For Catholics and Christians throughout the world, true hope is found in the Resurrection of Jesus as depicted in this stained glass image in St. Mary of the Lake Church, Lakewood.
For Catholics and Christians throughout the world, true hope is found in the Resurrection of Jesus as depicted in this stained glass image in St. Mary of the Lake Church, Lakewood.
Gospel Reflection for Easter Sunday, April 12, 2020

For many people it can be very difficult to find hope. We can get caught up in our own darkness, suffering, challenges and difficulties that a light at the end of the tunnel feels more like an on-coming train than a hope to chase after.

While we all anxiously await the “all-clear” when we can get back to our regular routines, we all know in our hearts that we are looking at a new normal, and not the status quo antes. This is the journey of life. We have been through this before. We will go through it again. We will recover.

Coming through the Paschal Triduum was particularly poignant this year as we saw Jesus betrayed, abandoned, denied and forsaken. A deep sense of loneliness must certainly have enveloped him through those difficult hours. Once we have come through the rapid pace and sheer terror of Holy Thursday and Good Friday, Holy Saturday is a pointed day of longing, settling and resignation. We can almost see the classical stages of grief unfolding as we moved through these past several days.

We come to the shock of Sunday morning, expecting more of the same – more sadness, more grief and more uncertainty about what is to come. And then, the tomb is empty. What did the disciples, family and other followers of Jesus expect next?

At first the disciples, coming to understand that Jesus is not dead but miraculously alive, must have thought that things would be as they had been. The apostles, and probably no one more so than Mary Magdalene, expected that everything would be as before.

At first, all they know is that the tomb was empty. This stark truth set them in all sorts of directions. They heard the teaching of Jesus that the Son of Man would rise from the dead. They were present for the raising of Lazarus from the tomb just a short time earlier. They had come to recognize that Jesus is the Messiah, even going so far as to ponder whether or not he was somehow divine – as in the true Son of God. Yet, when the time came to face the reality, they were unsure.

Staring into the abyss of an empty tomb, the so-called Disciple-Jesus-Loved is the only one, who “saw and believed.” Peter, impetuous and determined, seems emotionless and pondering. Mary Magdalene still believed that someone had stolen the body of Jesus.

Such is the way of belief. Two people, even two people from the same household, can look at an experience, an encounter, or an event and see, completely different things. One, through the eyes of faith, might see the power of God at work in the world; the other sees only randomness, coincidence or perhaps even nothing at all.

We must keep our eyes open and our hearts attune to the many and varied ways that God desires to speak with us in our lives. Our fear of letting go and allowing God to act as God must act for the coming of his kingdom gets in the way of our ability to experience faith to its fullest. Too many people like Mary Magdalene can’t see it, or like Peter, don’t know what to make of it. We need to be more like the beloved who can see the Lord in the emptiness, darkness and chaos of the world.

There are many, perhaps too many, pundits opining about how the world is going to be totally different when we come out of our quarantine and return to work, school and socializing with our families. They all have one thing in common – besides their not knowing any more than the rest of us what life will look like in six months – that they all impose their own dream of the idyllic world into their views.

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ reminds us over and over again that God always awes us, and shocks us into new ways of thinking and living. One of the prayers in the Funeral Liturgy is that “life is changed, not ended.” The disciples of Jesus learned this in new and startling ways on Easter and the 40 days that followed prior to the Ascension.

We who know that the Lord always writes anew, know this as well. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the deepest source of hope and promise that we have as disciples. We live in hope for, as St. John Paul II reminded us, “We are an Easter people, and Alleluia is our song.”

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.