My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
Christ is risen!
Today, as you know, we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a different celebration this year because almost everyone all over the world has been forced to celebrate this Easter Sunday in their homes, because we know our world has been shut down by the coronavirus pandemic.
This is different but it’s wonderful to have to have all of you, in a virtual way through the means of communication that we have to help us to be together this morning.
In Rome this morning, the Holy Father Pope Francis celebrated Easter, just as we are celebrating here — without the physical presence of the faithful, streaming the service over the internet.
And in Jerusalem today, our Lord’s tomb is sealed shut. For the first time since the black plague of the 14th century, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which is built above Jesus’ tomb, is closed. This time because, we know, of the coronavirus pandemic.
And I’ve been thinking about our Lord’s tomb during this Holy Week. On Palm Sunday, just a week ago, we hear in the Gospel how Pilate ordered the soldiers to seal the rock of our Lord’s tomb and guard it.
But the sealed tomb could not hold Jesus! Pilate’s soldiers could not stop Easter from coming!
So as we hear in today’s Gospel: early on that Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb. And there she saw the stone was removed. And later the disciples saw that his tomb was empty.
Jesus dies, and behold he is alive!2And because he died and rose again, no grave will ever hold our bodies down, my dear brothers and sisters.
This is the glorious promise of the resurrection that we celebrate today.
And God does not withdraw his promise, even when the shadow of death seems to hang over the world, even when Easter comes during an epidemic.
Christ is risen and he will die no more. How special it is for us to hear these words of hope today!
Jesus asked us to carry our cross with him in this time of disease and death. Now we join in his resurrection and we know that God’s love is stronger than death!3
Easter tells us that we don’t have to be afraid of death, we don’t have to be afraid of suffering. Jesus has suffered for us, and he has destroyed the last enemy of death. And in him, we will be raised and made alive.4
St. Paul tells us today in the second reading:
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ your life appears,
then you too will appear with him in glory.
Heaven is our destiny, my dear brothers and sisters. He has opened up the gates of glory, the gates of heaven. With Jesus Christ, every tomb is opened, and we can live now with the hope of the resurrection!
This is the beautiful reality of Christians lives.
Christ raised from the dead, dies no more. He loves us first and he loves us to the end. He dies for us all, so that we might live — not for ourselves anymore, but for him, who for our sake died and was raised.5
So today, as we celebrate Easter, this extraordinary solemnity, let us ask for the grace to make a new conversion — to live for Jesus and nothing else.
We are children of God, and even in these difficult times, he knows our needs, and he will give us every good gift and he will bring us out of this pandemic.
As Pope Francis said this morning in his Urbi et Orbi Blessing: “May Christ, who has already defeated death and opened for us the way to eternal salvation, dispel the darkness of our suffering humanity and lead us into the light of his glorious day — a day that knows no end.”
Christ is risen and we will rise with him!
I wish all of you and your loved ones a blessed Easter! In this extraordinary Easter, may you stay close to Jesus, and may you be renewed in the knowledge that your life is precious to God.
And let us ask our Blessed Mother Mary to intercede for us, that Jesus might deliver us from every evil and grant us peace in our day.
1. Readings: Acts 10:34, 37-43; Ps. 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23; Col. 3:1-4; John 20:1-9.