“Why do you seek the Living One among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised.” (Lk 24: 5-6)
So, a dear lady who was very upset at something I had posted on my Facebook page responded with this angry comment: “I hope you don’t teach that in your church. If Jesus knew what you said he’d turn over in his grave.”
Umm . . . Someone please tell the well-intentioned but confused commentator that Jesus isn’t in his grave. His grave is empty. He has been raised from the dead. He is very much alive. Alleluia!
Of course that’s the wonderful truth we proclaim and celebrate at Easter, and it’s that belief that serves as the foundation of our faith and the motive for Christian living. As St. Paul said so clearly, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless, and your faith is in vain.” (I Cor 15:14)
And that was the reality which led to the momentous question of the angel cited above. Recall the scene. On the first day of the week, the faithful women had gone to the tomb of Jesus, to anoint his body according to custom, and there they encountered two men in “dazzling garments,” angels, who said to them, “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised.”
But, we ask: Where do we find the Living One in our own time and place? Surely not in the dark shadows of death, destruction, and immorality that inhabit our world today.
We will not find Jesus in the graveyards of war, violence, and terrorism; nor in the attacks against human life, especially unborn children and the frail elderly; nor in the physical or sexual abuse of children; nor in the tortured soul of our inner cities plagued by drugs and gangs; nor in the slavery of human trafficking and pornography; nor in the aggressive secularism of our age; nor in expressions of racism, intolerance, anger and fear so prevalent in public discourse today.
No, we will not find Jesus in any of those very dark corners of our world.
But we will find the Living One among those who have life and share that life with others, so many good folks who radiate Christ in their words and deeds.
We will find Jesus in those who promote charity, justice and peace in our world and local communities, as well as the “pro-lifers” who work to promote the dignity of human life, especially for the unborn and elderly.
We will find Jesus in the missionaries who sacrifice every convenience and pleasure to travel the world to preach the Joy of the Gospel, sometimes in extremely difficult and dangerous situations.
We will find Jesus in the selfless commitment of our priests, deacons, religious and laity who love the Church and work tirelessly, often behind the scenes, to build and strengthen the Church, to accompany God’s people in their journey of faith.
We will find Jesus in our families, among loving and faithful spouses, in parents, grandparents and children, who accept the challenge of building a home together, day-in and day-out, as they navigate the turbulent seas of modernity.
We will find Jesus in each little act of kindness and love shown to our friends, neighbors and co-workers, the words of encouragement we speak to those who are discouraged, and in those life-changing moments of forgiveness and reconciliation that come our way.
And, we will find Jesus in the sacred silence of our churches, in the devotions and liturgy of the Church, in the holy Sacraments, and particularly in the most Blessed Sacrament, the abiding presence of Christ par-excellence.
Jesus presented himself as the “Light of the World,” and in so many tangible ways, in and through us, he continues to dispel the darkness. “Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth,” St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians. (Eph 5: 8-9) The Living One does not dwell in the darkness of sin, but in the bright light of our goodness and truth, every time, and in every way, that we reflect that light.
So that’s where we’ll find the Living One – not in the grave, but in the positive, powerful witness of our lives. The Resurrection radically changed the lives of his first disciples; it should touch our hearts and change us too.
Pope Francis, in discussing the impact of the Risen Christ, said this: “This is why we tell everyone: ‘Come and see!’ In every human situation, marked by frailty, sin and death, the Good News is no mere matter of words, but a testimony to unconditional and faithful love. It is about leaving ourselves behind and encountering others, being close to those crushed by life’s troubles, sharing with the needy, standing at the side of the sick, elderly and the outcast. Love is more powerful, love gives life, love makes hope blossom in the wilderness. With this joyful certainty in our hearts, today we turn to you, Risen Lord!”
“Easter is never deserved,” one author pointed out, a reminder that the Resurrection of Christ is God’s gift to us, a gift of love and redemption. That’s the message of Easter: God loves us, he has saved us, and he wants us to be with him forever. If that doesn’t give us hope, nothing will.
A blessed, peaceful and joyful Easter to all!