The Tomb is Empty!

A Homily for Easter

Texts: 1 Corinthians 15:19-26; St. Luke 24:1-12


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Risen Lord, the victorious one who has conquered the grave. Amen.

Friday looked like the end. The week had been pure chaos. It started with the triumphal entry, with all of Jerusalem in turmoil, before descending into confrontation and betrayal, one last supper, the arrest and sham trial, the torture and the cross, death and the tomb.

We’ve all been there, caught in the violence and chaos of this world. We know what it feels like to stand near the foot of the cross – in the jail, at the hospital bedside, in the funeral parlor, on that unexpected phone call at early dawn while it is still dark. We’ve stood at the graveside, thinking, knowing, feeling that this is the end – that the world has irreparably changed.

Those faithful women we read about, who had stayed at the foot of the cross until the bitter end on Friday afternoon, knew what to expect. They knew that their world had changed, that the end had come, that they were on their way to prepare a corpse for burial and to say their final goodbyes.

Picture their faces – eyes downcast, cheeks streaked, skin red from wiping away their tears on the coarse cloth of their robes. Others wear a blank expression, completely numb from days of trauma. Imagine how slowly they walk along in silence before the dawn, as if to delay the inevitable.

How many times have we been in that position? How frequently we see those faces? Lining up in churches very much like this one, perhaps even in this very room, ready to view the body and offer our condolences to friends sitting in mourning.

How often have we found ourselves preparing to say our final goodbyes to loved ones, bracing ourselves to see the open casket, to behold the urn, to gaze upon the remains of friends, parents, grandparents, husbands, wives, children?

Those women going forth today must have felt so much, so deeply. We have felt their anxiety, that racing pulse, that pit in the stomach. We have felt their sadness, those tears welling up in the eyes. We have felt their pain, knowing that the moment you see the body, those old wounds will be reopened. We have felt that despair, the dawning sense of dread that the world has changed nothing will ever be ok again.

What those faithful women were not expecting is what they found:

the stone already rolled away, the grave empty.

What they found was that the entire world had changed.

The Lord has risen! The Living One is no longer among the dead! The first fruits of the Resurrection have come forth!

What joy!

What rapture!

It is these women – the disciples who endured the trauma of the cross – who preached for the first time the Gospel in all of its fulness: Christ, though crucified, is alive! Our Lord has shattered the bonds of death, broken open the grave, smashed down the gates of hell, and overthrown the power of sin.

This is a message that demands a response: the type of news that grabs your attention, that sends you, like Simon Peter, running to see for yourself, and sends you out like Mary Magdalene and the other women into a brave new world, amazed, eager to proclaim this glorious news to others.

The God who has joined us in our suffering and death is now pulling us from the grave into everlasting life!

Today, beloved, new life has entered the world.

Today, we know that we are not to be pitied because whatever pain, whatever anguish, whatever sadness there is will pass away.

Today, we know that death is without sting, that it has been swallowed up in victory.

Today, the tomb is empty!

And because the tomb is empty, we have reason to hope.

Because the tomb is empty, the world has changed.

Because the tomb is empty, we are free from sin, the devil, and death.

Because the tomb is empty, we can comfort those who mourn, assuring them that tears and mourning are not the end.

Because the tomb is empty, we know that we have nothing to fear – all evil, all pain, all sadness, even Death itself shall pass away. They may have their way with us a while longer, but they shall last only for a time. Their sting is being overwhelmed by the healing balm of the Resurrection!

Because the tomb is empty, we can go out confidently to love God and neighbor, bearing witness to the glorious truth that Christ is alive. We can go out to visit the sick and the imprisoned, to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, to comfort those who mourn. Whatever pain, whatever sacrifice, whatever hardship we may face is being overpowered by the Good News of our Redemption.

Because the tomb is empty, we can lay down our very lives because Christ has given us new and everlasting life.

Because the tomb is empty, we know that our Redeemer lives.

Now is the acceptable time!

Now is the day of salvation!

Now is our sorrow turned to joy!

Now is our Lord alive, rescuing us from the clutches of evil!

Now are we free from bondage!

Now are we free for faithful service!

Hear this Good News! Let your hearts leap for joy! Listen! Hear the Church on earth and the whole company of heaven singing their praises! Let your mouth ring out, joining your voice to the celestial song! Feel these baptismal waters! At this Font we are brought into the Resurrection! Open your eyes, and see the Risen Christ here at the Altar! Receive him with gladness! Be nourished by the mystery of his everlasting life in this Sacrament!

Christ is risen!

The tomb is empty!

Death has been abolished!

Our tears will be wiped away!

Let us sing out for joy, for the Lord has triumphed gloriously!

Alleluia! Alleluia!

Amen! Amen! Amen!

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