The story of the empty tomb is like no other. There are details that appear in other myths from around the Mediterranean, divine beings that come back from death every spring, gods who take on human form for a time, but nothing like our main story today. No other culture I’m aware of has a God who cares as much about us to go to this extreme: to empty himself out completely, accepting shame, blame and death for our sakes and returning to show us hope when all hope appears gone.
Mary Magdalene didn’t know what to do when she found the empty tomb, couldn’t explain it. Neither could Peter or the Beloved Disciple. They were overwhelmed, and the only thing they knew is they needed to tell people about it. As the years went by, I’m not sure how much any of them understood about that morning in the garden, that day of Hope beyond Hope, but telling the story over and over again helped them understand as well as bring others to belief in Jesus.
We’ve seen the empty tomb ourselves. We’ve seen it when we’ve seen Hope come back when we thought it was gone. We’ve seen it when we’ve found new life after we’ve lost everything. We’ve seen it in every unexpected story of redemption, where somebody gets what they need in a miraculous manner and everything is set right, justice is done. We see it when someone who seems unchangeable, rigid, beyond persuasion is able to change, to move, to grew in a new reality. We see it in the promise of every Spring morning, just as we see it on a Winter midnight.
We see it in transformations, like the one we’re about to share when bread and wine become Christ’s body and blood.
Pope Francis said in a Tweet this morning: “Love gives life. Love makes hope blossom in the wilderness.” It’ important to remember that Love is what empties the Tomb for us, both the first time in Jerusalem and now.
Our starting point is something Peter refers to in the first reading: we have seen and heard the risen Christ. We have reached out and touched Him many times, and do it again today when we receive his body and blood. We may not understand completely what it means, how it happened, where we go from here. But it means the Empty Tomb calls us to be shaped by it, make its emptiness our own, asks us what it means that He isn’t here. We have seen the risen Christ, heard his voice, committed ourselves to Him. Our challenge is where we go from here, and how we bear witness to what we’ve seen and heard.