“Sunday Reflection” is a regular feature, looking at the specific readings used in today’s Mass in Catholic parishes around the world. The reflection represents only my own point of view, intended to help prepare myself for the Lord’s day and perhaps spark a meaningful discussion. Previous Sunday Reflections from the main page can be found here. For previous Green Room entries, click here.
The Easter Vigil’s Gospel reading is Luke 24:1–12:
At daybreak on the first day of the week the women who had come from Galilee with Jesus took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb; but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were puzzling over this, behold, two men in dazzling garments appeared to them. They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground. They said to them, “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised. Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and rise on the third day.” And they remembered his words.
Then they returned from the tomb and announced all these things to the eleven and to all the others. The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; the others who accompanied them also told this to the apostles, but their story seemed like nonsense and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb, bent down, and saw the burial cloths alone; then he went home amazed at what had happened.
This morning’s Gospel reading is John 20:1–9:
On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.
When we go searching for Jesus, do we look for him in the tomb — or among the living?
This Easter, the question is rather personal for our family. My mother-in-law passed away a few weeks ago after spending her last several years in a nursing home, just a few days before her 98th birthday. The acute issue came up suddenly, but we had expected her to pass for quite some time. In her more lucid moments, she expressed a desire to return to the Lord and be reunited with my father-in-law, who passed 25 years earlier.
This week, our family will return to California for her memorial and to celebrate her life. My wife is the last of her nuclear family, as her only sister passed away in late 2013. We had to put off the arrangements to deal with some health issues, but it worked out well, as our son’s family can get away this week, too. We have spent the past few weeks putting together the funeral, gathering pictures from long-forgotten storage spaces, and coming to terms with the world as it is now for our family.
In coming to terms with this loss, my wife has been amazing. She has done most of the work in arranging for the funeral Mass, and from the beginning insisted on looking for the most hopeful scriptural readings possible. She misses her mother greatly, and yet she knows that her mother has new life in Jesus Christ. The Easter message for her has been clear — she will look for her mother not in the tomb, but among the truly living.
Another story I ran across while contemplating the Easter message also demonstrates the same faith. A young boy whose father gave his life in service to our country only weeks after his son’s birth came across a $20 bill outside a Toledo restaurant. Any ten-year-old would be thrilled with this sudden fortune, and so was Myles Eckert — but in a different way. He wrote a note to a soldier he saw telling him about his own father, and gave the soldier the $20 bill along with the note. “We pay it forward in my family!” Myles wrote, and thanked the soldier for his service. He signed it with his name and added, “a Gold Star kid.”
CBS covered the story earlier and reported on Friday that the Congressional Medal of Honor Society — comprised of past recipients of our nation’s highest military honor — presented Myles with their Citizen Honor award after Myles used the publicity of the story to raise almost $2 million for services to less fortunate Gold Star families. But while that is certainly a heartwarming story, it was this part of the CBS report that tugged at me on Holy Saturday:
The dad he imagines must also love a good story, because after lunch that day, Myles asked his mom, Tiffany, to make one more stop.
“He wanted to go see his dad,” Tiffany Eckert said. “And he wanted to go by himself that day.”
She took a picture from the car. Follow the footsteps and you’ll see Myles standing there behind the flag, presumably telling his dad all about it.
Myles went to the cemetery, but he didn’t “look” for his father there. He spoke to his father as a living person, someone who has a life even if it’s outside of the one in which we find ourselves now. In that sense, Myles demonstrates the kind of faith, in his way, that our Gospel reading instructs us Christians to keep always.
Jesus Christ is risen. Not has risen, or arose, but is risen. He came as the Word of God which conquers death and offers us the same path to salvation. Our faith must be based on that hope of eternal victory for ourselves and all those who choose His path. Christianity is not just one philosophy among many read from old books and advanced by people who have done nothing but turn to dust. Our Lord came to be rejected and put to death through the sinfulness of the world so that He could redeem it, once and for all, and so that we would never have to be haunted by death again but could live in the Trinitarian life.
We do not seek Him or others among the dead. Jesus conquered the tomb; we only mark the passage from this world into the next there. We look in hope to join Him and the many in eternal life. This is the meaning, and the hope, that Easter provides us.
Jesus Christ is risen today! Hallelujah! And may your Easter be blessed and happy in faith and service to the Lord.
The front-page image is a detail from a tapestry on display at the Vatican Museum. From my own photo collection.