Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! After the 40 days of Lenten prayer, fasting and almsgiving, after the three intense days of the Triduum, here we are at the empty tomb, rejoicing!
Today’s gospel is action packed. Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb and finds no one there. She runs to tell the others. Peter and the other disciple run back to see for themselves, then head home, none the wiser. Mary, left alone, meets and speaks to Jesus. It’s a tumultuous series of life-changing events.
The disciples have been in despair for several days, but now everything changes in an instant. Perhaps we can imagine the huge range of emotions they are going through: surprise, worry, grief, confusion, wonder, joy… We have all gone through these emotions ourselves in our own lives, after all. Think about times where life has taken a sudden turn from loss to new life: a broken relationship is healed; a couple struggling with fertility issues announces that they’re having a baby; a dear friend who has been depressed finds their way back to living fully; a family member who has received a dire health diagnosis makes an astonishing recovery.
Now remember that feeling of joy bursting through – you want to tell the world the good news! Years ago, I heard about a childhood friend’s husband whose plane had crashed in northern Canada. We waited days for news. When I got word that he had survived, I ran into a colleague’s office and cried, “He’s alive!” That’s what I think of when I hear today’s gospel – that breathless, almost incomprehensible moment where the world as we know it shifts on its axis because of good news.
Eugene Englert’s poignant duet “He Is Risen, Alleluia!” captures this mood – from a quiet affirmation that Jesus is risen, to a reassuring “Fear not,” to a definitive “He is not here,” to a glorious “Alleluia!” Imagine the dawning realization that spread from one person to the next like wildfire on the first Easter and the crescendo of joy they felt. Like Mary Magdalene and the other disciples, we too are called to be witnesses to the resurrection, proclaiming through our words and our lives that Jesus died and rose for all people, conquering death forever.
This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad!
Anne Louise Mahoney is managing editor of Novalis. She is the editor of Looking to the Laity: Reflections on Where the Church Can Go from Here and the author of I Hope, a book for young children.