Fr. Richards Easter Message
Apr 21, 2017
There is a story told of a dying man whose friend would come to visit him often in the hospital. He always asked the friend to read from a favorite book of his, and visit after visit, he would read from the pages of that same book. It was a long book, and it seemed like it would never end, so when they reached the last chapter the friend was relieved that they would soon finish it. But that day, when he went in, the man asked his friend to start over from the beginning. The friend asked why he would want to do that, to keep reading the same book, over and over, and the man replied that he loved the story so much he couldn’t bear to see it end.
Well today, we reach the last chapter. Today, the greatest story of all time ends. That last chapter is, of course, the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We know how this great epic is completed: with the triumph of good over evil, light shining through the darkness, life conquering death. But in reaching this last chapter something truly miraculous happens. The story, in fact, does not end at all. In His death and resurrection Christ has completely transcended the limit of time. When the veil of the Temple split down the middle the possibility of eternity opened up.
We gather today, not just to recall some past event, but to step into the story which is ours. In Christ we know how our own story is going to end, and in Him we have no reason to be fearful that, in reaching the last chapter, everything will come to a halt. The reality is that, what appears to be the end, is in fact only the beginning of something much greater.
Every person in this church today has experienced obstacles. Each one of us has known suffering, loss, and to one degree or another betrayal and heartbreak. If Jesus Christ has not risen from the dead those obstacles mean nothing. If the Resurrection didn’t really happen then our sufferings happen for nothing, our heartbreak leads to nothing. But if Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, if the last chapter becomes the first today, then our lives - including our sufferings and pains, as well as our hopes and joys - all of them have eternal meaning, because none of us are going to live only for a time, but forever.
There is a detail in the Gospel proclaimed on Easter Sunday, which tells us something very important about what we do here. Notice how all of the central figures are running. Mary Magdalene, who came to the tomb expecting to find Jesus’ dead body finds only the stone which has been rolled away. She runs from the tomb, perhaps in a certain confusion about what’s happened. In all of the accounts of Jesus’ Resurrection there is some confusion because people don’t know what’s going on. They didn’t expect this to happen, even though Jesus told his disciples very plainly that he would rise. Getting back to that idea of our own participation in this story, I think it’s fair to say that very often following Christ brings with it a certain confusion. Not because God keeps His distance from us, but because He tells us we will rise, He tells us that He has overcome the world, He tells us that the light will conquer the darkness, and yet we look around and see the darkness in our world and we are confused. We aren’t sure of where Christ is, and so we run.
When Mary runs from the tomb she finds Peter and and other disciple with him. Peter, of course, was given that name “Rock” by Jesus. He’s the one on whom the Church was to be founded. And despite his denial of Christ, having now repented of his sin and turned back to God, Peter stands in this story for that certainty, that truth, on which God’s Church stands. And when Mary tells him what she’s seen Peter runs too, but now he runs not away from the Jesus, but toward Him. He runs to to the tomb, confident that there he will find Jesus.
There’s something about the Resurrection of Jesus that brings this kind of energy and life to his disciples, to us. We run away in confusion when the darkness seems too much, and Peter calls us to come back. The Church calls us back to Christ, to the empty tomb, knowing that the Resurrection does not bring confusion but clarity. It brings us hope, and leads to run too.
And we would do well to remember that we never run alone: we have been made one with Christ in our Baptism and one with every other member of God’s Church. In just a moment we’re going to renew our Baptismal Vows. All together we will stand and say, “No. Satan does not have power over my life. I renounce him, and all his work, and all his empty promises. And Yes, I do believe in God the Father, in His Son Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit and in the holy Catholic Church.” We proclaim that, as God’s own children, sin and death no longer have a hold on us. We are not afraid to reach the final chapter, because we know it isn’t the end, but rather the beginning of something so much more than what we’ve known up to now. We run forth confident that, because He lives we live. Because Jesus Christ is the victor we too are victorious. We come back, we see Him, and we adore Him. He is raised and so are we, and to that we can only say, Alleluia.