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The Tomb is Empty and Joy Floods the Heart

By Deacon Keith Fournier
April 2nd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The tomb is empty. Death could not contain the One who poured Himself out in Love. It fills me with real Joy - the kind which comes from a living encounter with the Risen Jesus Christ. That encounter is the heart of the Christian faith. The light which flows from that once dark cave now fills the entire world with hope. That includes my own personal world, the world within my heart, which has been filled with mourning the loss of my mother. Easter makes it all make sense and opens up the portal of hope.

VALRICO, FL (Catholic Online) - I write from a beautiful place called Valrico, Florida where my wife and I are staying with my younger brother, his wife and their two children. We are here to pick up the mortal remains of my mother for a funeral Mass and internment at my home parish, St. Stephen, Martyr, in Our Lady Queen Mausoleum Garden. It is Easter Monday.

The readings for the Mass of Easter Monday focused me on the greatest gift of all, the living faith which comes from the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The tomb is empty. Death could not contain the One who poured Himself out in Love. It fills me with real Joy - the kind which comes from a living encounter with the Risen Jesus Christ. That encounter is the heart of the Christian faith.

The light which flows from that once dark cave now fills the entire world with hope. That includes my own personal world, the world within my heart, which has been filled with mourning the loss of my mother. Easter makes it all make sense and opens up the portal of hope.

The last enemy death has been defeated, hell has been conquered, the captives have been liberated, love has triumphed and heavens gates have been opened wide. He is Alive and all those who stand at the Altar of the Cross, believing in His promise, shall live forever in Him.

There is a glorified Resurrected Savior, now seated at the right hand of the Father, holding the place He has prepared for each of us. His wounds are beautiful now, streaming the light of grace upon an earth being reborn, revealing the depth of His love and the Hope that springs eternal. Through taking on our very humanity, He did for us what we could never have done for ourselves.

He who knew no sin (2 Cor 5:21) walked in the perfect obedience of the Son and bridged the gap between the Father and the sons and daughters who had rejected His invitation to communion. He did this through the free voluntary gift of His own Body on the altar of the Cross. And now, as we sang in Masses Churches throughout the world this past weekend, He lives no more to die!

Through His passion, His obedience unto death, and His Resurrection, He welcomes us into the very inner life of the Trinity. In Him we make our home in God. In His sacred humanity He transforms the entire human experience. He invites us to live differently and shows us the path to peace, this way of the fullness of life now and eternal glory in the new world to come.

The veil of the tabernacle has been torn open. His flesh has become the bridge between heaven and earth. He has opened eternity to all who were bound by the chains of time. He has clothed in glorious freedom those once wrapped in the grave clothes of death. He has given eternal purpose to the sheep who had wandered aimlessly in empty self pursuits.

The whole world, created through Him, is now being re-created in Him. We can see our lives differently as we open ourselves to His Spirit and allow Him to replace our finite vision with the eyes of eternal perspective. Our feet become shod with the hope of the Good News as we walk the journey of faith following in His train.

His redemptive mission continues through us to a world waiting to be born anew. He walks through time in His Body on earth, His church; the world reconciled. He invites all men and women to follow Him. For these who are born again through the waters of Baptism every tomorrow is filled with hope.

We can find the purpose of eternity revealed in the temporal realities of every today. The real stuff of our mundane daily lives becomes the ingredients of our own sanctification; the materials out of which the new creation is fashioned anew around us.

The materials have not changed; we have, because He lives now in us and we in Him. There is nothing we face alone, no tomorrow that is not redeemed and made new in the timeless One, who, out of endless, eternal, unquenchable love, came into time to redeem and transform it.

Life for a Christian is not circular but linear. It is always moving forward to fulfillment in Him. There is a beginning - and an end - which is but a new beginning in the One who is Himself both the Beginning and the End. Time unfolds into eternity in Him who has entered time and transformed it by His life, death and Resurrection.

That Glorious Day, understood by the Church as the first day of the new creation, that Day that the early Christians called the Eighth Day; is now upon us. It is the portal to eternity. He is the firstborn, the first-fruits of a new creation and is making all things new now, within us and around us.

