The empty tomb is both a promise and a threat. It reminds us that death could not contain the Living Lord, that He is risen. At the same time, the empty tomb is not a proof of the Resurrection. It might be possible, as the Disciples at first feared, that the tomb had been robbed, and the dead body of the Lord removed. The empty tomb is a symbol of absence, a reminder that the body of Jesus, the physical presence of the Lord, is gone from the tomb.
The empty tomb is an image of the way in which the Christian Faith tells the truth about life. For the Christian, life is neither all joy nor all sorrow, but a mixture of both. Tolstoy, the great Russian writer (and a devout Orthodox Christian) said: "Pure and complete sorrow is as impossible as pure and complete joy." Our faith in Christ is tinged with doubt, as suffering with Christ carried the promise of release.
Now we have celebrated with joy Easter Day, we continue with the long haul in which we have moments of doubt, unfulfilled expectations, and the routine of day to day life. These are as much part of life for us as the joyful shouts of "Christ Is Risen!" "He is risen indeed! Alleluia!" The scripture readings at daily Mass for these coming weeks are a strong reminder of this.
In this period after Easter, we prepare ourselves for the long journey towards the fullness of the Kingdom which Christ has won for us in His death and resurrection. Along the way we will find echoes of Easter joy to sustain us; there is meaning in the waters of baptism for the whole of life, living food in bread and wine, in the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist to strengthen us, and renewing gifts of the Holy Spirit to help us explore the mystery of salvation.
People sometimes ask about what happens to us after death. We may ask the same question ourselves. St Paul (1 Cor 15) suggests that it becomes a tangible body which retains something recognizable from its earlier identity, but it is also a transformed body that glows with the radiance of Christ's glory. As the Risen Christ is, so are we becoming. The resurrection life that God offers us is not about the abolition of pain, but about new understanding in which our vulnerability becomes the vehicle of our healing.
The reading of St Peter's sermon at Pentecost in the Book of Acts reveals the early Christian community at its most joyful. Here is the shape of the ideal Church - studying the Scriptures, enjoying each other's fellowship, celebrating the Eucharist and being constant in prayer. Perhaps we should engage more strongly at St George's in this early Christian example of faith. Christians have been called an "Easter People" on a journey towards fullness.
It is time we really started to put this belief into actual practice following the example of St Thomas, turning doubt into faith.
With my blessing and continued good wishes for a Happy Easter.
Your priest and friend.
page last updated 31 MARCH 2002