically in order to share in the risen life and power of Jesus. No, we can do it right now. It’s simple. All we have to do is to open our hearts to Him and to allow the power of the Lord that raised Him from the tomb to raise us from the sins that bind us.

The words of St Mary Magdalene help us to appreciate the extraordinary nature of this message. She said that they have taken the Lord. She did not say that “they have taken the body of the Lord”, although we can suppose that she believed the body to be missing because she added that we don’t know where they have put Him. There is a distinction to be made here. She doesn’t report seeing the dead body of Jesus that was laid in the arms of His mother and then buried in the tomb on Good Friday. Later that morning (Jn 20:14), however, it was the risen Lord that she saw, not the cadaver. She mistook Him for the gardener… well, she was absolutely right, wasn’t she! (Gen 1:29ff.)

A lord is someone who wields authority and power. So, in making her journey to venerate and anoint the body of Our Lord in the tomb on Easter morning, St Mary Magdalene was continuing to respond to the authority and power of Jesus. Seeing Jesus as Lord even beyond the experience of His physical death was a great act of faith on her part. And she was correct: Jesus IS Lord. In dying in His humanity and being buried in the tomb, in His divinity He liberated human souls from eternal death. In rising from the tomb, He destroyed the power of death over us. Today, irrespective of the pains of this life that assail us, let us take courage, rejoice and rise spiritually with the Lord.

Let me illustrate what I mean with a little story. Ian was a cancer victim. Until he passed over, he remained convinced that his illness was a precious gift from God. Shortly before his death he wrote, Many things upon which I placed such importance in the past seem so trivial now. They just don’t seem to matter any more. Time has become so precious to me. God has become so real. I can feel His power – it’s always there. Throughout his final illness, Ian continued to demonstrate his faith in the Lord. He was quick to say how, even in his condition, he felt God’s love and power at work in him. What a beautiful example Ian gave of the power of the risen Jesus at work in his life. Yes, Ian rose spiritually in the face of physical death. To rise spiritually is to share in the power of the risen Lord.

Each time we love again after having our love rejected, we share in the power of the resurrection. Each time we trust again after having our trust betrayed, we share in the resurrection. Each time we hope again after having our hope smashed to pieces, we share in the resurrection. Each time we pick up the pieces, wipe away our tears, face the sun and start again, we share in the power of the resurrection. The message of Easter is that nothing can destroy us any more: not pain, not sin, not rejection, not even death.  Do you know what the Good News is? Let me remind you, in case you’re not sure. The Good News is that every Good Friday has an Easter Sunday. The Good News is that we don’t have to wait until death to share in the resurrection. We can share in it right now, in this life, at this very moment, in this Mass. All you have to do is to open your heart to the grace that Jesus won for us on that first Easter Sunday. Amen. God bless you. Happy Easter!