A Reflection for Easter Sunday by Fr Daniel Weatherley
For six (very long!) weeks this year we have been waiting, and finally we can cry out Alleluia! Jesus Christ is risen from the dead! Alleluia! Our mourning melts away in the Light of this Morning – a Morning whose light will never fade and whose Sun will never again set.
The silence, the numbness of the Tomb has become the Springboard of Life! Life without end. Life in a new form which cannot be analysed or assessed, only entered into.
Almighty God has demonstrated for all mankind and for all ages the purpose of His Sabbath, the Seventh Day: the re-creation of life. From the eclipse of the sun on Friday to the Rising of the Son this new morning, everything has changed. Death has lost its sting and the grave has been conquered. This is the dawn of the Eighth Day: the first day of the new week which has no end, since it is the era of Grace, which already looks to the final promise of the New Heavens and the New Earth.
For the next forty days Christians of the Holy Land and Arab Christians all over the world – whether in person or over the telephone - will greet one another joyfully with the ancient greeting, “Al Massiah qam!” – literally, “Christ got up!” As in English, the verb ‘to rise’ is interchangeable with the more commonly used ‘to get up’. These days generally we do not say, “I rose early today”, but rather, “I got up…”. Twenty years ago, experiencing my first Easter living amongst Palestinians, and as a novice in Arabic this always struck me: that there was in some sense nothing spectacular about the appearance of the newly-risen Jesus. He was not even recognised by Mary Magdalene - she who must have spent countless hours simply drinking-in His Presence, His Countenance. The fact is that, in a burst of heavenly power, Jesus quite simply ‘got up.’ Jesus, in that same Body which had been loaded with the sin and struggle, suffering and darkness of every human person who ever lived or would live came back to life and, no longer held back by the limitations of space and time, spent forty days appearing to those to whom He chose to reveal Himself.
What did these blessed souls see in the Risen Jesus? They saw Emmanuel – God in the Flesh – now vibrantly alive in a Body which would never again know pain or death. They saw the Living Promise of what was in store for themselves, at the Last Day, when those who have loved Him and served Him as best they could in this short life will rise in their same body to endless life – life in its fullness in the perfectly and gloriously restored earth, where there will be no sickness, no tears, no grief.
But there is more (because with God there is always more!). To encounter the Risen Jesus was to begin to taste and to live that Life here and now. The vibrant new life seen in the bodily resurrection of Jesus is already poured out to us; His bodily resurrection, through the gift of Grace, enabling our inner transformation.
So, how do we access this new life, here and now? How does our Commemoration of His Rising become a Celebration? Saint Matthew, whose Gospel account of the Resurrection was given us this year for the great Vigil of Easter, gives us a vivid image.
Among the four accounts of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus there are some details unique to Matthew’s account, and one such reference is to rocks. Matthew alone tells us that at the moment of Jesus’ death the rocks of Golgotha were split open. And he alone tells us that at the moment of Jesus’ rising an earthquake forced the huge stone to move, opening the tomb for Jesus to walk His first steps in His Risen Body. Matthew, together with Mark and Luke, reports that the veil of the Sanctuary in the Temple was torn: the Death of the Messiah has lifted the veil between God and Mankind and the fountain of Grace has poured forth. In the breaking-open of the rocks Matthew presents us with a divine invitation: to allow the Risen Jesus to break-open and destroy anything in us which would prevent our rising to New Life with Him. How wonderful that it is again Matthew who records the words of John the Baptist to the hypocritical Pharisees, “God can raise children of Abraham from these very stones!” – and it is the rocks of Golgotha which are first to burst open in praise of the Risen Jesus!
And so, let us permit the rocks within us to burst open! Whatever blockages there are in us which this long Lent has revealed, let them be broken asunder by the Risen Jesus, whose triumph was won for us! No circumstance of life can prevent this, so let us open our hearts, our minds and our lives to the Risen Jesus and greet Him who loves us unto death and loves us into life. His Life. Life which has no end, and which must begin in us today. Alleluia!