By Vir Christi
In the Gospel of Matthew, one of the final lines that the evangelist gives us regarding the events surrounding the Passion of Our Lord is “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb” (Matthew 27:61). Jesus is dead. The two women know this; they watched Him cry out to God and breathe His last just a short time prior. It seems as though all hope is gone.
Yet something beautifully desperate in those women binds them there, sitting before the tomb. It is that same love that brings Mary Magdalene back to the tomb on that beautiful Easter morning. What a powerful testament to hope! How can we go on hoping, when it seems all is lost?
God Never Truly Leaves Us
St. John recounts in his Gospel that Mary Magdalene returns to the tomb on Easter morning (John 20:1). Even in the midst of world-shattering grief, Mary remembered that she had a duty. In all of the haste to bury Our Lord’s Body, proper interment practice was not followed. Mary loved Jesus so deeply that she risked being harassed by the soldiers at the tomb and was willing to face her overwhelming grief to anoint His Body.
We all know what happens next. Mary arrives at the tomb and is stunned to see the stone rolled back, the tomb empty, and the soldiers gone. She fetches Ss. Peter and John, who confirm that the tomb is empty. Mystified by the events, the two men depart, likely to brief the disciples on what happened and to figure out what to do next. But Mary stays (John 20:10-15).
Mary’s love for Jesus is so passionate, so strong, that she is rooted to the spot. She looks into the empty tomb, weeping, but does not leave, because she literally does not know where else to go. Jesus was everything. That last small act of longing, even when she is beside herself with grief, is what calls Our Lord to her. Jesus gives her the privilege of being His messenger to the apostles, telling them that He has risen from the dead.
All of us have been in positions in our lives where we have felt similarly to Mary Magdalene. We have all been in places where it feels like grief and anguish are pressing down on every side. It feels like an avalanche of disaster: just when you think things cannot get any more difficult or heartbreaking, something else happens to prove you wrong.
Look at the Magdalene, and learn from her. Even in the midst of her sorrow and devastation, Mary never felt sorry for herself. She ardently desired Jesus, just His Body, so that she could venerate it and pay Him one last set of respects for all He had done. She desired the smallest touch of Christ, and was given more of Him than she could have ever possibly imagined. Jesus desires to do that with every one of us in our lives. He is never far from those who call out to Him!
The Tomb is Empty
Every one of us has a tomb in our hearts. We have something sitting in our hearts, locked tightly behind a wall of stone. It could be grief. It could be fear of the unknown. It could be fear of a memory. It could be fear of our own inadequacy. As long as that stone sits in place and binds the tomb shutting inside what that fear, pain, or it is, that thing has power over us.
Why was the stone rolled back from the tomb? Because Jesus showed, clearly and without any hesitation, that the tomb had no power to bind him. The archaeological evidence from that time period suggests that the stone was likely a square block, weighing anywhere from six hundred pounds to half a ton; the weight of the stone and its shape meant that it would have been impossible for a single man to move at all. And the soldiers would have seen a team of people coming to move the stone, and driven them off. The stone was emphatically moved to show that the tomb is empty and that ultimately the power of death lacks eternal substance when it comes to Our Lord.
That place all of us have in our hearts that has been sealed up, like the tomb of Christ, is just as empty and just as powerless over us. Jesus did not just want to roll back the stone covering His tomb to show that the Resurrection was real for Him; He wants to do the same for all of us. He wants to roll that stone back in every one of our lives, and show us the empty tomb. He desires to ignite the faith response in us that the Magdalene gave in her desperate search for Him. Why? So that He can reward us for our faith by coming to us in the same way that He came to her.
What Are We To Do With This Renewed Hope?
He is Risen!
Give the joyful news to every heart that seeks it. Does that mean you need to go running down the street on Easter morning and shake every stranger you see who looks sad, and shout in their faces, “Alleluia! Do not be sad, He is Risen!” Theoretically you could, but this author would not recommend that as a reliable evangelization practice. There is a much simpler and much more beautiful way to communicate this message.
Live that hope.
Every Calvary in our lives will always be met by an empty tomb. Every time we, in our hours of most desperate need, strive after Jesus with all of our hearts, He will willingly run to meet us. The powers of death and Hell can terrorize us as much as they would like, but ultimately the simple gesture of the empty tomb robs them of their ultimate victory.
When you are struggling with grief and other burdens, finding that hope is difficult. But remember: Easter is coming. If you are walking through the valley of despair, when all seems lost: Easter is coming. “How” or “when” may not be clear, but all you need is “Who” and “why”. Jesus is coming to you and is with you, because He loves you beyond any human comprehension. Just as Mary’s desperate, hopeful love was encountered by joy beyond all her imagination, so too will yours be.
“They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him” (John 20:13). Nay, He is here, in your heart, waiting for you to see that His tomb stands empty!
Vir’s heart has been on fire for the Church from day one, and he dreams of the day when Constantinople will be a city again. He has a competitive drive satiated by sports and board games, but is also just as happy to sit down and read a good book for hours on end.