Moderators Note: An Easter video message from Bishop Lowry is also available at the end of this blog post.
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the tomb. 2 Look, there was a great earthquake, for an angel from the Lord came down from heaven. Coming to the stone, he rolled it away and sat on it. 3 Now his face was like lightning and his clothes as white as snow. 4 The guards were so terrified of him that they shook with fear and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Don’t be afraid. I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6 He isn’t here, because he’s been raised from the dead, just as he said. Come, see the place where they laid him. 7 Now hurry, go and tell his disciples, ‘He’s been raised from the dead. He’s going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.’ I’ve given the message to you.”
8 With great fear and excitement, they hurried away from the tomb and ran to tell his disciples. 9 But Jesus met them and greeted them. They came and grabbed his feet and worshipped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Go and tell my brothers that I am going into Galilee. They will see me there.” (Matthew 28:1-10)
Allow me to reframe your vision. Picture instead an empty city street caught in the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic lock down. Set against our romance of Easter is the reality of our day and time. Most, if not all of us, will worship online. Most, of not all of us, will miss the embrace of family and friends. Many, if not most of us, will start the day with women of the first Easter walking quietly toward the tomb. “After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.” (Matthew 28:1)
The Bible tells us that shocking developments of the day begun not with an empty tomb but with an earthquake. “And suddenly there was a great earthquake.” (Matthew 28:2a)
In the Bible an earthquake is always a sign of God’s presence. And where does this happen? At the very place of imprisonment; at the epicenter of defeat. It happens in the homes and towns where COVID-19 rages. It happens at the site of financial disaster. We are living through a metaphorical earthquake.
Notice what takes place next. St. Matthew records, “for an angel from the Lord came down from heaven. Coming to the stone, he rolled it away and sat on it.” (Matthew 28:2b) Don’t get lost in Hollywood images of angels. Biblically an angel is a messenger from God. The angel sits on the stone which is rolled away. So too, on this Easter, the messenger of God sits in splendor on the tombs of our despair. The earthquake is defeated by the greater message of the Lord. However real the anguish of the COVID-19 crisis is it is conquered by the Son’s rising.
Those same words are spoken to us this Easter! In our grief, surrounded by loss, Jesus calls us by name, Mary … or is it Jim or Sue or Felica or Juan! Easter is not tale told of beatific garden scene but rather the story of the triumph of God in Christ through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit at the very place of our defeat and despair. The ultimate answer to this Pandemic is that the last word will be God’s! Christ defeats death, despair and degradation in all its physical, psychological and spiritual manifestations.
“But the angel said to the women, ‘Don’t be afraid. I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6 He isn’t here, because he’s been raised from the dead, just as he said. Come, see the place where they laid him.’” (Matthew 28:5-6)
Easter comes upon us when the ground shakes and God is present with us in triumphant power. So much of life can be spent, even for believing Christians, in the hopelessness of defeat, imprisoned by past hurts and failures, chained by regrets and grief. This is especially so in this time of Pandemic. Easter dawns, Easter really comes, when we begin to believe that, with the help and presence of the risen Savior, stones are moved. This day is about the Son’s rising; spelled S-O-N.
Jesus rises as a Colossus astride the world’s defeat and despair. Life is not futile, and failure is not fatal. He meets us on the road of living and speaks, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:10)
|Father Martin Jenco|
When you and I traverse the rubble of our lives, the past mistakes, the broken promises, the shattered dreams; it is this message which God proclaims to us through the resurrection of Jesus. The Easter victory does not end in the graveyard. Scholars are quick to note that in Matthew’s gospel the encounter at the tomb is not the climax. The risen Christ is present when the women hear and obey with joy the angel’s word of command.
Do you catch the import? On the road, in the midst of life he intersects the women and us too. This is not some sugar-coated pill or cosmetic dressing of new clothes but a freedom in his presence which will take us through and beyond death, failure, futility and yes, even COVID-19. The Savior’s promise of verse ten that “they will see me” is a promise that we will see him. In our grief, in the lament of the COVID-19 crisis, come to the joy of this day. Come, come as the women came to the tomb of Jesus so long ago. Come and once again meet the Savior and Lord!
“So, they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshipped him.” (Matthew 28:8-9)