Unexpected hope that comes to pass. It’s part of a lot of great stories, at least all the favorite stories I can think of, perhaps every great story. Just when things seem black and beyond hope, the Ring is destroyed, the Death Star explodes, Harry Potter figures out the right spell, the good guys win. The Berlin Wall falls, a lost member of the family comes home, a broken relationship heals. If we’re lucky, we seen it in our own lives, in something small or something large. Unexpected hope that happens now, in our time.
When Martha went to the garden on a Sunday morning, she didn’t know what she was seeing. She expected a body: dead people tend to stay dead. It was her job to finish a grim task, and she saw no alternative. The tomb was empty and she didn’t know what to do. Neither did Peter. He came after hearing a wild story, maybe with a little hope that sprung up in spite of itself. But nothing big. Dead people generally stay dead. He probably thought Martha was dreaming.
The empty tomb is at the center of everything we are as Christians. Without it, the New Testament is meaningless. Without it, the Catechisms don’t make sense, doctrines are only abstractions. Without it, sacraments are nothing but empty words. Our churches, our stands of faith, our sacrifices for what we believe are for naught. People die around the world for being Christian, as Christ did, and the only thing that makes their deaths a positive is the empty tomb.
The empty tomb is how we know God really walked the earth, stood among us, taught us, lived as we did, died as we did. The empty tomb is the start of who we are and what we are. That’s why today is so important, the single most important day of the year. The single most important day in our lives. Because of the empty tomb, we can reach out and touch God through Christ’s Body and Blood. Because of the empty tomb, we know Christ is with us, even though we can’t see Him.
There really isn’t a much more to say than that. We celebrate an unexpected hope that came to pass in our midst, an unexpected hope that’s part of our lives today. It’s almost too wonderful to contemplate. It’s why we need to live on in spite of what happens to us, no matter what bad news we may hear, no matter what bad fortune may come our way. Christ experienced the worst there was, and the tomb was empty three days later. Because of the empty tomb, we know that tombs cannot bury the essence of who we are, cannot erase us from the universe. Because of the empty tomb, we can hold on to all our unexpected hopes, because we know the greatest of them, eternal life in Christ, will come to pass.