Keys to understanding the mystery of faith

Given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde at the taping of the TV Easter Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

The place - the question - the response: These three aspects taken from today's Gospel account aid us in reflecting on the central mystery of our Christian faith: the Dying and Rising of Jesus Christ, so intentionally relived as we take part in this Eucharistic Sacrifice with great joy and solemnity on this Easter morning. The place is the empty tomb, the question is the one posed to the women by the two men in dazzling garments, "Why do you seek the living among the dead?" The response, immediately made by the same two men, stated, "He is not here, but he has been raised. …"

A tomb is a place of darkness, of death and of grief. But the singular feature of the tomb on that first Easter morning was the fact that it was empty! This empty tomb proclaimed something radically new, unique, hopeful!

The question posed to the women, who had come to anoint the dead body of Jesus Christ, stated that they were looking for Jesus in the wrong place. He had conquered evil, sin, suffering and death itself, and now wanted them and all His disciples to share in His victory. The response, made by the two men to the women, proclaimed the good news of Easter: "He has been raised!" So, the women needed to find Him, not here in this empty tomb, but in His Word, in His Sacraments, in His Church, in the beauty of the universe which He created, in His faithful disciples. Yes, find Him where there is real life, for He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life!

How familiar we are with empty tombs: The empty tombs we enter are those areas in our personal lives where we struggle with darkness, doubt, selfishness, and sinfulness. The empty tombs we enter are also the situations and circumstances so prevalent in our culture, including the tyranny of relativism, the denial of objective truth, and the abandonment of an authentic dependence on God. In these tombs, we encounter such darkness, such grief, almost desperation.

So, in our needs, whatever they may be, we go looking for the Savior. But are we looking in the wrong places? He is not dead, nor is He distant from us. He has overcome all that is symbolized by the tomb. It is empty precisely to prove His victory - and ours in Him.

Therefore, hearing again the good news - "He is not here in the empty tomb because He is now risen!" - we go to seek Him among the living! His Word is self-giving and symbolized by the Paschal Candle. His Word gives us the light of truth and the warmth of divine mercy.

His presence in each of the Sacraments is also life-giving, life restoring, life increasing and His unique Presence in the Eucharist nourishes us and builds us up in unity with His Church. Dwelling within us, He enables us to be witnesses in daily life, so that we can draw others to Him, the One Savior of the world! Soon, we shall be sprinkled with holy water, having renewed our Baptismal Promises. Then, having recommitted ourselves to the Risen Lord Jesus, we can go forth to announce to everyone the good news of the Savior's triumph over evil, sin, suffering and death, and invite everyone to find in Him their Lord and Savior, and to be with Him and all His other disciples within the Church He has founded.

Yes, the empty tomb signifying Christ's ultimate victory over evil, sin, suffering and death, the question asking if we are looking for the Lord in the wrong places, and the response proclaiming that He is risen, and so He is not in the tomb, but is present among us: These three aspects not only aid our reflection this Easter morning, but empower us to proclaim with Saint Augustine: We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song!"

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016