The ground upon which He breathed and formed our first brother Adam, the ground upon which He walked and into which they placed His sacred, lifeless Body, has opened wide. It could not contain Him. He Rose victorious from the dead! Be not afraid! He now cries out causing the stones to burst forth in our own lives.

Be gone! He commands as he shines the light that dispels all the darkness! "Now since the children share in blood and flesh, he likewise shared in them, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery all their life. (Hebrews 2:14-15)".

Life reigns. Death dies, dealt a fatal blow at the hands of the Warrior of love. Through sin, death came into the world, and now through the Sinless One it has been vanquished. No longer an enemy it is a friend, an ally, to those who live their lives in the One who has been raised. No longer an end it becomes a new beginning for all who hide their lives in His wounded side and live their lives forever joined to Him. Nothing can separate us from that Love incarnated in the Crucified, Risen Son of the True and Living God.

When we embrace the implications of the empty tomb we begin to live in eternity, even now. We understand that He holds the future - our future and the future of this whole world that He still loves- in those wounded, glorified hands.

The events that we remember and celebrate during these Holy Days provide a lens, a hermeneutic of meaning for everything that happens in our daily lives. Even suffering and loss have beauty and irreplaceable value - redemptive, life transforming value- when we choose to follow the One who has been raised. The world is bathed in the newness of Easter. We have Been Set Free from the Chains of Death and Hope fills the World. 

Difficulties,stress,loss and all of those experiences which at first glance seem to cause us to respond with anything but joy, can be transformed in the life of a believer and actually become its very source.St. Paul told the early Christians to - "Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus." ( 1 Thes.5: 16 - 24))

The pain, hurt, fear, worry, and that awful killer on the loose in our modern mania, stress, need not distract us from the source of True Joy, Jesus Christ Risen from the dead! It is in times like this that I especially thank God for the great gift of the liturgical year. Our mother the Church invites us to enter into the deepest mysteries of the faith by living them liturgically. The Feasts we celebrate and the preparation for them are an invitation to participate,even now, in the life to come. So it is with Easter, our fifty day celebration. 

Christian joy is not rooted in the circumstances and struggles of our daily lives. It is not taken away by the loss of one whom we love, because Love has triumphed. Because, Love is stronger than death. Christian Joy finds its root in the relationship we now have in and through Jesus Christ, with the Father, in the Holy Spirit. We rejoice  because the Lord has been raised and is always near. 

One of the Psalms we regularly chant in the Liturgy of the Hours reminds us of the truth, "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted, saves those whose spirit is crushed. Many are the troubles of the just, but the LORD delivers from them all." (Psalm 34:19,20)

The Church as mother and teacher calls us to celebrate Easter not only for the eight days of the Octave but continues on for fifty days! Because Jesus has been raised we can live differently. The way of joy passes through the path of self emptying, the way of humility made fully real in the Crosee and passes through the empty tomb into New Life by the grace of the Resurrection. The way to joy is through self emptying love.

This lifestyle change should characterize Christians. It is why, before they were called Christians, they were referred to as "the Way" (See, e.g., Acts 22:4). By living our lives in the Risen Lord we can find true Joy.  We have heard the Gospel account when John told the crowds, "I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." (Luke 3) We have received that Baptism, and with it all the grace we need to respond to the invitation to live in the power of the Resurrection.

We can find genuine happiness, beginning today, no matter what our circumstances. That is because the Source of our happiness does not derive from our circumstances but Rose from that Tomb! It is not something but Some-One. The One who has saved us and set us free to live a new way of life now, in Him.

The Apostle Paul lived an arduous life of discipleship. He suffered physically, relationally and spiritually. Yet, he was a man of this kind of joy. He told the Philippians: "Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." (Phil. 4:4-6)

During our days of Easter we can find the happiness of heaven - beginning right here on earth. St. Josemaria Escriva, a Saint of our own time who teaches us that the universal call to holiness embraces every vocation and state in life, once wrote, "I am every day more convinced that happiness in Heaven is for those who know how to be happy on earth." (The Forge, 1005) He has been raised and we can be filled with Easter Joy.

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