Year C: Easter Vigil
The Resurrection of Jesus
Why do you look for the living among the dead?
But at daybreak on the first day of the week they 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.
- Does the resurrection story “seem like nonsense” to you at times as it did for the Apostles? What helps you to hold moments of belief, doubt, and faith together?
- To what extent does your Christian faith rest on the witness of others? To what extent does it rely on rely on personal experience?
- Describe a time where you have recognized or experienced a moment of resurrection?
- The tomb is empty…death holds nothing. In what areas of your life might you be looking for God in dead or empty places? Explain
Margaret Nutting Ralph PHD
All of the Gospels claim that Jesus rose from the dead, but no Gospel describes the resurrection. The stories that claim Jesus’ resurrection are empty tomb stories and postresurrection appearance stories. Today we read an empty tomb story.
As was true in the stories of Jesus’ passion and death, the core of the empty tomb stories is consistent from one Gospel to another, but the details differ. In Luke three women, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, go to the tomb at daybreak on Sunday. You may remember that Palm Sunday’s Gospel ended by telling us about these women: “The women who had come from Galilee with him followed behind, and when they had seen the tomb and the way in which his body was laid in it, they returned and prepared spices and perfumed oils. Then they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment” (Luke 23:55-56). Luke’s Gospel, as well as his Acts of the Apostles, gives a unique role to women.
When the women arrive at the tomb the stone has already been rolled away. The narrator’s voice tells us that “when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.” The title “Lord Jesus” is they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. The title “Lord Jesus” is a postresurrection title rooted in faith in the risen Christ. By using this title prior to the time when the women, or anyone else for that matter, fully understand what has happened, Luke is establishing dramatic irony between those reading the Gospel and the characters in the story: Luke and his audience already know what the characters do not yet understand. The presence of dramatic irony is important to note because it affects our understanding of the text. Because we, gathered at the Easter Vigil to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection and believe in the risen Christ, we may forget just how difficult it was for the women and the apostles to comprehend the Easter good news.
In all three Synoptic Gospels (Mark, Matthew, and Luke) the women are met at the empty tomb and are told the significance of what they are seeing. In Luke they are met by two men in dazzling garments: “They said to [the women], ‘Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised.’ ” This is the core, Easter Gospel. Jesus has conquered death and is still alive. Then the two men go on to say, ” “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.” Notice that the two men remind the women that they themselves heard what Jesus had said. Earlier in the Gospel Luke pictured three occasions on which Jesus warned his disciples of his impending death (see Luke 9:22; 9:44; 19:31). On none of these occasions does Luke specifically mention that women were among those disciples present. Here, however, Luke describes the women as remembering Jesus’ words. Indeed, they had been told. Remembering Jesus’ words would now help them interpret the significance of the empty tomb.
The women then “returned from the tomb and announced all these things to the eleven and to all the others… but their story seemed like nonsense, and they did not believe them.” Notice that Jesus’ predictions of the passion did not cause the apostles to expect that Jesus would rise from the dead. If they had expected the resurrection the women’s news would have confirmed their expectation and they would have believed them.
Today’s Gospel ends with Luke telling us that Peter ran to the tomb, saw the burial cloths, and “went home amazed at what had happened.” Again, remember that Peter does not yet understand what the reader understands. Peter is amazed at the empty tomb and at the women’s story. That is Peter’s understanding of “what had happened.” Only when Peter experiences the presence of the risen Christ will he believe the good news that we celebrate on Easter Sunday: Jesus’ body is not in the tomb. Jesus has risen from the dead and is still alive.
The Stone has been Rolled Away, and the Tomb is Empty
Fr. Michael K. Marsh
He died but he’s not dead. That’s the paradox of Easter. It’s the story we tell every year. It never changes. It always ends the same way. The stone has been rolled away and the tomb is empty. I can’t explain how it happened, but I want to be told again and again that it did happen. I think we all do. I think that’s why we come here on this day.
Like children with a favorite bedtime story, we want to hear it one more time. We need to hear it one more time. It’s not because we think the story has changed or might end differently. It’s because our story, our individual life story, has changed and is changing and we’re just not sure how it will end.
Life is delicate. Relationships are fragile. We work to make changes and then go back to doing the same old thing. One day all is well, the next it’s all different. The doctor gives a diagnosis. A spouse wants a divorce. We watch a parent struggle with dementia. We worry about our kids. A loved one dies. A job is lost. Sometimes it feels as if we are hanging on by a thread and getting more tired by the minute.
These and a thousand others like them are the stories we carry with us. They are stories of change, fear, loss, and death. They are the stories that took the women to the tomb in today’s gospel. They are the stories we bring with us today and they are the reason we want and need to hear the Easter story one more time. So here it is.
The empty tomb lies within each of our stories. Regardless of what happens next in your story the ending has been written. The stone has been rolled away. Not so Jesus could get out but so we can see in. There is no body. The tomb is empty. There is nothing there. God has a future for us. That is the promise of Easter. That’s what we come to hear and be told today. Christ is risen from the dead.
Sometimes this all seems like an idle tale, too good to be true, too improbable to be real, and too hard to believe. Look again. The stone has been rolled away. The tomb is empty. Listen to the story a thousand times. It will not change. Our life has been guaranteed by God.
So, what does that mean for us? It means we can quit looking for the living among the dead. It means we no longer have to look at the past and say, “If only.” It means we no longer have to look at the future and worry, “What if?” For me it means that when someone asks, “Do you have children?” I can say, “Yes. We have two sons. The younger one lives in Hawaii. The older one died about three years ago.” It means that I can never say he is dead. He died but he is not dead. That is the truth of Easter, and it is as true for each one of you and your losses and deaths as it is for me.
Christ is risen! The stone has been rolled away and the tomb is empty. Alleluia!
Selections from Breaking Open the Lectionary: Lectionary Readings in Their Biblical Context for RCIA, Faith Sharing Groups, and Lectors—Cycle C, by Margaret Nutting Ralph, Copyright © 2006 by Margaret Nutting Ralph. Paulist Press, Inc., New York/Mahwah, NJ. Reprinted by permission of Paulist Press, Inc. www.paulistpress.com.
Spiritual Reflection excerpt from Interrupting the Silence Fr. Michael K. Marsh. Used with permission