As I sit here and reflect on the readings for today, this Easter Sunday, and the light of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead – I’m sitting here in the chapel at my church. We have just finished Holy Thursday Mass, and many parishioners processed behind the Blessed Sacrament into the chapel by candlelight, the choir singing a solemn hymn. I’m sitting in the Chapel, the lights are dimmed with candles on each side of the altar where the Blessed Sacrament rests. We’re sitting here with Christ – keeping watch, and praying.
In the dimly lit room, I start to think about the humanity of Jesus, how distraught he must have been to sweat blood, and to ask His Father to take this responsibility from Him. And I was thinking about how less than a day later, all those years ago, having suffered and now hanging on a cross, the dim light of Jesus’ earthly life was extinguished under a darkened sky. He was laid in His tomb. The stone rolled over the opening and sealed. The light is gone.
The disciples must have felt like they had died too. They must have been completely beside themselves, lost, and alone. They scattered. They denied Him. Not only did they lose a close friend, companion and teacher – they thought He was the Messiah, the one that would save the world. But nothing. He is dead – lying in a dark tomb. No grand revelation to the world. No army swooping down to save Him and destroy the persecutors. He died a human death. They themselves descended into a darkness.
We also live in that darkness. From the very beginning, since the Fall in the Garden of Eden, we’ve lived in darkness. We’ve been entombed, so to speak – our hearts and souls – and we’ve rolled a stone in front of it, sealing it up, preventing the light from coming in. Sometimes, the tomb is sealed completely and there is no light. Sometimes, in our lives, we encounter things that send us into this abyss, and we feel there is no way out, that the walls are closing in around us.
Close your eyes and imagine it. You know the times when you’ve felt alone, and overcome with grief and you feel you just cannot take it anymore. Those times where you feel the world is coming down on you, much like the impact of the cross as it fell on Jesus as He fell. Those times when things happen and you just don’t know why.
Imagine these times in your life. It gets so dark. You live in the stale, cold, dampness of the tomb that’s enclosed your soul. It’s a dark, empty void. Your heart aches. You can’t see. You can’t hear. You don’t know the way out, and you don’t know if there is a way out. The light is gone. You don’t know where to step, for fear you’ll fall – so you’re paralyzed.
Continue to imagine. The sins you deal with, and the tomb with which they enclose you. Your heart feels cold to the world. You manage to shuffle your feet, with your hands out in front of you, until you feel a cold wall. It feels like rock. You start to follow the wall, and think its safe because it’s the only thing there you can touch. You have no idea which direction you’re going, but you follow the wall anyway. You’re making progress you think, and so you continue to move along the wall, feeling your way, all the while it could be the wrong way – because you’re guessing with every step. You just don’t know if you’re going the right way. Sometimes it’s so overwhelming. Sometimes it’s scary. Sometimes, it’s suffocating.
Often life gets like this and we get disoriented, and we think we’re moving forward, like we’re in a tunnel. But we’re not moving forward. We don’t realize that we’re actually moving in circles.
You keep feeling the wall, touching it, letting it guide you. As you continue to search for a way out, you feel something. This part of the wall feels different. It’s rounded. Wait, there’s a bump on it, it almost feels like a handle, something you can grab onto anyway. Suddenly, the ground and the wall starts to shake. It feels like an earthquake. It’s getting stronger, you feel the wall trying to pull away, and so you hold on. You hold on with all your strength. You’re afraid to let go. You think, “If I do, I’m lost.” There’s no way out.
Sometimes our hearts, our minds and our souls get this dark. Sometimes life is like this. Sometimes we think like this.
The wall keeps moving away, so you hold onto the wall stronger. You’re not letting go. The earth shakes more. The wall is pulling away. It’s too much. You accept that you cannot do it on your own. You finally ask God to help. You yell, “God, please help me get out of this darkness!” You’re weak, and finally, you let go and surrender, and the wall is ripped from you!
Then there’s light. It floods the tomb around you. The most brilliant light imaginable, pouring into your soul – your very being. At the other side is Jesus. He’s been waiting there for you to pass by, waiting to roll the stone out from in front of the tomb enclosing your heart. You were holding onto that wall, trying to keep it from moving, trying to stay where you thought it was safe and secure, amidst all the darkness. But in your attempt to hold onto the wall, and prevent it from moving – you realize you were actually resisting Jesus, preventing Him from open it up. He was trying to help you, but in your fear and clinging to this world, you were fighting against Him. You have to let go.
Today, on this Easter Sunday, Christ’s tomb is open. And Jesus has risen. He is not there. And just like that day 2000 years ago, our tomb of darkness around our hearts and our soul is opened. That’s why Jesus suffered and died for us. He died in all His humanity, but today is all about His Divinity. He rose from His human death – and He lives, illuminating the darkness.
After the darkness of Lent, of the trials we undergo in this world, he died so that our tombs can be opened and flood our hearts with light. If we allow Him to open our tomb around our soul, we must run to the light, to the opening where the stone was, just like Peter and John, running to Jesus. Peter and John were running from their own darkness of despair to the light of Christ, the joy and awe that something amazing has happened. Yet, even then they did not understand the magnitude of what just happened, of why this had to happen.
It was a new beginning. And so it is for us today. It is every day, but especially this day. We see the light. The whole reason Jesus came to us, and why he had to die, and why he had to rise. He was not only human, but He is divine. He showed us that if we look to Him, we will not remain in our tombs forever. We must look to Him when we’re in those tombs of darkness of our own in life, whether it’s been 40 days, 40 weeks, or 40 years, so that we do not remain entombed eternally.
When we go through the darkness, and the light is fading and we think there is no way out, sometimes we need a jolt – something to shake us up. So we must let go of the very thing that we think is safe, but which is keeping us from Jesus. That very thing that He is trying to roll away from us, that is holding us down and locking us up in this life preventing the light from entering our soul.
Easter shows us this light, and shows us the magnitude of what happened all those years ago, and what it means for us. But it is still truly so hard to understand. We simply have to let go, trust, and let him take that stone that is blocking us from truly becoming who were are meant to be, and move it out of our way.
Sometimes we find ourselves back in the same tomb, but as long as we keep searching for Him, and don’t fight Him when our world seems to start to crumble, we know that He will help us out, and that we won’t be stuck there forever. There will be light. There will be new life. And there He will be – Christ risen – in all His glory.
(Acts 10:34,37-43; Psalm 118; Colossians 3:1-4 or 1 Corinthians 5:6-8; John 20:1-9)