"They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him"

"On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb.

So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, 'They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.'"
(John 20:1-2)

It's interesting that the first thing that happens on Easter morning in the Gospels is not the Lord showing up in his risen glory announcing his Resurrection. Rather, the first thing that happens on Easter morning is the finding of the empty tomb.

All four Gospels have different narratives about how this even happens. I think this is wonderful because it shows the kind of confusion that the disciples were in on that Easter morning. Even the Gospels can't agree on exactly how the events took place. They do all agree however that it was the women coming out in the morning who found the empty tomb.

An Unlikely Witness

It's interesting that it's the women that find the tomb.

In the Jewish culture of the day women weren't even considered credible witnesses in court. Yet all four Gospels emphasize that it's the women and not the apostles that come out to the tomb on Easter Sunday.

I think as Catholics, we are sometimes under the mistaken impression that mystical revelation and great spirituality is something that's reserved for bishops or priests or cloistered religious. Yet here in the Gospels, we see that on Easter, just as it is on Christmas, God chooses to reveal himself to simple believers.

Our position in the Kingdom of heaven isn't measured by titles or positions...it's measured by love.

It's love that sends the women out on that Sunday morning to visit the tomb and allows them to be the first witnesses to the resurrection of the Lord.

You, too, might feel like an unlikely witness...yet God is calling you. He wants to reveal himself both to you and through you.

Yes, even you.

The Empty Tomb

There is another thing that's consistent among all four Gospels...

They differ on what exactly happens when the women arrived at the tomb. In Matthew's Gospel, for instance, an angel appears and speaks to them. In John's gospel Mary Magdalen simply sees the stone rolled back and runs to tell the other disciples.  Regardless of the specifics of the event, all the Gospels agree on one thing: the tomb was empty.

Jesus, at least initially, was nowhere to be found.

We may, at times, find ourselves in the same place in our own spiritual lives. We may ask the question: "Where is Jesus in all of this? Where has he gone?"

Like the disciples, sometimes the most important moments in our own spiritual awakening are moments of chaos, of doubt, of questioning. Imagine the disciples on that Easter morning: on Friday, the saw their best friend--their teacher, their messiah--die on the cross. They saw him laid in that tomb.

On Sunday, he's gone.

What does this mean? Like us, they initially struggle to understand what God is doing. Yet they remain people of hope. After witnessing the horror of the Lord's death on Good Friday, they could have simply walked away...but, instead, on Sunday morning the women came out early to visit the tomb.

They have no idea what's going to happen. They don't know what God has in store for them. Yet they still have hope: hope enough to cling to Jesus, even though they believe that he's dead. Deep down, their hearts tell them that God's plan is bigger than simply death and pain.

It's important for us, too, to remember that God's plan and purpose for our life is bigger than whatever difficulty we find ourselves in at the present moment. The question is: are we willing, like the women in the Gospel to persevere in our faith and our hope?

If they given up, they would have never witnessed the glory of the Risen Lord.

Finding the 'Empty Tomb' in Our Lives

Consider where that 'empty tomb' might be in your own life.

Finding our own 'empty tomb' can be extremely difficult because it involves facing uncertainty, being willing to face the chaotic and complicated things going on in our lives. It requires us to be honest about where we are in our life, the reality of our situation. The women in the Gospel accounts didn't flee from the truth. They didn't deny that Good Friday had happened. They didn't deny that the Lord had died.

Instead, they went out to the tomb.

Think of how painful it must have been to make that walk...to go out to the place where they thought that they would see a cold, sealed tomb with the body of the Lord inside. Yet they made the journey in hope, in faith and in love. They knew that when they got there they would be reminded of the things that they had witnessed on Calvary.

Of course they were in for a surprise. They found something that they never expected. The stone was rolled away, the Lord's body was gone. Eventually they understood the good news in all of this...they even came face-to-face with the Lord himself.

Progress in our spiritual life doesn't come through escapism. Rather it comes when we are willing to look at who we are and where we are in the light of Truth. We aren't called to flee from reality into spirituality...actually the opposite is true: our spiritual life is supposed to help us to see reality in a new way so that we can face up to the challenges of daily life with greater faith, hope and love.

That progress usually starts with facing up to the reality of the tomb.

Where the places in our own lives where God doesn't seem to be present? What areas of our spiritual lives that seem dead or abandoned?

If we're willing to face up to those realities, we will begin to see places where God might be starting to move in our lives. We will find that if we embrace the truth and everything that this involves--both the wonderful and the painful--that ultimately the Truth will embrace us.

Ultimately, will find the Risen Lord and the power of his Resurrection in our own lives.

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