From the Desk of Fr. Davis
I recently made the trip of a lifetime. Earlier this month I went to the Holy Land with 52 of our parishioners. It was a breathtakingly wondrous experience! During our pilgrimage, we journeyed to many of the famous places in the life of Jesus like Bethlehem, Nazareth, Capernaum, Cana, Jerusalem, Bethany, and Gethsemane. But, I would have to say that there was NO place more impactful on us than our visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Within the confines of that amazing church building, where thousands of people stream in and out each day to touch the holy sites of salvation history and to renew their faith, can be found Mount Calvary, where Jesus died on the Cross, as well as the Tomb, where our Lord had been laid to rest after his crucifixion and death. Unlike other cemeteries, where bodies are buried in permanent repose, the Tomb of our Lord Jesus was a small room within which there was a niche in the side of one of its interior walls; the niche (or shelf) was EMPTY, just as Mary Magdalene, Peter and John found it on that first Easter Sunday. “Empty” is the operative word here. Honestly, there was nothing to see because there was no one there! It’s from that tomb that the Resurrection of Christ took place, where he broke the shackles of death once and for all and revealed the Life Eternal. All we could do was kneel down and place our heads on the niche and weep in wonder. Every day is Easter Sunday at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher!
As today we celebrate Easter Sunday 2019, we are likewise drawn by the thousands to ponder and rejoice in the most fundamental of all Christian beliefs: the Resurrection of our Lord. As Jesus prophesied he would do, and as the early Church believed and proclaimed, Jesus rose from the dead on the first Easter Sunday morning, revealing the mystery of the Resurrection and the promised hope of our own eternal life with him. He is the “Way, the Truth, and the Life.” He once said, “no one comes to the Father except through me.” Today we acclaim him as the Resurrection and the Life. We renew our belief in all that he has done, his continuing Risen presence among us, the meaning he brings to our lives, and living now in the wake of the Resurrection, we express our longings for an eternity with him.
One of the more obscure details in today’s Gospel selection, but one having great significance for believers in the Risen Jesus, is the subtle but power image of the burial cloths. Did you notice what it said about the placement of the cloths? In Mediterranean culture, when someone was at a neighbor’s house having dinner, if they had to step away from the table and had the intention of returning, they would fold up the napkin and place it in such a way as to show that they would be “ready to begin again upon return.” In the same way, when someone was doing an overnight at someone’s house, upon waking up in the morning, they would fold the bed sheets in such a way as to indicate to the house keeper, “don’t change the bed; I am coming back.” In today’s Gospel passage from the Evangelist John, we hear how the Apostles “saw the burial cloths, and the cloth that had covered the head rolled up and in a separate place.” Such a detail is very significant and meaningful. Inherent in its inclusion in this story is the subtle message that “Jesus is coming back.” He is risen, indeed!
Our treasured Catholic faith knows with certainty that its very existence is due to the power of the Resurrection, and the continually abiding presence of the Risen Christ with his people. Not only did Jesus rise from the dead, but he keeps on coming back, abiding with his people on their pilgrim journey, feeding his people with the sacraments, and inviting them to a deeper walk with him in life. How we celebrate and live our faith now merely gets us ready for the life to come. Let’s live it well. Alleluia!