04 April 2015

THE TOMB WAS EMPTY

EASTER SUNDAY

readings for the vigil
genesis 1:1—2:2; genesis 22:1-18; exodus 14:15—15:1; isaiah 54:5-14; isaiah 55:1-11; baruch 3:9-15, 32—4:4; ezekiel 36:16-28
romans 6:3-11; mark 16:1-7

readings for the eucharist during the day
acts 10:34a, 37-43; colossians 3:1-4 or 1 corinthians 5:6b-8; john 20:1-9

little philip, born with down’s syndrome, attended a third-grade sunday-school class. 
the sunday after easter, the teacher brought l’eggs containers, which look like large eggs, gave the children one each, and told them to find a symbol for new life and put it in the container. after running around, the students returned to the classroom and placed the containers on the table. the teacher began to open them. after each one, whether a flower, butterfly, or leaf, the class would ooh and ahh.
then she opened one which was empty. the children exclaimed: «that’s stupid. that’s not fair. somebody didn’t do their assignment.»
philip spoke up: «that’s mine.» a student retorted: «philip, you don’t ever do things right! there’s nothing there!»
philip insisted: «i did so do it. it is empty. the tomb was empty!»

the tomb was empty! but why was the tomb empty?
the jewish authorities claimed JESUS’ disciples stole his body (matthew 28:11-15). now that’s a dubious claim on several counts: the authorities had asked for guards precisely to prevent the stealing; it was unlikely that eleven frightened men, who fled during the arrest and crucifixion, could overpower the guards at the tomb; it was even more unlikely that a dead and stolen body could effect such a dramatic transformation in the people accused of stealing the body… they held their belief that he had risen despite persecution and death. 
all these point to the authenticity of the christian belief that the tomb was empty because JESUS «has been raised». and the empty tomb is a symbol of the new life that the risen JESUS brings… as little philip recognized. 

philip died a few months after this incident. at his funeral, the teacher and students of his sunday-school class did not place flowers on his coffin; they placed empty l’eggs containers! 
the empty tomb is also a foretaste of the day when all tombs will be empty, and we will be raised from the dead to the fullness of life. 
as we look forward to that day, may you and i empty our lives of everything that is «lifeless» within us, and all that prevents us from living full and authentic lives.