A Blessed Easter to each of you from all the brothers as we come together this evening to celebrate the joy of the resurrection of the Lord from the dead. He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you. With that testimony of the angel we begin the fifty days of celebration for God’s priceless gift to the whole human race of eternal life.
We can’t imagine what the understanding of death was like even for devout, faithful Jews before Jesus revealed the resurrection from the dead. For all that anyone knew, our continued life after death–if there were a further life at all–was a dismal matter, a gray shadowy existence in the land of the dead. How often the sacred psalmists lamented the belief that after their death, they would be cut off from God and would praise him no more. A bleak belief indeed!
Jesus revealed, when he rose from the dead, something beyond everyone’s wildest hopes, the new life of the resurrection, for Jew and pagan alike. We take our faith so much for granted. But Jesus’ revelation of the good news of the resurrection was a radical transformation in the minds and hearts of humankind by his good news. He did not proclaim this in words. He proved it by his multiple appearances to believers and unbelievers alike–unbelievers such as doubting Thomas and the Jewish fanatic, Saul, who became the apostle Paul. As we will be hearing repeated over and over in the week to come, during the Octave week of Easter, Do not be afraid, Jesus said, it is I. Put your finger into the nail hole in my hand, Thomas, and your hand in my pierced side. Be not unbelieving… I am with you now always until the end of time…where I am, you also shall be.
We know this. This is our firm faith in God; but we do not yet feel this. Naturally we grieve at the death of someone we love. We feel a deep loss. And we know that Jesus understands our tears, because he too wept at the death of his friend Lazarus. Who would claim that he did not weep at the death of his beloved foster-father, Joseph? The pain of death pierces us, even as we place our faith in Jesus’ promise that death is but a temporary separation. Mary Magdalene surely wept. And Jesus said to her, Mary, why are you weeping? He knew why and he comforted her pain. But Jesus also understood that as great as her pain was, it was nothing compared to the joy that overwhelmed her when he called her name.
And so it will be for us. We grieve. But in our grief we know that nothing can be compared to the joy that will be ours when we shall ourselves see the Lord and he calls us by our name.
This holy night is the most precious night of the entire year for every faithful Christian. On this night the world discovered joy. O death, where is your sting? We must give thanks to God for the priceless gift we have received in the passion, death and resurrection of his beloved Son. Come, beloved of my Father, and share his great joy. I wish a joyful feast of the Lord’s resurrection to each of you with all my heart.