On Easter morning, we, together with the holy women who faithfully stood by Our Lord in His Passion and at His Death, find ourselves before His empty tomb. The tomb recalls the profound anguish of the death and burial of Christ, God the Son Incarnate, Who desired to suffer the cruelest of passions and to undergo the most ignominious execution known at the time, in order to free us forever from sin and from its most poisonous fruit, eternal death. But the empty tomb is full of light and within it is the Easter Angel. It is no longer the tomb but the Holy Sepulcher, the witness of a mystery, of the mystery of all mysteries: the mystery of the Divine Love which is our salvation. The tomb is empty not because someone has taken away the body of the Savior.
The Easter Angel announces to the holy women – and to us – the mystery to which the Holy Sepulcher gives witness:
Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him. But go tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you (Mk 16, 6-7).
God, in His immeasurable and unceasing love for man, has sent His only-begotten Son in our human flesh, to accomplish in the same flesh the victory over sin, the victory of eternal life. The Risen Lord goes before us always in the Church and is always at our side in the Church to lead us on the way that leads to eternal life.
Our human life is, therefore, changed forever, in the most profound manner possible. From the day of the Resurrection of the Lord, we, who are reborn in Him through Baptism, live in Him. We who have been adopted by God the Father in His only-begotten Son, Who has died and is risen from the dead, live in Christ. We are alive in Christ. He, alive in us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our souls, goes before us, guides us, so that our earthly pilgrimage may reach its true destiny: eternal life in the presence of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – and in the company of the angels and all the saints.
For this reason, Saint Paul exhorts us with all concreteness and great realism, commanding us: “Clean out the old leaven that you may be new dough, as you really are unleavened” (1 Cor 5, 7). He does not give us an abstract or idealistic order, outside of our capacity. By ourselves alone, we cannot live free from “the leaven of malice and evil” (1 Cor 5, 8). It is the Holy Spirit, Whom the Risen Lord sends into our hearts from His glorious pierced Heart, Who transforms us, in order that we can live “with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor 5, 8). We are no longer the slaves of our sins and of the Prince of Darkness. We are true sons of God, brothers and sisters of the Risen Christ, free cooperators with His grace which is always abundant and which is never lacking. Our destiny in Christ, as adopted sons and daughters in Him, is not the tomb, but eternal life. When we die, our body will be placed in the tomb to await the day of the Resurrection of the Body at the Final Coming of Christ. The Holy Spirit, dwelling within us, makes us capable of what would otherwise be impossible for us: capable of living in accord with the truth and love of Christ, now and in eternity.
Surely, we face the difficult challenges of daily Christian living, of the deceptions of the Evil One, and of our own weakness. Surely, we live at a tumultuous time in the world, a time of an international health crisis, about which we know so little and about which we daily receive confusing and even contradictory reports, and even in the Church, beset by so much confusion and error. But we gaze upon the Holy Sepulcher, and we know the truth to which it witnesses. We remain firm and strong, confident that the Lord has indeed risen from the dead and that He goes before us and is at our side in the daily battle to remain faithful to Him, to live in accord with the truth and love which have their abundant and inexhaustible source in His Most Sacred Heart. Our hearts, placed in His Sacred Heart, receive the wisdom and the courage to live faithfully our identity as true sons and daughters of God in Him.
United with the Virgin Mother of God, with the holy women, with Saint Peter and the other witnesses to the Resurrection of Our Lord throughout the Christian centuries, in short, united to the whole Communion of Saints, we look upon the empty tomb of the Lord, the Holy Sepulchre, and we receive, with confidence, the announcement of the Easter Angel that assures us that Christ is risen and that He goes before us, in order to meet us always in the Church, above all, in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist. Let us, today and every day, lift up our hearts, one with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to His Sacred Heart. Let us consecrate our hearts to His Sacred Heart, in order to live always in His company, in communion of heart with Him.
A story is told about the saintly Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, Archbishop of Gniezno and Warsaw in Poland and Primate of Poland, who was first imprisoned and then placed under house arrest by the Communist government, beginning in September of 1953. He and those who assisted him witnessed the inhuman treatment, indeed torture and execution, of so many prisoners. One of those who was assisting him during the time of his house arrest expressed, one day, fear about who might arrive at the door. The fear was not unfounded. The Cardinal is said to have responded that, when fear knocks at the door, courage opens the door, and there is no one there. In other words, in times of suffering and even death, we must have the courage of those who are alive in Christ. We cannot give way to fear, which is a natural sentiment in time of danger but which Satan uses to take away our Christlike courage. Rather, we must have ever greater confidence in Our Lord Who will never abandon us. If we go forward with courage, yes, there will be suffering, but there will not be defeat. When courage opens the door, what we feared so much will not be there because Christ is with us. Rather, there will be the victory of Christ in our human flesh. In the present and most grave situation in which we are living in the world and in the Church, let us remember the example of the Venerable Cardinal Wyszyński. When fear would overcome us, let us be courageous in Christ Who indeed is risen and lives in us.
Let us place all our trust in our Risen Lord, making completely our own the prayer of the Psalmist, sung so beautifully on this day of Our Lord’s Resurrection:
This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Save us, we beg, O LORD! O LORD, we beg you, give us victory (Ps 118 , 24-25).
I am praying for you and with you. Let us be strong together, firm and courageous witnesses to the mystery of God’s truth and love at work within us. Please pray for me.
May your celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord bring lasting joy and peace to your home, and steadfast trust and courage to your heart.
Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke 12 April 2020 Easter Sunday