No one takes pleasure in failures but these form an integral part of our life. Who has never had to face up to difficulties in one’s emotional, relational, professional, ethical and spiritual life? All failures are bad, and the worst is personal failure – when our life becomes a failure and notonly have those who are close to us give up on us, but we also lose confidence in ourselves. When the person reaches a point when he is conscious only of what is negative; when society loses all hope in the human person andin its institutions, it is indeed time for reflection.
Although we are celebrating Easter today, at the same time the Gospels also narrate the Resurrection event as well as the experiences of those people (Mary of Magdala, Peter and John), who got the shock of their lives when they discovered the empty tomb. These were already sorely tried psychologically, having witnessed the crucifixion of their loved one, Jesus Christ. The situation becomes worse when they realise that all that is left is an empty tomb. This unnerving find increased their confusion, their fear, their suspicions and insecurity.If the tomb were to remain intact, they would have been able to mourn their beloved one. But what use is an empty tomb? Is there any reason to “treasure”an empty tomb? I would not find it strange that following such a disaster of an empty tomb, these disciples were so disenchanted that they decided not to go anywhere near that place – to forget and abandon the empty tomb.
The tide turned when the voice of the Risen One spoke.When the disciples heard him addressingthem, “Peace be with you”, and after Mary of Magdala heard him calling her by name, they realised that the empty tomb signifiedthat Christ had triumphed over death. They realised that the place which they had rejected was the ambience from which Life overflowed.What had been devoid of any meaning became the source of intelligibility, of history itself. What had been shrouded in darkness became the abode of light. What had been reeking of death, the sweet perfume of life now wafted through the air. The place which the disciples had consigned to oblivion today signifies the cornerstone of the evidence of Christ’s Resurrection. What the disciples had decided to abandon, become their treasure. Defeat was transformed into a celebration of life.
The experience of the primary witnesses of the Resurrection attests to the fact that in life there are no empty tombs. An empty tomb is never entirely empty. On the contrary, what appears to be so could harbour a tremendous energy. Thus, those persons or situations that we would rule as empty tombs could in fact result in a hidden treasure.
It is a fact that history is littered with negative events. But in the light of the Risen Lord’s word, we can evaluate history in a radically different way. This is the difference between the believers and non-believers. When the Christian looks around him, he notes the same failures and wounds which others see and the first reaction could be one of condemnation, leading to abhorrence and losing heart. But when he is sustained by the word of the Risen Lord, he acquires a new vision of the reality which confronts him.
This is the defining difference Easter makes in our lives: when confronted by an empty tomb, one does not dwell on a dead body, but on a resurrected one. In other words, the word of the Risen Lord helps us to perceive life where there is death. We should not stop at what is apparent, but appreciate the hidden potential of the other. We should be constructive not destructive, inclusive not exclusive.
No one, in spite of all one’s failures in one’s private, family or public life, should consider himself an empty tomb and lose heart. No one should be considered as such. Like the empty tomb in the garden where the Lord had been laid to rest, every person who gives space to God’s love could become a resource of a significant and signifying energy – even if the person had sustained a spiritual failure. The human person who is “spiritually” dead cannot raise himself up again, but the word of the Risen Lord has the power to do so.
It is a fact that no one has a spontaneous and full knowledge of the Risen Lord. We would be mistaken if we do like Peter and John, who when faced with the empty tombconceded defeat and retreated to their home resigned to their fate. We should imitate Mary of Magdala who remained by the empty tomb as if she were seeking from history an explanation about the Risen One and the tomb could disclose its secret.Like her, we who believe in the Lord victorious over death, should never lose heart by what is happening around us, but should remain steadfast in our belief that history, when seen in the light of the word of the Risen Lord, would present us with the angels who proclaim the Risen Lord’s power in front of an empty tomb.
After Christ’s Easter, there are no empty tombs! No one is a void.
Mgr Grech is Bishop of Gozo