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Experience resurrection this Easter

It is Sunday morning approximately 33 A.D. in Jerusalem. Three women, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome (Mark 16:1-8), are on their way to the tomb where Jesus’ body had been buried.

I invite you, the reader to walk with them. The great Sabbath was over, the stores and businesses were beginning the new week as usual. You can sense the deep sadness in their conversation. Most likely they are saying, “He was holy and wise, and he did so much good and healed many people. We thought He was the promised one; our hopes are dashed! Why did they have to crucify him? We saw him suffer and die.”

The day is about to dawn as they approach the tomb. They are anxious about “who will roll back the stone (Mark 16:3).”

On arrival at the tomb, they are shocked to find the stone has already been rolled back. Fear grips them. Their first thought is that the heinous Romans who had put Him to death had now come to desecrate his body.

The body of Jesus is not there. You see the burial clothes on the ground. While still at a loss over what to think, two men in dazzling garments appeared and said, “Why do you search for the Living One among the dead? He is not here, He has been raised up (Luke 24:5).” You remember that Jesus said He would be crucified and on the third day He would rise again.

Even after hearing the words that He is risen, you and the women do not understand what has happened. Peter and John are told, and they run to see the empty tomb for themselves. They too are confused but the news spreads quickly. No one had expected a resurrection. Indeed, no one had expected the Messiah to die and especially that He would be put to death as a criminal. For his faithful followers, the notion of His being raised from the dead was beyond comprehension.

Those of you who went to the tomb first return to Jerusalem to share your story with the other disciples. Very soon you hear additional reports that Jesus appeared to Peter, to Mary Magdalene, and two disciples on their way to their home village of Emmaus. What joy must Peter have felt and what embarrassment at having denied Jesus publicly only a few days before. Can you see the joy in the face of Mary Magdalene, once a great sinner but is now forgiven and healed? Jesus was appearing to his failed disciples to show them He was risen and that He loved them. Can you imagine the inner peace of mind and heart of Mary, His mother?

The disciples and those who loved and followed him were overwhelmed. They remembered his horrible death, and now they see He has overcome death. They accepted themselves as forgiven. They remembered that He asked them to witness to Him. They could not keep the good news to themselves. Their message was not about doctrines or beliefs. Rather, it was about the person of Jesus, the Son of God, raised from the dead by the Father.

On this Easter Day, we who claim to be followers of Jesus, attempt to recapture the sense of awe and wonder that his resurrection caused. Some may do this in church services, some in their homes and some in the midst of grief and illness. My hope is that you, the reader, will recover something of the awe and wonder of Jesus’ victory over death.

The disciples and the early church focused all their teaching on the resurrection. St. Paul says, “If Christ had not risen, our faith would be without foundation.” (1 Cor. 14) St. Paul, an early persecutor of the followers of Jesus, underwent a total attitude and life change as a result of meeting the risen One. The two disciples who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus probably had given up hope and were returning to home village until their encounter with the risen Jesus.

I encourage you, today to go beyond simply remembering Jesus’ resurrection. Open your mind and heart to the promise of fullness of life that the resurrection implies. Look for signs of the resurrection in your own life now. If there is sadness in your life now, look for the spirit of the resurrection in your heart and in the love and support of friends. If you are ill, invite the healing presence of Jesus into your life today and thank God for the people who help you. If you have fallen short in the values and life style expected in an authentic follower, ask for forgiveness this day. If you live with grudges and hurts, and if there is no forgiveness in your heart, today is a good time to forgive. If you have not been to church in a long time, consider attending the church of your choice today.

The Rev. David O’Connor is pastor of St. Mary Basilica and Assumption Catholic churches in Natchez.