Empty Tombs.

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If I close my eyes, I can clearly see the mausoleum where my mom is buried. No matter what time of year it is, I always see it as summer. Her tomb is on the outside of the building facing a large open field and a small wood and creek beyond. The face of her tomb is a beautiful marble or some other stone. 

My dad always does a good job keeping a small floral arrangement that matches the season in the flower vase that sits on the front of her tomb. Of course when I imagine it, it is always the same floral arrangement. In my mind’s eye, it is the one we placed on her tomb the day we placed her remains inside. I would say that I will always see those same flowers on my mothers tomb, but I don’t believe that. 

What I do believe is that there will come a time when those flowers will no longer be necessary. There will come a time when the nameplate on the front of the tomb will be inaccurate. There will come a time when my mom no longer lays in that tomb. I believe Jesus Christ will raise my mom from the dead. I believe at sometime in the future her tomb will be empty just like Jesus’ tomb. 

We are getting ready to celebrate Easter this Sunday when we stand and proclaim that death is not the end. On Easter we ardently proclaim from the rooftops that Jesus has risen from the dead and death is conquered. Mary of Magdala and the Disciples found an empty tomb, and in short order they are going to find a resurrected Lord. Alleluia! 

But the good news doesn’t end there. Yes, Jesus’ tomb was and is empty. Jesus is raised from the dead. Scripture tells us that he is just the first of those who will be raised. Jesus’ death and resurrection means that when we die, we too will be raised. Praise be to God!

St. Paul says it like this in 1 Corinthians, “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead came also through a human being. For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order: Christ the firstfruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ…”

Yes I when I close my eyes, I can see how my mom’s tomb is today. When Jesus comes again, her tomb will be empty just as all of ours will be by the grace of God. 

Live It: On Easter Sunday go outside and say out loud (shout, if you dare), “Alleluia! The tomb is empty! Jesus is risen! Alleluia!” 

Sunday Readings for April 12th, 2020.

As she wept.

April 1st Easter Sunday Readings. 

Have you ever cried, almost, against your will? My mom is fighting cancer and I’ll never tom-pumford-254867-unsplashforget when I told my children. I was fine. I wasn’t worried. When I told them they were understandably scared. I reassured them and comforted them. I was fine. Then, I tried to explain to them how I was feeling. I though sharing how “fine” I was would help fill them with hope too. I started to say, “And daddy is feeling…” and I burst into tears – huge, gloppy, free flowing tears. I sobbed-cried before I could stop myself. I didn’t know I was feeling this way until I started to cry.

In John’s gospel, we hear about the moment the empty tomb is discovered. Mary of Magdala sees the stone rolled away and goes and gets Peter and the Disciple whom Jesus loved. They enter. The gospel says that the Beloved Disciple saw and believed, but they still didn’t understand and returned home.

andreas-wagner-532692-unsplashMary stayed and wept. I think that is a beautiful moment. Mary is mourning the death of her friend, her leader, her teacher. God uses that sadness and emotion to do a great thing. Only because Mary lingered and wept did she see the two angels and eventually Jesus himself.

I think sometimes we are ashamed of our emotional response to spiritual or liturgical moments. We want to be clear-eyed and sober in our faithful prayer (and that is a good thing). Yet, at times God can use every aspect of us, even our emotions to help us to grow closer.

John’s account of the empty tomb is a story about Mary of Magdala’s transformation from follower of a teacher to believer in the resurrected, death-destroying, Jesus. She cries because she is mourning the loss of the way things were, the wonderful life of following Jesus. Yet God has even more in store for her.

At the completion of this story, after Mary has come to let go of her former way of knowing Jesus and accepted Jesus resurrected, Jesus sends Mary to go and share this good news with the disciples. Mary becomes the apostles to the Apostles. Apostle means one who is sent. Jesus sends Mary to the disciples who will go out into the world to share the good news that Jesus has risen from the dead and death is conquered forever.

This Easter it does us good to think about the areas of our life that need transformation. Where do we need to more fully believe that Jesus has risen. What tears do we need to shed for our old way of living so that we can enter more fully into the reality of Jesus’ resurrection? How are we going to draw near and hear Jesus say our name?

Live It:
Go to church sometime during Holy Week when you normally wouldn’t. Maybe that means attending an extra Mass or service Thursday, Friday, or Saturday. Maybe that means going alone to the church to pray. Let God into your brokenness, your biggest loss, the place you wish you could instantly fix. Let Jesus call you by name.

