Can you imagine what it must have been like for Jesus’ Mother Mary, his followers and friends to witness the absolute brutality of his crucifixion? The Son that Mary bore and raised with such tenderness and love; the Teacher whom the disciples left everything to follow; the friends who surrounded him with great devotion.
They placed all their faith and hope and love in him and his life ended in such a horrific manner, bleeding out on that cross. As far as the world could see, it was over.
But the Lord Jesus asked these people to “see” with different eyes, to have a vision that the world as they knew it did not, could not, would not have.
Now, imagine the news coming from those visitors to the tomb that first Easter Sunday morning. The stone had been rolled back. The tomb was empty. The burial cloths that wrapped his mortally wounded body were set aside, folded neatly. Someone standing there, an angel, spoke to them: “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him (Matthew 28: 5-7).”
Through the centuries since that day until our own, those words shake us and our world to the core. “He has risen.” The cross — the “tree of defeat” — has become the “tree of victory.” “God raised him from death to life and destroyed the pains of death, because death had no power to hold him (Acts 2: 24). “
Jesus promised his followers and promises us: “anyone who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die (John 11: 25-26).”
What a powerful promise and assurance, one that the world cannot match. And after saying those words, Jesus asked those gathered at the tomb of Lazarus, “Do you believe this?”
On this Easter Sunday, the Risen Lord Jesus turns to us with that same question, “Do you believe this?”
Our faith is rooted in what lies beyond us in this life, not in what we see but in what we hope for.
Easter, symbolized in the season of spring that surrounds us in these days, is the most important occasion for hope that the world will ever know. And our faith and belief in the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus makes that hope as solid as the rock rolled back from the tomb.
No cross could destroy him. No grave could contain him. “Do you believe this?”
We are called “Christians” because we follow Christ, because we believe in him, because we hope in his promises, because we identify our life with his own. In that life we encounter things that we simply do not and cannot understand. Why do we endure pain? Why do we suffer? Why do we grow old and feeble and dependent on others? Why do we feel lonely and abandoned at times? Why is it that things sometimes just do not work out for us? Why do our plans crumble? We ask those questions generously and often. But do we stop to measure as generously the good times, the joy, the love we experience? There is darkness, yes. But darkness gives way to the light, as night gives way to the day. The cross is there but so is the empty tomb.
As he walked among us, the Lord Jesus explained, “Truly I tell you, unless the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains but a single grain. But if it dies it bears much fruit (John 12: 24).” That is what we must believe in the difficult moments and the hard times. And that is what we must also believe and celebrate in the joyful, fruitful ones.
This Easter, the most fruitful, joyful day of the year, take the Lord Jesus at his word: “In the world you will have troubles but take courage, take heart: I have overcome the world (John 16: 33).”
“Do not abandon yourself to despair. We are an Easter people and ‘alleluia’ is our song (St. Augustine and St. John Paul II)!”
Most Reverend David M. O’Connell, C.M.
Bishop of Trenton