On Friday evening, the beginning of Passover, Jewish households throughout the world gathered at table and kindled light, and then the question was asked: “Why is this night different from all other nights?” The response given to the inquiry was: “This night is different from all other nights because before this night we were slaves unto Pharaoh in Egypt. However, this night we are free men and women because the Eternal, our God, brought us forth from that bondage.”
In similar fashion, this morning I believe in Christian households throughout the world the question that ought to be asked is: “Why is this morning different from all other mornings?” The answer to this question is found in the night just spent “when things of heaven were wed to earth, and divine to the human.” This line of the Exultet—the Easter Proclamation—and the Paschal, that is, Passover candle that stands in the midst of this table gathering, announces to you and me the answer we seek. It manifests—shows forth—“the one Morning Star who never sets … Jesus Christ … who coming back from death’s domain, has shed his peaceful light on humanity.”
Nonetheless, such an answer may leave you and me scratching our heads, especially since humanity’s Lenten journey has been filled with anything but peaceful light! Instead we have faced on a daily basis “man’s inhumanity to man” and the inconceivable barrage of bombs, bullets and their accompanying death and destruction on the innocents of our human family. Indeed, entire villages and cities have become modern-day tombs. Yet, this particular morning, our Gospel reading invites you and me to come to the tomb as we look for answers as did Mary Magdalene and the other holy women and men who would venture there.
Sisters and brothers, it is dawn and the first rays of morning light are being cast forth from the heavens. Silently, attentively, but disregarded, the women who had faithfully followed Jesus from Galilee have noted the place of burial so they could return after the Sabbath and complete the burial rites. They are going to do what should be done according to the Jewish funeral ritual. They are also seeking to deal with their grief and the shock of the violence they encountered on Friday as they watched both civil and religious authorities, along with public opinion, condemn their friend to the gallows and the ignominious wood of the cross. No stone is going to stop their determination, and lo and behold they find the stone rolled away.
Unfortunately, the tomb is empty! What kind of sick joke is being played? The women are disoriented and feel helpless. As they scan the tomb in their questioning and disbelief, “two men in dazzling garments appeared to them.” They answer the women’s questions with a single question: “Why do you seek the living one among the dead?” “Remember …”
“Remember … he is not here, but has been raised from the dead.” They leave to go and confirm the facts with others who had accompanied them. Some dismiss their story as overactive imaginations, but Peter gets up and runs to the tomb. He sees the burial cloths and then observes the separate cloth that had covered his head rolled up. In his mind, he is playing over the Transfiguration scene that had occurred 40 days ago. And like then, he returns home trying to understand what had been seen and heard.
And that is what you and I do as well this morning, brothers and sisters, we are trying to understand what really makes this morning different from all others when our world still engages in violent acts and senseless deaths? As I have been asked many times since the Russian invasion of the Ukraine—why does God allow this to happen? Why can’t it be stopped?
Yet, it is in the midst of great tragedy that the resurrection of Jesus not only represents hope in the midst of tragedy but also the transformation of physical and spiritual death to life. It is in this moment that you and I come face to face with the ultimate answer to our question about the difference of this morning in relation to all other mornings … FAITH IN JESUS … THE RISEN LORD JESUS!
However, the Gospels do not ground our faith in empty tombs or discarded burial cloths. As one reads in the Acts of the Apostles, “We are witnesses of all that he did.” And that is where our faith meets the road—as is heard of in the Easter afternoon Gospel of the Road to Emmaus. After the two disciples’ encounter with the Risen Jesus, they couldn’t just sit back, but raced back to other disciples to strengthen them in their belief in Jesus. Sisters and brothers, how do you and I help others to believe in Jesus? We proclaim that this morning makes a world of difference! That like a little yeast it can produce a great result. How then is this difference seen in the testimony of our own lives?