To each and everyone who reads these words, I offer best wishes for peace and happiness for this Easter 2004. In the midst of this season, I hope that you will have both the time and the interest to sit down and ponder the real message of this celebration.
In Johns gospel we read, 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 dont know where they put him. So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial clothes there, but did not go in.
"When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial clothes there, and the cloth that had covered his head not with the burial cloths, but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scriptures that he had to rise from the dead."
In the first reading on Easter Sunday, Peter shares his perception of the event: "We are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree. This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead."
This year the message seems to mean more for me. Perhaps that is because I just recently heard of the death of two of my friends of many years. In the midst of hearing the message I had two separate and distinct reactions. The first was a feeling of sorrow at the loss of these two friends. One day they were here and we were together; the next day they were gone and we were separated. The second was a sense that they were now in heaven free from the pain of their illnesses and with the Lord. This sense brought peace.
The reason that I could sense them in heaven was and is the message of these two readings of Easter. They were like Peter and the other disciple. They had in their lives come to the tomb. They had looked in and believed that Jesus had risen. They also were like Peter and the others in that they were believers who became his witnesses and were commissioned to preach to the people and testify by their lives that Jesus is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. Like Peter and the other disciples, they too were taken into the kingdom. The real message of Easter is just that.
You and I have also been given, and are constantly being given, the opportunity to come to the tomb and look inside and believe that Jesus is risen; each of us is being invited to share the message with all those around us that Jesus is the One appointed as judge of the living and the dead, and he is our Savior. Because of the resurrection of Jesus we are also promised a place with him in his kingdom.
This Easter season let us rejoice and be glad that all of this is true for each of us.