“‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’…So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy...”
How perfectly Matthew captures the essence of our encounter with the empty tomb! We are fearful yet overjoyed. Through the season of Lent we were invited to unite our sufferings with the suffering of our Lord. The old self had to die, like the grain of wheat in the parable, so that it could yield a rich harvest (John 12:24). The Easter season is the time of reaping. Our tears turn to joy as we see that the stone has been rolled away, the tomb is empty, the wrappings of burial and death are left behind, the Master is risen, and he is inviting us to share his resurrected life.
But isn’t it also true, as Matthew intimates, that our resurrection joy is tinged with a sort of fear? What does it mean for us to step out of the tombs in which we have been lain—or into which we may willingly have entered? What are the death wrappings we have discarded through our Lenten practices of almsgiving, fasting, and prayer? We may be tempted to look behind and grieve the loss of the old. But St. Paul in 2 Corinthians implores us to look ahead: “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (5:17). That is God’s Easter promise to us!
Throughout the 50 days of the Easter season, we are invited to celebrate the reality of new creation in our own lives, our re-creation as the children of God, having moved through Baptism from death to new life in Christ. Even as we may fear entering into this new world, uncharted but for the fact that our Risen Lord goes always before us, how might we pray our resurrection joy?