The Gospels of Easter Day begin by saying one thing: very early on the first day of the week, the women went to Jesus’ tomb. Here two things hold our attention. The first one is the act of the women, and the second is the emphasis on the first day of the week.
Early in the morning, the women go to Jesus’ tomb. That is something fascinating, and it shows their love for Jesus. They were, in a sense, eagerly waiting for the dawn. Their heart was in the tomb because “where your treasure is there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:21) Yes, their treasure was Christ, so it is clear that Christ was the first on their list of priorities in life. In fact, what came to my mind when I meditated on these women was my father, who always wakes up in the morning and prays in front of the sacred heart of Jesus.
This is a fact for each of us to introspect. My first thought or first action when I wake up is proof of where my heart is. Where is our treasure? Where is Jesus on our priority list? How do we begin our day? How do we begin our week? In a sense, these women represent all the believers who go to Church on Sunday mornings. May we begin the week with Christ and the glory of His resurrection.
Secondly, when we hear the reference to the first day of the week, we get the natural knowledge that it is Sunday early in the morning, but for a jew, it is a reference that brings him back to the book of Genesis. Because there the account of creation says that God completed the work of creation in six days, and by resting on the seventh day, Saturday, He blessed it and instituted it as a day of Sabbath as a sign of the covenant of the old creation. That is, the first day of the old creation was Sunday. So Jesus’ resurrection marks the beginning of the new creation on the same day that God began the old creation. In other words, everything is renewed through the death and resurrection of Christ.
Also, look at God’s creation on the first day: “God said, Let there be light: there was light” (Gen 1:1). Light is created on the first day. Jesus Himself said I am the light of the world. Therefore, when God says, “Let there be light,” we must understand that the light is a prefiguration of the true light that is coming into the world to enlighten everyone. And that light is Christ, one who fulfils everything. He rested completely in the tomb on the Great Saturday after his death and perfected the old Sabbath, the sign of the covenant of the old creation and Sunday becomes the fulfilment of the old Sabbath as the sign of the covenant of the new creation. That is why we Christians celebrate Sabbath not on Saturday but on Sunday. It dates back to apostolic times. Acts 19 and 1Corinthians 16: 2 are some examples. St. Ignatius, the disciple of the apostle John, says: “Those who lived according to the old order of things have come to a new hope, no longer keeping the sabbath, but the Lord’s Day, in which our life is blessed by him and by his death” (CCC 2175).
Now let us come again to the woman who went to the tomb early in the morning. Although their action early in the morning on the first day of the week shows the depth of their love for Christ, apparently, it was a vain journey because they saw an empty tomb. If so, one question remains. Is our journey is to see the empty tomb? No. Christ is not found in the tomb today. The three appearances after His resurrection teach us where we need to look for Him.
First, Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene, who first sees Jesus as a gardener (John 20:15). In a sense, the second Adam who came to regain the lost gift in the Garden of Eden becomes the gardener is the fullness of the mysteries of God.
He is in charge of the garden, which is the Church. Thus it is revealed that the Church is the new Paradise. Mary Magdalene later recognized the gardener when she heard His call. So the first way to identify the resurrected Christ is to listen and read His Word. So, the question for us is, are you ready to read a few Word of God at the beginning of the day?
The second is the experience of the disciples who went to Emmaus. They considered Jesus to be a wayfarer (cf. Luke 24: 13-35). They recognized Jesus when He blessed the bread and broke it. It reminds us that the sacraments are the second way to understand and experience Christ. It also reminds us that the one who walks with us is Christ, the only way to recognize him is to share your bread with him.
The third appearance is on the shores of Tiberias (John 21: 1-14). Look at Jesus’ question to his disciples at the end of a night’s vain work: “Children, have you any fish?” they replied: No. Jesus then tells them to cast the net on the right side of the boat. And when they saw the net full of 153 big fishes, they recognized Christ. The net is a symbol of the Church. To cast a net on the right hand also signifies surrender to the will of God. So, it teaches us that it is in the Church that we must seek, encounter, and experience the risen Christ.
The word “you” in Jesus’ question to the disciples is significant here: “do you have any fish”? That “you” includes all who work without God. It reveals the futility of all work that is not with Jesus. Jesus keeps asking this question to everyone who is working without even going for Holy Mass, praying and enjoying life as they like.
So let us hold fast to the three ways of the Sacred Scripture, the Sacrament and the Church to experience the risen Christ. These three are interrelated.
Through all the words of Sacred Scripture, God speaks only one single Word, his one Utterance in whom he expresses himself completely. Christ (cfr CCC 102). “And such is the force and power of the Word of God that it can serve the Church as her support and vigour, and the children of the Church as strength for their faith, food for the soul, and a pure and lasting fount of spiritual life.” Hence “access to Sacred Scripture ought to be open wide to the Christian faithful.” (CCC 131). Moreover, the very foundation of the Church is the Word incarnate Christ. Therefore, the Church constantly finds its nourishment and power in Scripture. Sacraments are “powers that comes forth” from the Body of Christ, which is ever-living and life-giving. (CCC 1116). The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. (CCC 1131).
Dear friends, let us renew ourselves by accepting this divine life daily. The resurrection gives us hope in the unexpected realities of our lives, sorrows, misery, and disease. Yes, that is the biggest difference. When the world tells us to eat, drink, and make merry, for tomorrow, we will die, Christ tells us to love, sacrifice, serve, and pray so that tomorrow we might live.