Why do you seek the living among the dead?

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Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap

Easter, the Solemnity of Solemnities, recalls the definitive victory of Jesus Christ, the Son of God Incarnate, over sin and death. As Saint Paul rightly says in his First Letter to the Corinthians: “‘Death is swallowed up in victory’. ‘O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?’” (1 Cor 15:54-55).

By raising from the dead Jesus fulfilled his promises regarding his own resurrection. He predicted beforehand what was goingto happen to him. In Matthew’s Gospel we have the following resurrection prediction: “And as Jesus was going up toJerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, ‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and theSon of man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and deliver him to theGentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day’” (Matt 20:17-19). The resurrection prediction found in Mark, who was the first one to write among the four evangelists, is more succinct. However its Easter faith nucleus remains completely intact. “And he began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31). Thus, Jesus disciples were fully informed by their Master that He will rise from the dead on the third day.

Nonetheless when they faced the music of his violent death on the Cross fear and doubt started to creep in. In fact, “the women who had come with him from Galilee” (Lk 23:55) returned “to the tomb, taking the spices which they had prepared” (Lk 24:1). Their minds and hearts were utterly darkened by their self-imposed duty of caring for a dead body. Their only preoccupation was the corpse of Jesus.

But here comes the decisive moment in the story: the presence of the “two men [who] stood by them in dazzling apparel” (Lk 24:4) became transformative indeed. They were sent by God to help resurrect the women’s dead faith. The two heavenly men challenged their dormant faith in Jesus by posing them a question: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (Lk 24:5). This question gave the women that necessary impetus they needed at that moment. In other words, God’s actual grace helped them reconnect themselves with the Risen Jesus thanks to their free faith assent. This question led them to remember Jesus promise to them “while he was still in Galilee” (Lk 24:6), namely, “that the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise” (Lk 24:7). Interestingly enough the moment the women disciples “remembered his [Jesus] words” (Lk 24:8) their lives were turned upside down. They came out of their tomb of unbelief and became the first emissaries of Christ’s Resurrection “to the eleven and to all the rest” (Lk 24:9).

Commenting on the question, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” during his General Audience in Saint Peter’s Square on April 23 2014 Pope Francis said:

“‘Why do you seek the living among the dead?’ (Luke 25:5). This questions makes us overcome the temptation to look back,to what was yesterday, and pushes us forward towards the future. Jesus is not in the sepulcher, he is the Risen One! He is theLiving One, the One who always renews his Body which is the Church and makes it walk, drawing it to himself. ‘Yesterday’ isthe tomb of Jesus and the tomb of the Church, the sepulcher of truth and justice; ‘today’ is the everlasting resurrection towards which the Holy Spirit drives us, asking of us full liberty… This admonition, “Why do you seek the living among the dead,” helps us to come out of our spaces of sadness and opens us to the horizons of joy and of hope. That hope that removes thestones of the sepulchers and encourages us to proclaim the Good News, capable of generating new life for others”.

Let us repeat it because Jesus is alive! He is with you and me!

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