March 27, 2016 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause
March 27, 2016
Fr. George Smiga
The gospel we have just heard is a familiar one. It is Luke’s version of the women discovering the empty tomb on Easter morning. All four gospels have some variation of this story. And all the Easter stories share one thing in common. None of them ever describes to us the resurrection of Jesus. The gospels describe many things about Jesus’ life and ministry. They describe his baptism in the Jordan River, his struggle with Satan in the desert, his curing of the blind man, his walking on the water. They describe his death on the cross. But no gospel describes Jesus being raised from the dead. We have no picture of this. Now in time Christian artists provided a picture of Jesus’ resurrection. (You’ll see one on the bulletin tonight as you leave church.) But, in the gospels all we have are stories of the women finding an empty tomb and Jesus appearing to his disciples after his resurrection.
What a curious omission. The resurrection of Jesus is the center of our faith. It is what we celebrate at Easter. Yet it is never described to us. What possible reason could the evangelists have for leaving it out? Let me suggest to you an explanation. I think the evangelists avoided describing Jesus’ resurrection because they did not want us to become stuck on what happened to Jesus. They wanted us to remember what will happen to us.
Easter is not simply believing that Jesus was raised from the dead. Easter is believing that we too will be raised from the dead. Through the resurrection of Jesus God made a promise to us and to the world. God promised that we are heading to glory. God promised that our world is heading to goodness and justice and peace. These are the promises that we are challenged to believe this Easter Day. And to be frank, these promises are not easy to believe. When we look at all that is wrong with our lives—our failures, our regrets, our inability to heal broken relationships, the sickness which continually robs us of life—it is difficult to believe that God is leading us to life and glory.
When we look at all that is wrong in our world—prejudice, terrorism, political dysfunction, the lack of sufficient nutrition and dignity to millions of people in our world—it is difficult to believe that God is changing this world into the Kingdom of God, a kingdom that is without want, violence, or hate.
The promises of Easter are big promises, and it takes courage and strength for us to claim them as our own. But, unless we do claim them, we cannot credibly be called Christ’s disciples. This why we gather together as we do today to support one another in our conviction that God’s promises are true. We encourage one another to understand that when we proclaim that Christ is risen, we are proclaiming that the same God that was good enough to raise Christ from the dead is good enough to raise us beyond our failures and our sins and is good enough to change this flawed world into a new creation.
To live these promises, of course, demands that we do our part. We have to work to follow Jesus’ teaching, to forgive and love one another. We have to work to oppose injustice and build a peaceful world. But, as Christians we will not find the strength to work unless we can trust in the promises and the hope of Easter.
The evangelists never describe Jesus’s resurrection. They leave us a blank canvas. But they do this with the confidence that through our faith, hope, and love we can fill the picture in.