THE LORD IS RISEN! ALLELUIA!
The death of Jesus on the cross was the ultimate sacrifice offered to the Father: Jesus both as the High Priest offering the sacrifice and the Victim being offered. The Father accepted, sanctified and transformed that sacrifice into New Life by raising His Son from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus means that his sacrifice was not in vain. The Father received the sacrifice and gave it back to Christ and to us glorified.
The empty tomb was not and will never be the proof of the Resurrection. It was only a sign that Jesus was risen from the dead. The Resurrection was beyond history and beyond the realm of empirical science. Since no one was there at the very moment when Christ rose from the tomb, the Resurrection event was witnessed rather through the apparitions of the Risen Christ to certain individuals. These resurrection appearances enkindled in the apostles and the believers that Jesus who died on the cross was now the Risen Christ.
Through sensus fidelium (sense of faith), we believe that our Blessed Lord first appeared to His Blessed Mother after the resurrection although the Scriptures is silent on this. The Resurrection as an event needed “official witnesses”who were not blood-related to Jesus, hence the disciples. The Risen Christ appeared “officially” to such witnesses with the mission to proclaim the Resurrection.
One of the earliest traditions was the appearance to Mary Magdalene who visited the tomb early in the morning of Sunday not to greet a Risen Christ but to mourn the dead Jesus. When she saw the stone had been moved away from the tomb she went to Peter and John to report the incident. Magdalene at this time did not yet understand and nor believed the meaning of the empty tomb. She had to personally encounter yet her Risen Lord (which is the second part of the gospel this Sunday). Peter and John ran to investigate the empty tomb. They were not just individual persons as Peter and John but actually symbolic representations of the “church in mourning and confused”. Peter represented the “church as office” while John represented “church as love”. Because of the exuberance of youth and the excitement of love, John outrun Peter and reached the tomb first but gave way to the “church as office”(Peter) who was the authority to first enter into the empty tomb. It was this authority who first saw the linen cloths lying on the tomb. When the “church as love” (John) entered into the tomb, he believed. It was the “church as love” who first believed in the Resurrection. It was the Church both as “office and love” who first entered and witnessed the empty tomb.
During the Easter season, we will be listening to the other resurrection stories proclaimed to us by the Church. It is because the Resurrection takes the centre stage in the mystery of our faith. It gives a reason to hope. When we proclaim these resurrection stories, we just don’t listen to them as simply stories but they invite us to enter into the mystery that shaped and transformed the early Church and still transforming us today as the new witnesses and believers of the Resurrection in the present time.
Two thousand years after the resurrection, we celebrate it not just as a commemoration of an historical event but rather a re-living of a memorial. We may not be privileged to have actually encountered the Risen Christ like the early disciples but we believe that we form a “continuum of the resurrection story”. Through the Church we proclaim the Resurrection in the present time as disciples and believers of Jesus. That is why we are called an “Alleluia People” making present the Resurrection which is continuously transforming our existence into the life of the Risen Christ.