Thunder Stolen.

April 30th Sunday Readings.

Have you ever had someone steal your thunder? It happens when you have something CCPYfEmUkAA8PBr.jpggood or amazing to share and then someone else steps in first with their news or follows your story with an even better story. Nobody likes getting their thunder stolen, but it is just part of life. In the gospel Sunday we have maybe the worst stolen thunder moment of all time.

The Sunday after Jesus dies on the cross on Friday, two of his disciples are leaving Jerusalem to return to their home in the town of Emmaus. On the way they meet a stranger who opens scripture for them and explains Jesus’ death and resurrection. When the disciples arrive at their home, they invite the stranger in for dinner. When he blesses and breaks bread, their eyes are opened, they realize he is Jesus, and then he vanishes. The two disciples encountered the resurrected Jesus Christ. Wow.

So amazed by their experience, they immediately leave Emmaus and head back to Jerusalem to tell their fellow disciples that Jesus has risen from the dead. I can only imagine their excitement with each step towards their friends. If it was me, I would have rehearsed what I was going to say to everyone. It would start like this, “You guys are never going to believe this and you probably want to sit down, because this is going to blow your mind…”

Then imagine walking in and before you can even start your friends blurt out, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!” Scripture doesn’t record what they immediately said next or what they were thinking, but my best guesses are, “Well, good for you!” or “Us too! Meh.”

What scripture does say is that the two recounted what had taken place along the way and how they encountered Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Even if this may look like the most epic stolen thunder moment in all human history, in reality, the two share in the joy of their friends and fellow disciples in realizing that though Jesus died, he lives. The news of encountering Jesus overcomes any and all human jealousy or hurt in this moment.

With news this good, there is no stolen thunder or one-upping the other, simply shared joy.

Yet, most of the time we are scare or intimidated to share when we’ve had a close moment with Jesus. “What will people think?” But the reality is that if the person you are sharing your experience with knows Jesus too, or if they really love you well, they won’t be upset or jealous or feel badly, they will share your joy.

In this Easter season, we need to share our joy more often. We need to be over joyed when someone shares good news with us. There is no such thing as stolen thunder with news this good.

LIVE IT:
Think of the person who loves you the most. Got it? Now make a plan to do one of two things: 1) tell them about how you encountered Jesus this Lent/Easter, or 2) ask them how they encountered Jesus this Lent/Easter. Then rejoice because Jesus lives!

Run like you’re being chased.

April 16th Easter Sunday Readings.

“Run like you’re being chased!” was a common mantra barked out by my high school baseball coaches. We used to run conditioning laps during the beginning of the season. When shaming us for running “like we had a piano on our backs” didn’t Runningmotivate us sufficiently, our coaches would try to move us with this phrase.

A couple summers ago, I ran my first 5k. I wasn’t being chased. I wasn’t running from anything. Actually I think I was running for something. I wouldn’t say I was running for fun, but maybe for the experience or for my wife because she wanted us to run together. I believe most of my friends who are big runners run for something as opposed to running from something.

In our Gospel, this Easter Sunday, we read the first moments when the disciples discovered that Jesus wasn’t in his tomb. In John’s gospel, Mary of Magdala, when she saw that the tomb was empty and the stone had been rolled away, ran to tell Peter and the beloved disciple. Then Peter and the beloved disciple both ran to the tomb. Mary, Peter and the beloved disciple all ran towards something. Why? What would motivate someone to run to somewhere or someone.

I think it was love. I think they loved Jesus Christ (though imperfectly like us), and they were loved by Jesus Christ (perfectly). I think we run toward the people or things we love.

I don’t know about you, but I want to run towards Jesus Christ. I want to run towards resurrection. I want to run towards ever lasting joy and perfect bliss in the arms of a God who loves me unconditionally. But sometimes, I run away.

This Easter can’t be just an end to Lent. This Easter isn’t just the relief of getting to do the things we gave up or stopping the things we began this Lent. This Easter, I want to continue to run towards Jesus, to the empty tomb, to a soul saved. Where are you running?

LIVE IT:
Running always starts with a decision. Decide now that this Easter is going to be different. Decided now that it won’t be a return to life before Lent, but a new celebration of Joy and Gratitude in the resurrection of Easter.