Our New Life is Born in the Empty Tomb

ACN Reflections

All sorts of questions fill the air on Easter morning, on that first morning of our new life: “Who will roll us back the stone?” “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?” “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” On the evening of that first day, the question was: “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And by Pentecost the question had become what we hear in Acts: “What are we to do, my brothers?”

In the face of God’s action, His omnipotence, we all have our questions. Our Lady had questions: “How can this be?” and “Son, why have you treated us so?” When questions arise in our hearts, hearts of people both fallen and redeemed, we often ask why our expectations have been disappointed. We question why our plans have gone awry. Whatever questions we may have personally, we see that our first Christian brethren had ones very similar to our own. In the case of Mary Magdalene, the One whom she loved more than anything else had been snatched away from her. The one Person who had loved her so well, with such compassion and understanding, was violently taken away. Where is he? That was her question. Bradi Barth Resurrection

We have our questions not only in the face of God’s power, but because of it. He is all-powerful. He can do all things. And this fact makes us wonder: If God is all-powerful, then why…? Sometimes we have strong intuitions about the way things ought to be; sometimes we feel certain that God wants us to follow a particular course of action, to pursue some holy and good thing, but then He stops us short of our goal. He changes the current of the river. He makes the desert to flow with streams of water, or He changes springs of water into thirsty ground.

Mary Magdalene was doing the best thing possible on Easter morning: seeking Jesus. But she could not find Him in her way. Her plans to enter the tomb and anoint Him had to be set aside. God’s power had accomplished something far greater and holier than she could have planned for. And what is most impressive is that as soon as she saw that her plans had to change, she changed. We see this as our Lord gives Mary Magdalene a very hard command: “Do not hold me,… but go to my brethren.” But she had already learned not to say no. In a single instant, the Lord had brought her from hopelessness to ecstatic joy. And she would allow herself to be commanded by the One who could so change her. He had changed her before and He was changing her all over again. “You changed my mourning into dancing;  you took off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.”

Sometimes when the Lord is planning better things for us, we want to hold on to what is familiar to us. But our aspirations are so limited and poor--and what is worse, we can barely see how shortsighted we are before the all-powerful Lord. She thought he was the gardener. The Resurrection is supposed to change how we see absolutely everything--God, ourselves, our neighbor, the circumstances of our lives. When we commit ourselves to live in the light of the Resurrection, we consent to have our ideas and dreams all shaken up by God’s power. We agree to follow a path of transformation that passes through a tomb--a place where we cannot see or understand.

This kind of change, of growth, is what makes our new life in Christ truly new. It’s born in a grave and once our new life emerges, we cannot go back again. We submit to darkness and confusion because we see that there is such a thing as an empty tomb--and that only the Lord’s power can empty it. We learn to surrender again and again, because we learn again that the tomb is empty and remains empty and will always be empty. Once Christ leaves it, He never goes back into it. It might take us a long time to stop being surprised to find the tomb vacant. Sometimes we can be so attached to our own plans, that we want to go back to the familiar place, but the grave is no place for us. “Is your love proclaimed in the grave, your fidelity in the tomb?”

In Psalm 22, after the voice of the Messiah asks why God has forsaken him, why God seems not to hear the cries of prayer that he makes day and night, he pauses to say, “Yet you, O God, are holy…. In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you set them free.” Those first Christians about whom we are reading in these days, our fathers and mothers in the faith, so beautifully human, they set us this example. They ask questions because people cannot help but ask questions. We ask because we don’t know something or can’t understand it. That’s normal for us. But what is supernatural and Christian is to trust in the Lord who rises from the grave and shows us how to come forth from our own. 

What are we to do, brothers? Joyfully repent from following our own understanding and believe in the Name of Him who rose from the dead so that we could live this new life.


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