Sunday, April 4, 2010

He is Risen - and so are we!

On that fateful Friday evening a small group of his loyal friends and family had lovingly prepared the Body of the Lord for burial. They had scarcely time to mourn over him, the Sabbath rest was beginning and the work of burial had to be done quickly. They placed his lifeless body in the tomb and rolled a large stone in place over the opening, sealing the Lord of Life inside – he was dead now and with him so much of the joy and beauty of life had died too. It doesn’t get more final than that. That tombstone, like every tombstone seemed to be so final.

But this tombstone was different in one important way, because it would not long serve to mark the spot were death had its ultimate victory. Our tombstones mark the final resting place of the mortal remains of our loved ones and indeed of ourselves in our turn. His tombstone, rolled away on Easter Morning, bears witness to Christ’s great and final victory over death. His open and empty tomb is the first of many open graves, for he rose from the dead to prove that he had the power to keep his promise: that those who believe in him would not be held in death, would not be defeated forever, but that their tombs would open and that their bodies would rise too on the last day to new and glorious life.

This great feast day is the greatest feast day we have in our faith, and it is our feast day, the day when Christ’s promise to each of us, and to each and every one we love and have mourned for, is placed before us. He promises life to us – because he is the victorious Lord of life whom death could not hold and death will not hold those who belong to him. And that is our great hope for our loved ones and indeed for ourselves.

Unlike the tombstones we place over the graves of our loved ones – Jesus’ tombstone had nothing written on it. His grave was the beginning of something new, a page of history not yet written. Until that day – death was final, death was the end of all life, all hopes, all dreams and all mankind. But now we inscribe the gravestones of our dead with signs of life eternal. With the Cross as the tree of eternal life, with prayers that the departed soul may rest in peace, and with sentiments that long for the Resurrection of the Dead on the last day. Indeed the prayer of blessing at the burial speaks well of how the Christ has changed the very meaning of death and the grave:

Lord Jesus Christ, by your own 3 days in the tomb you hallowed the graves of all who believe in you and so made the grave a sign of Hope that promises Resurrection even as it claims our mortal bodies.

Grant that our brothers and sisters may sleep here in peace until you awaken them to glory, for you are the Resurrection and the life.

Because of his Resurrection and his promise to let us share the same destiny – death is not disaster to the eyes of the believer. Yes it can be hard, yes it can leave us in great distress, but it cannot break the back of those who believe, because it is precisely the belief in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ that is the backbone of our faith. He is Risen Alleluia – and all our hope is that we will rise with him too – for without that – how difficult this life would be. As the Hymn of the Easter Exsultet – sung at the Easter Vigil puts it: What good would life have been to us if Christ had not come as our Redeemer?

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