Then the angel said to the women in reply, “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised up just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” (Matthew 28: 5-6).
When I was assigned to St. John’s in Leonia, New Jersey, a small girl from the kindergarten class of the parish school asked me, “Father, what is Heaven like?” I began to describeit to her as the most beautiful place she could ever see. Jesus, His mother and all the angels and saints will be there to welcome her. She will never be hungry, thirsty or afraid again. A little boy was carefully listening to what I was saying and asked me, “How do you know? Were you ever there?” That was a good question he raised. Have you ever seen or experienced Heaven so you could make it real for others?
That is an easier question to answer when it comes to Good Friday rather than Easter Sunday. Good Friday is not limited to one day or the hours between noon and three p.m. It happens when a virus spreads from China throughout the world causing people to live in their homes and rarely go out. Good Friday occurs when a person is laid off from work and money becomes tight. You experience it when a trusted friend or spouse betrays you. “How do you know about Good Friday? Have you ever seen it?” Many more times than I would like to admit, kid. That is what we are used to and experience so often. The women who came to the tomb “as the first day of the week was dawning” (Matthew 28:1) were expecting it.
The women who came to the tomb “as the first day of the week was dawning”( Matthew 28:1) were planning to properly anoint the body of Jesus. There was nothing to hope for or expect other than death. Their grief was so deep and overwhelming that they did not realize that on the first day of the week a radical new beginning had taken place. It was still dark, just as on the first day of creation until God said, “Let there be light.” (Genesis 1:3). It was still dark, but instead of death, they heard great news, “He has been raised up just as he said.” Shortly after hearing the words of the angels, they encountered the Risen Christ who greeted them and said not to be afraid. They had never experienced anything like this before. They were used to and expected disappointments, sorrow and death, which was part of their every day lives. But they never expected His resurrection.
In raising His Son from the dead, the Father proclaims to His people that He has other plans for us that do not end with the pain and suffering of Good Friday. His plan leads to the life and joy that comes from the victory of the Risen Christ over all the forces that have ever pushed humanity into a tomb. This is something they have never experienced, much less lived. But on that first Easter and the days afterward, as Christ comes to His followers, the fear and hopelessness leaves them, while the victory of Christ grows within them. They experience it! It affects every part of their lives! The victory of Easter is not shaken when the powerful threaten the followers of the Risen Christ. They continue to proclaim His resurrection in the care and love they show to one another. They proclaim the triumph of Christ over death as they share the Good News with all they meet, even if it leads to imprisonment or death. They have seen Easter, they have seen the Risen Christ, and now they show Him in their lives.
In Baptism, Christ has chosen to share with us His death and resurrection. That does not lead to a life where rose colored glasses are worn, denying the pain and suffering of the world. Good Friday can still hit us at the most unexpected moments. We experience it on a personal level and in the lives of others. But Easter also shows itself at unexpected moments. It is revealed in the lives of believers who proclaim that Christ is risen. Christ is the victor. The Risen Christ makes Himself known in ways easily overlooked. Nurses and doctors in an intensive care unit give themselves to the sick to bring them health or give comfort to the dying so they are not alone. A football halfback for the New Orleans Saints and his wife donate five million dollars to the city to help overcome the pandemic. Donations of food and other resources are made that enable others to survive. Prayers are offered which proclaim faith in Jesus to heal, save and restore the world. In places of darkness, light appears. In places of fear, courage that comes from the Risen Christ is shared. Easter is not silenced. Easter is lived. The Risen Christ is proclaimed over and over again, even in the midst of a pandemic.