Easter Sunday – Cycle A
Reflecting on John 20:1-9
There is, in the city of Jerusalem, a most peaceful garden. It has a water cistern that dates back to the time of Christ, and in fact a first-century tomb is there too. This “garden tomb” is close to a rock quarry, with a particular rock that resembles a skull. This quarry would have been “just outside the city gates” in Jesus’ day. Might it have been “the skull place”—Golgotha—where Jesus was crucified, and might the garden “nearby” have been the very one that was offered by Joseph of Arimathea as the burial place for Jesus?
It’s so peaceful to pray there. The flowers are always in bloom. The birds sing. It’s exactly how you’ve pictured it all your life. You want so badly for this to be the place.
But of course it’s not the place. The actual site of the empty tomb is the huge, cavernous, ancient Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Constantine’s mother St. Helena built this iconic memorial over the very rock of Golgotha and the very ground in which Jesus was buried, and from which he rose.
Today, millions of people swarm in and around the church every day of the year. It’s loud, and it’s dirty, and it’s so, so old. And it’s exactly the place. They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they’ve put him. We want him to be in the quiet, lovely garden. But he is, always, just where we are. He is risen, and he is with us, in the ages, in the suffering, in the clamor. The tomb is empty, because he lives now with us. ALLELUIA.
Do you have a special place where you sense the risen Lord?
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I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).
When I read this, I thought, “but what’s the question?”
Oh, yeah, this is the answer!
I see that the Risen Lord is present in my life – in the concrete events of my life.
In my life, I have witnessed that the Risen Christ brings life out of death. At nineteen years old, I was in a situation of suffering, of death, when my mother died from complications due to alcoholism. At that moment, when I myself was in the darkness of the tomb, the Risen Lord brought life out death – calling me to Baptism and to the Church.
When my marriage was in a situation of death, when my wife and I were living separate lives and on the road to divorce – as a consequence of my sins – the Risen Christ resurrected our marriage – bringing life out of death. This is the Good News! The Risen Christ sends his Spirit, a Spirit which is victorious over death, to enable my wife and I to ask forgiveness of one another. I see that my wife, with the spirit of Christ, is able to forgive me my sins against her, as Christ has forgiven me.
Every day is an opportunity to experience the love of God, the Father – who raised Christ from death so that we may be free from the deaths that kill us, most especially the deaths caused by our sins.
Christ is Risen, truly Risen!
When I went to the Holy Land, a lot of things shifted for me. We prayed the Stations of the Cross in the midst of shopkeepers and shoppers talking out loud, some yelling over us to people on the other side of the path. There was a kind of hustle and bustle with people getting in each other’s way, some pushing and shoving. I didn’t feel very prayerful. It seemed chaotic rather than reverent. Then I realized it would have been much the same as Jesus carried his cross to Golgotha. His walk was in the midst of the market place. People weren’t respectful but jeering and complaining and even cursing him. They were about their business. Jesus was a distraction, and for some who might love violence, the spectacle was entertaining. For as much as I did not “enjoy” the Stations of the Cross, the experience taught me to seek the Lord in the marketplace. It’s where I encounter the Risen Lord because I believe that Christ is always in the midst of his people with all their foibles and warts. The market place is messy. It’s where people are hurting and noisy and sinful. It’s where poor choices are made because people are hurried and tired, overstimulated and overstressed. It’s where we “try to catch Up.”
I loved being at the Garden Tomb. And yes, it was peaceful praying there, just as Kathy wrote. I wanted to stay there forever and feel life’s energy, the vitality of the prayer of many pilgrims who come to see and to believe. I wanted to know what it was like for Mary Magdalene to mistake Jesus for the gardener, so much was her grief. Too often I fail to notice him as well. I wanted to know what it was like for her to “cling to him,” or hug him the way the video suggested in my last week’s comment. I wanted to join the flowers and the birds in singing praise to God for this miracle of resurrection. People quietly walked through the garden and sat on the benches with a sense of awe and in the midst of mystery. It was a good and holy place to be, though it didn’t matter if this was the place of resurrection or not. The garden tomb spoke to me of gentleness, hope and promise. Its emptiness held power! The Risen Lord was there because we believed him to be present in our gathering. I know Christ walked among us!