Sunday, March 31, 2013

"He is Not Here. He has Been Raised"

Regardless of which year we are in, all the Gospels for this Easter Vigil contain two identical phrases. These two phrases are key to our life as Christians. I’ll start with the second one first:

“He has been raised.”

This is the original Easter message: “Christ is risen!” And this is what Christians from that first Easter morning, beginning with these women, have proclaimed to the ends of the earth. The One who suffered and died on the Cross for our sins, the One who took on Himself all that we are in our humanity, the One who was laid in the tomb and sealed with the stone – He is risen! Alleluia!

The joy of Easter consists in the fact that with the Resurrection of Jesus, our hope for eternal life now dawns. We, too, are called to this resurrection; and, in fact, we already share in it through our Baptism. As Saint Paul boldly proclaims in the Epistle, “We who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. … so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might have newness of life.”

Tonight, two of our members will enter those waters of Baptism and become that new creation – not only sharing Christ’s death but sharing His Resurrection as well. In the Sacrament of Confirmation that we will then celebrate with our candidates, the Holy Spirit will seal them – as we have been – to then go forth and proclaim the Risen Lord to the world.

“He has been raised.”

This Easter proclamation should echo forever in the ears of every Christian – that sin and death, so prevalent in our world, so consuming in their power to frighten, these no longer bear the power to control us again. When life feels difficult and unbearable, and we think that there is no hope left, we hear it: “He has been raised!” When our communities are in turmoil, and violence, drugs and disillusion seem the order of the day, we hear it: “He has been raised!” When the world appears to be at its end, with nation rising against nation, the poor are ignored, and innocents suffer unjustly, we know this is not the end: “He has been raised!”

This is our Easter mantra – this is what gets the Christian – the disciple – out of bed in the morning and what drives them through the day. For we cannot rest until we know that others know that simple, good news: “He has been raised!”

The second phrase that the gospels share is a little less exciting, on the surface:

“He is not here.”

That’s right! He is not here!

The One whom the women sought to anoint and mourn was gone. The first sign of Easter for them was not a colored egg or a cute bunny. It was an empty tomb.

And what was their response? They ran to the others to share that news – as new Easter disciples, they brought the news to the bewildered Apostles: “He is not here; he is risen!”

The news seemed like “nonsense” to the others, but Peter reacts to their announcement by running to see for himself. What joy animated these women that they ran back to us? What on earth has happened now? Could it be true?

And at the tomb, Peter sees for himself: “He is not here.”

Brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ is risen today! Our victory over sin and death is won. We are now made disciples with a definite mission: share this news with the world.

He may not be here, but we are! His life now animates us, and where we are, He is too! This is the mystery of the Church – the presence of Christ, shared by His disciples wherever we gather to proclaim Him. Where will you proclaim that news today?

As a family, gathered at your Easter feasts, proclaim it together: “Christ is risen! He is truly risen!” Let the way we live show forth the fact that we believe the message we celebrate. That is the mark of the disciple. When we proclaim that Christ is alive, that He is not there in the tomb but risen, we remind others that there is more to this life than meets the eye. We share the light of Christ – as we do this night – and that light is never dimmed, even when shared with all. God is at work, even in the most desperate of times, and He transforms emptiness into the fullness of joy.

Tonight, on this holy night, we are happy witnesses of an empty tomb. But that emptiness is not a mark of absence, as if Christ abandoned us. Rather, it is a reminder that the tomb cannot hold the life that God gives – the life we receive here, now. May we live that life to the fullest, and proudly proclaim that Easter message: “He is not here. He is risen!”

Alleluia!

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