In my homily of yesterday I pointed out that the Easter Sunday gospel does not actually have the Risen Christ make an appearance. The gospel is a narrative of an empty tomb and three people’s reaction to it. I wrote, “One sees and believes. The one chosen to be the Rock, … he keeps his thoughts to himself. One remains in the [half-light of the dawn] – but she stays, remains present even when the others returned home.”
Odd as that may seem, Easter Sunday is just the beginning of the Easter season, the first encounter with the story of the resurrection. This week, next Sunday, and the weeks to come we will engage the stories of how people reacted when they met the risen Christ face-to-face, when they spoke with him and ate with him and touched his glorified wounds. Than the encounter with an empty tomb – not just the “he said, and so it must be true” – but encountering the One who was raised from dead. The coming gospel narratives will unveil how the personal encounter with the risen Christ leads to a relationship with Jesus that transforms the empty tomb from a curiosity, a hope to a life-changing moment.
And so, in the days ahead, the Church invites us to enter into the other post-resurrection accounts in the weeks after Easter, to read of how Mary Magdalene clung to him and Cleopas recognized him in the breaking of the bread and Peter hung his head in shame. When we pray with those stories, not merely reading them but meditating on them, we begin to get a taste of what it is to know Jesus personally as brother, loved one, savior and Lord.
This Eastertide don’t just glance and nod to the empty tomb and then go home unchanged. Look for the risen Lord, seek him in the stories of those who looked upon his Resurrected Body. Listen for Him to call you by name. This Easter be the “ones willing to stay in the half-light until the sun rises fully. The half-light of our sometimes-messy life awaiting the full daylight of the Risen Christ – when the stone rolls away from our hearts. And then we see our loss, our doubts and disappointments lying folded and in a place by themselves, like grave cloths besides the burial cloths of Love’s risen body.”
There are seven weeks in the Easter season and seven Gospel encounters with the risen Christ. This Eastertide may the Christ who rose in the darkness lead us into new life, new light, and new hope.