In the lead up to the Easter Triduum, through the forty days of Lent, there is a heightened awareness of sin. At the heart of sin is seeing human beings as things which can be used or made to fit our desires. And the natural expression of the culture of sin in which we live is the reality of death. It is that most solemn fact of our lives, we and all those whom we love, are going to die. In death the person you love is there one moment, and gone the next. Death removes the person and leaves only a body.
All of us live with this as our ultimate horizon; in the end death will reduce us to things, objects in a world of objects. This is something I have faced myself, contemplating the death of those whom I’ve loved very much. What are we left with when our loved ones die? Graves, photographs and memories. Our only connection to the persons we have loved are things, places, thoughts, bits of paper. It isn’t enough.
But at Easter we find ourselves contemplating with joy, not sin, but the Resurrection. The Resurrection of Jesus is God’s final word spoken in the face of death and sin. The women go to the tomb early in the morning to anoint the remains of the Jesus they have loved. And they find the tomb empty, with an angel seated where the body of Jesus had been: You seek Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He has been raised. He is not here.
Jesus has gone before them and will see them in Galilee. The old culture of sin has been ripped apart, from top to bottom. This Jesus cannot be contained, kept, or even treasured, in the cold stone of our earth. He has risen, and has gone before us.
The Resurrection is the sudden declaration by God that we are someone and never just something. From now on, to be a disciple of Jesus is to be seized by the belief that remains and memories are not all there is; to know in fact that those we love and, in the end, we ourselves, are called to follow Christ where he has gone – to death and then through death to the fulfilment of who we are. Then the physical reminders will not be needed, because our tombs too will be empty.
May this hope and joy fill all your hearts in this Easter season.
Fr Chris Denham