1 John 1:1-4
John 20:1a, 2-8
Yes Virginia, there is a . . . risen Lord? I have to admit that I checked and rechecked to make sure I had the correct readings for today. Didn’t we just welcome the Christ child into the world? Are you really asking me to think about Jesus’ suffering and death so soon after celebrating his birth? Christ as a baby is promise and possibility and hope. How can we not feel joy when we think of a newborn babe. And now, so soon after Christmas carols and twinkling lights, we come to the grave.
But that’s when I realized there is the greatest joy in this gospel. This grave, of course, is empty. Jesus is risen. Death and sin are conquered. We have been saved! John explains in his first letter, "the life was made visible." Jesus had to be born so that he could die. How easily we forget this when we are eating candy canes and unwrapping presents. Jesus became flesh and lived and breathed a real human existence. His suffering was a human suffering. After his death, those who loved him buried him. Now here is where the story gets interesting. When Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb in the third day, she finds the burial clothes are rolled up and the tomb empty.
Today’s gospel is really the completion of the Christmas story. Jesus had to live so that he could die. But the Father could have brought Jesus to earth however he chose. He could have appeared as a full grown man. He could entered the world through apparition. But Jesus’ victory over death is miraculous precisely because he was a real person. When he closed his eyes and handed his life over, even those who witnessed his greatness on earth understood what that meant. It was over. Evil had won. Jesus was dead. Those who live in faith in fellowship with our Lord know of course, that is not where the story ends.
I’m sure many of us looked around the Christmas table this year and grieved for those who were not there. I know I spent more than a few moments this week feeling more than a little bit sorry for myself as I was missing family members who have passed. Did I really forget the Easter message just because it was Christmas!
Death is vanquished. It’s isn’t our enemy anymore. It means that every day-every moment-is a new chance. We have been rescued from its grip. Jesus was good and innocent, and he willingly sacrificed himself so that we could be free. But we know that death now promises a new beginning for those who live in the Lord. So, what can we possibly have left to fear? Let’s greet 2011 with the power of that faith.
Marlo Serritella is on staff at the Holy Cross Province Development Office in Chicago.