The Easter Gospel focuses on one of the greatest symbols of death – a grave, Bishop Edward Malesic said in his Easter homily in the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. When Mary Magdalene and the other women went to Jesus’ tomb to finish the burial ritual, they found the stone that had sealed it was rolled away and the tomb was empty. (See photo gallery above.)
At first, they thought someone had stolen his body. Soon, however, he appeared to his disciplines in his glorified body – entering the room despite locked doors.
“On Easter Sunday, the whole Church pauses in amazement at an empty tomb. The symbol of death – a grave – has become the symbol of life,” the bishop said. “This is the central mystery of our faith. Jesus came back from the dead, never to rise again. It is why Peter and the others went out into the world to tell the good news: New and eternal life is possible. They had seen it. They became witnesses of it. And we believe that their testimony is true. Jesus lives. No stone is big enough, or heavy enough to keep him from us – unless we shut our hearts to him. We are here at this Mass to roll that stone of our own making away, because he has already done the heavy lifting by rolling away the stone of his grave. And he comes rushing in to us.”
The bishop said we visit graves because they contain the body of someone we want to remember and honor. We offer prayers for them and ask their prayers for us. But in Jerusalem, he said people line up for blocks to visit the Holy Sepulcher, the site of Jesus’ empty grave.
“There is no greater source of hope for us than the empty tomb. Life ends, but not the life of those who live in Christ. We live forever. Eye has not seen and ear has not heard what God has ready for those who love him,” Bishop Malesic told the congregation on Easter.
We know what Jesus has shown us, he said. “Darkness becomes light. Sadness is turned to joy. Doubt is overcome with belief. Sins are wiped away. Crucifixion ends in Resurrection as death is defeated by life. This is the direction that Jesus sets for us. And he says to us, ‘Follow me.’ We follow him to life in abundance,” he added.
Because Jesus lives, it is possible to have a personal relationship with him and that is necessary for those who have faith in him, the bishop said. “We must know the voice of Jesus in our lives. He wants to meet us in the sacraments, in the Scriptures, in each other, in our conversations with him and in the poor and those in need. When we open our hearts wide for him, he enters us and fills us with life everlasting.”
Those who are burdened can some to the Lord and he will give them life. They can lay their cares on him because he cares for them, he said, making a connection with the suffering in Ukraine.
“Today, the empty tomb shakes us from our sleep and directs us to the source of what we really desire: God. As St. Augustine so famously said, ‘Our hearts are restless until they rest in God,’” the bishop said.
He noted that someday, our tombs will be empty, too, and those who believe in Jesus will walk out of the grave when he calls. “We will have a new body that will be reunited to our souls. There will be no more crying out or pain, suffering or tears, for all will be made new,” the bishop said, adding it will be like a return to the Garden of Eden before it was lost by Adam and Eve. “Jesus woke from the dead in a garden and that is symbolic of the garden God had planned for us from the very beginning. It is the idyllic life that God promises to us even now. Have faith and walk toward God’s promise.”
The bishop mentioned that four people were baptized during the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, explaining that they had found the Lord and remind us that our faith is a great gift that we sometimes take for granted.
We can accept the salvation Jesus offers us and let him lift us from earth to heaven, he said, which is “Good news for those who have faith in Jesus and good news for those who believe that he lives, He lives. He lives. And so shall we. I’d bet more than $100 that he’s alive. I’d give my life for it.”