On Easter Sunday, we all run to the tomb
The Lord is Risen … Alleluia.
With that greeting, Bishop Michael W. Fisher welcomed a large number of the faithful to St. Joseph Cathedral for the Easter Day Mass.
With the Cathedral altar resplendent in spring flowers, Bishop Fisher said it is time again to proclaim alleluia because with the end of Lent our hearts are now full of joy. He explained that the word alleluia captures our exuberance that the Lord had risen.
“Truly the Lord is Risen, and that is at the center of who we are as Christians, and why we are here today,” said the bishop. “And the miracle that we celebrate today is our Risen Lord.”
As he reflected on the Gospel from John in his homily, he spoke of the parade that unfolded in the reading. The women, Mary Magdalene and Joanna, visiting Jesus’ tomb to anoint his body as was part of their tradition. The parade of disciples racing to the tomb after they had been told by the women of its empty contents and then the guards, and others who also appeared to bear witness to the resurrection.
They confronted two profound realities that we also confront on Easter, explained Bishop Fisher. The first is death and the second is resurrection. None of us has experienced either death or resurrection and yet our faith calls upon us to understanding through our eyes of faith.
The bishop said his favorite image of what Easter represents was provided by Jesuit theologian Father Karl Rahner, SJ, who said the past and the future come crashing into our present. We see this explosion of God’s glory as he has risen from the dead and we begin to understand what our death can mean for us eventually. And that is what awaits us in the resurrection.
He spoke of waiting at the bedside of the dying. He reflected on the death of his parents.
“It was holy ground for me, as I felt they were there for me when I took my very first breath and now I was there for them when they took their last. And I somehow wanted to reach into their experience and have them share what they were going through,” he explained. “Are you seeing memories, are you seeing God, is Christ there with you? And I wanted them to somehow speak to me in that sacred moment as they made passage from this life into the next.”
“We know that death awaits us … it is a reality of life, but as Christians we also know that it doesn’t end there.” And that helps us to understand, not fear, death because Christ has beaten it.
He spoke of Michelangelo’s statue of the Resurrection at the Church of Mary Magdalene in Jerusalem. The small cross in His hand is dwarfed as Jesus bursts from the tomb, exploding into salvation for us.
“And it is there that we experience that hope and the joy in our hearts where we come to understand that death is not the end, and that is why Jesus came to us to experience us and to experience our humanity … to lift us above our sin and our sorrow, our suffering and pain, and to give meaning to our life. So, it is in that that we can find the hope in our own resurrection.
“Today, we join the parade of people who make their way to the tomb. We are amazed that it is empty and that the promise of Jesus has come true and we are called not to be fearful. It is easy to lose hope in times like these, but it is the Lord’s Easter glory that lifts us above that and assures us that there is more beyond here, and that we only need to embrace our own crosses to be not afraid and rejoice and to scream out alleluia, alleluia, the Lord is risen, He is truly risen. Happy Easter.”