WHEN EMPTY MEANS FULL!


EASTER SUNDAY OF THE LORD’S RESURRECTION
March 31, 2013

WHEN EMPTY MEANS FULL!

I make no secrets about it. I am emotive. I cry easily when touched by something I hear, I see and experience. The last time I saw Les Miserables the movie (the fourth including three other live musical presentations in various places) I was touched by a number of particular scenes. The rendition of “Empty Chairs and Empty Tables” was among those scenes, when Marius, recovering from his wounds, imagines he is back in the ABC Café.

He is obviously portrayed to be in mourning, and one cannot help but be carried away by someone else’s pain.

Today, we too, are carried away but in a different plane, in a very different way. There is no question today about mourning, but everything to do about unalloyed joy. Last night, those of us who took part in the vigil would have noticed the quiet rejoicing, the ebullient praising and the profuse thanksgiving of the Church at what took place, immortalized in the act of memorializing that only we believers can fully understand. There was first, a focus on the light, the new light that dispelled the darkness of death and despair. Then, there was a generous dose of God’s Word in seven readings, all told, capped by the usual Gospel account, and topped off by the homily. Light, illumination, salvation, victory, rejoicing, worship and thanksgiving, all fall into place. We even renewed our photismos (baptism), and in case you did not notice, photismos takes its root from photon which precisely means light.

But what, you might ask, is our basis? An empty tomb? That was a fact – cold fact, a piece of detail that does not prove anything. What does one think about an empty tomb? If it’s empty, there’s nothing in it, and if there’s nothing in it, then somebody must have taken it away … That was exactly the thought that came to the mind of the woman who came very early in the morning to do unfinished tasks.

But the empty tomb was empty, thanks be to God! For if it were not, then in vain is our faith; in vain is all we do here and now, and for centuries since the news broke out. But there was not just an empty tomb. There were rolled away stones that closed the tomb. There were the linens used as burial clothes.

But wait! Could there have been something more than just an empty tomb? Yes … and this is what made the empty tomb no longer vacuous, no longer deflated as a cold, inconsequential fact, but actually filled with, and pregnant … make that laden with meaning. And that was what the Word contained. Peter and the younger disciple who ran, and who began telling everyone else, did not say, “Hey man, the tomb is empty, yo!”

Good news does not come from vacuous, empty topics and conversation pieces! Good news comes from a lived experience of the Word becoming true, becoming real, becoming truly lived, by people who heard, people who believed, people who held on to God’s Word!

What did the Word say? What did the Word made flesh say? What did the Christ say? Get back a few days, a few weeks, a few months. Didn’t he say something like “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up?” Didn’t he say that the Son of Man must suffer and die and rise again on the third day?”

Now, now … this is why the empty tomb makes sense! For it was backed up by no less than Him who claimed to be the Word become flesh, the Word incarnate.

Yes, the tomb was empty, Deo gratias! Yes, the tomb was empty and now we know why. He said it himself. He predicted it himself. And He did it! He rose just as He had said. The empty tomb really contained nothing … nothing more and it was not any less meaningful just because it was empty. It had nothing, but it was not vacuous. It was full … full of the truth that He had indeed, risen! It was a vacant tomb, but one filled with all the meaning the world ever needed.

The whole world needed hope. The whole world needed answers to the ultimate questions – the age-old questions of pain, of suffering, of sin, of death, and of hopelessness. He answered it in one fell swoop, by leaving a tomb empty, and rising to new life, so that we might have the same future and the same destiny.

In life, then and now, we have lots of questions, lots of worries, lots of fears and lots of stress. I know. Been there; done that. Not getting any younger, I am afraid of death, of sickness, of pain. I am afraid of “man’s inhumanity to man,” like the strange saber-rattling of North Korea, angry at something undefined, making mountains out of molehills, etc. I am worried that younger people are becoming less and less engaged with the Church. I worry that the new evangelization is not happening as quickly as I would have wanted to.

But like Peter and the other disciple, like Mary of Magdala, like everyone who went and saw for themselves the empty tomb, and the witness of the disciples who suddenly remembered what he said, they were taken aback by the rolled away stones, and their lives were carried away since then!

The tomb was empty. Grazie a Dio! And the tomb was empty because “He is no longer there; He is risen, just as he said, Alleluia!

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