On Easter morning the women went to the tomb where the body of Jesus had been laid. They had a sad task to perform, that being, to complete the embalming of his body. But that wasn’t the only reason they were going to the tomb. They wanted to be near the one who had filled their lives with meaning, and whose death plunged them into inconsolable grief.
We have often done the same thing ourselves. When a loved one dies, we find it difficult to accept. We have a need to maintain a link with the person and one of the ways we meet this need is to visit the gravesite. But we can also find the gravesite to be painful as it reminds us that our loved one is gone from our sight.
If things had gone as expected that first Easter morning, the women would have embalmed the body of Jesus, closed the tomb again, and come away more convinced than ever that what had happened on the previous Friday was not a bad dream but a terrible reality. But things did not go according to plan.
At the tomb they met two angels who said, “Why do you look for the living one among the dead? He is not here; he has been raised.” It was to these faithful women disciples that the Easter message was first given: Jesus is not dead; Jesus is alive! So they must not waste time looking for him at the tomb.
Most of us have visited cemeteries where everything speaks of death. Yet it was precisely in such a place that the resurrection was first announced. It was fitting that it was in a cemetery, where death appears to reign supreme, that the good news of Jesus’ resurrection was first announced. Death has been defeated and life is victorious!
Though the voice of today’s Easter liturgy, the same message is given to us: Do not look for your loved one in the grave. He or she is not there. Jesus overcame death, not just for himself, but for all of us. He is the first to rise from the dead and we will follow him. For us Christians there is no such thing as death in terms of final extinction. Our dead are not dead. They are alive, and live a more real and beautiful life than ours. And they are not far from us.
So often people have the idea that heaven is a place high in the sky, but it is not. Heaven is not a place, it is a state of existence where our loved ones who have gone before us experience total peace and ultimate happiness. It is absolute union with God. Those who have died are no further from us than God, and God is very near; God dwells within.
May Christ, who is the Resurrection and the Life, fill our hearts with joy and peace on this Easter Day, and all the days of our life. A blessed Easter!
- Father Dennis, April 21, 2019