The Empty Tomb:
SHATTERING THE ILLUSIONS OF DEATH
John 20: 1-9 (RSV)
The Scriptures dramatize his proofs of love, the great saving deeds, Magnalia Dei. Not enough! He guides them, us, with the Ten Commandments, proverbs, and the prophets. Not enough! He fulfills promises, and continues to make promises. “I will create new heavens and a new earth!” (Isaiah 66:22). “See, I am making everything new! (Rev. 21:5). Passé is the Eden of Adam and Eve. Not enough!
There have been people who have recognized him as designer of the universe and loving Parent of all and have lived according to his will. There are and will be such persons of good will. But there are many who have departed from him to worship idols of wealth, power, and illusions. Many have yet to experience his divine presence, many want proofs that he exists.
God’s attitude is to want all and have all, be and move in all. He does not demand clear and distinct, rational and scientific proofs that he exists. He asks for simple creedal faith that enables one to proclaim: “I believe in God!” Easier said than done? He has decided to prove himself. So God devised a plan, a strategy cum tactics He tells a story, the Jesus Story.
He sent his Son Jesus to make his presence felt in concrete historical terms in various areas of personal and social life. So Jesus came, had first to prove he was a human being. That was easy. Then, that he was sent by God. A bit difficult, this. His teachings, his proclamation of the Kingdom begun, his miracles, were clear proof; only that scribes and Pharisees and Roman imperial powers judged these to be subversive.
All because he preached good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind, liberty to the oppressed (Luke 4:18). Because he broke Sabbath ordinances, loved women, and treated them well. And because he called oppressive elites hypocrites and brood of vipers. He scandalized the temple priests with a hint of a new temple of spirit and truth and life. Still not enough!
And so the final proof had to be as metaphysical, epistemological, ethical as can be, and more. Divine proof as only God can give, that Jesus is the Christ and Son of God. "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die,” Jesus said to Martha. Do we believe this? Many say, “Yes!” “Hhhmmm,” mumble many. Or say, “Not yet.” Words are not enough?
The final proof: Death had to be conquered and made a door to everlasting life. The Resurrection of Jesus from the dead had to be, to once and for all prove that he indeed is the Son of God, and is God who can neither deceive nor be deceived and so is worthy of one’s total surrender to him and his will for the glory of God and humanness of neighbor. So he ministered, suffered and died, and rose from the dead by his own power. Indeed, God loves the world; gives grace that people may believe.
Now, to all who believe there is a command underlying the miraculous resurrection of Jesus. It is the command implicit in every miracle performed by Jesus. It is a Eucharistic command: “Do this in memory of me!” As the risen Lord shattered the illusions of Mary and John first, and Peter and the other apostles and disciples later, that death had silenced the Word-made-Flesh, and confirmed them on the side of life, so too we who believe are called to conquer death and all its forms.
Enabled by the resurrection, we are called to be always on the side of life; to summon forth to life of grace captives of personal sin and victims of the illusions of the idols of wealth and power, scientism and dogma; to summon forth people power in the risen Lord against structures of injustice, exploitation and oppression in society to alternative forms of the Kingdom of God; to protect the unborn and to care for creation. To renew ourselves and be holy because God is holy.
The resurrection of Jesus confirms believers in hope. As it was in ages past, so, too, today. Because we are a forgetful people, the Jesus story must be told and re-enacted again and again, as “play, symbol, and festival” (Hans Georg Gadamer) for the sake of believers and non-believers alike, to latch on firmly to liberative thinking, doing, and being of every person. The power of the resurrection enables us to know God, to love him, and serve him, to be happy with him on earth and in heaven.
The Lord is risen! Do you believe this?
---Rev. Fr. Francisco R. Albano
Ilagan, Isabela, Philippines