Catholic Gators
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Catholic Gators

From the desk of the pastor — Easter Sunday

By Fr. David Ruchinski

There’s a detail that appears in the resurrection account of all four Gospels, that has, for some reason, captured my imagination this Easter. It is the fact that when Jesus’ disciples first come to the tomb on that early Easter morning, the large stone that had been placed in front of it, was already rolled away.

This large stone was the object of discussion in Mark’s Gospel account, as the women who were headed to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body were wondering who would be able to move it for them. In the case of Matthew’s Gospel, the tomb had even been sealed in place — a governmental action, not a physical one, meaning that anyone who broke open that seal was liable to punishment, even capital punishment, by the Roman authorities.

But what these worried disciples actually discovered was that the stone was already rolled away. By an Angel, or an earthquake, or by some mysterious force that is never disclosed to them — the stone has been taken away, the grave is open, the tomb is empty.

The image of the empty tomb, the mysterious reality of it, has been the focus of Christian meditation down through the centuries. So many others have preached on it. I have preached on it. It should never fail to captivate our Christian imagination.

The fact of the empty tomb is both the direct empirical evidence we desire of the truth of the resurrection, and at the same time, a great empirical absence. It shows that God’s intervention in the world of nature in the act of the resurrection is more than rational, more than natural, not simply a resuscitation of biological life, like the raising of Lazarus or a body on a hospital table. It is a breaking in of a categorically different kind of life, a life that Jesus wants to share with us through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Holy Eucharist. Unlike the raising of Lazarus, there is no one there to see Jesus rise up and come forth from the tomb wrapped in burial cloths. When the women arrive, the tomb is already empty. The stone has been rolled away.

But what are we to make of that stone? What is the meaning of it for us? Why has the Holy Spirit prompted me this Easter to pause and stare at that large stone rolled away from the mouth of the grave?

I think, perhaps, it is because of the hyper present reality of death that surrounds each of us these days. The fact that every morning and every evening I am bombarded by the news of death and the fear of death and the awful power and stony finality of death.

Perhaps it is because I am a creature of my age, an age of science and empiricism. Because I latently put my trust in medicine and technology to push away the cold stone of death. Perhaps I too — as I approach the tomb of Jesus, as I approach my own tomb — am looking for a way in which I can push that stone away.

But the Easter Gospel, the good news that we celebrate as disciples of Christ today, is that we don’t need to be afraid of that stone. It’s not our job to push back death and drag the corpse of Jesus out from some historical tomb.

Jesus is alive, and by His own authority He commands us who are bound hand and foot to come forth from the tomb and live. He orders those who are imprisoned in darkness to come forward and be enlightened.

To all who slumber in the death of sin He says, “I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.”

This is our Easter proclamation. This is the good news that we have to share with the world.

Christ Himself has rolled away the stone. His tomb is empty.

Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

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