The image of the dead body of Jesus emanates a great sense of silence - the silence engulfing a family following the death of a loved one, or the silence inside the tomb where Jesus was laid. This year more than others, this great silence is reflected in our churches, empty and void of our parishioners. For us priests and the many volunteers who help at the parish, Holy Saturday is usually a busy day, during which we set up, decorate, and prepare the church for the Easter Vigil. We had nothing of the sort this year.
And yet, Easter still happens, and is celebrated, albeit in a very different and unusual way. The message of the Risen Christ does not change or lose any of its meaning. If anything, it may even be more relevant for us this year than any of the previous years. The silence present behind that huge rock rolled in front of the tomb spoke of death, hopelessness, end. Recalling the story of the resuscitation of Lazarus, we remember that, while Lazarus was very sick, his sisters hoped that Jesus would come and heal him. Once he was dead, there was no more hope. “He’s been dead four days, and has started smelling!” In a tomb hope is dead and sealed off forever. Like what most of us do following the death of a loved one, the women of today's gospel went to visit the tomb of the one they loved. Not to bring him back to life, of course, but because somehow, being there keeps the connectedness and eases the pain. Once there, what they find is an empty tomb. “He is not here,” the angel tells them. He is risen, and the tomb is not the place for the living. What they found was beyond all their expectations. Never would they have dared dream or hope of such a thing. And yet, it was real. It did happen. And they were to meet him back in Galilee, in their normal, everyday lives.
What most of us are experiencing this year creates feelings that are very similar of the ones the women in the gospel experienced. Behind the sometimes eerie silence of our normally-busy cities, streets, street-cars and shopping centers, there is hidden a feeling of fear and hopelessness. Probably fear because of hopelessness, because we are not accustomed of feeling so powerless, of not being able to do anything about something. And, let’s face it. There is also the fear that took over the apostles as they ran away from it all and locked themselves up because, fair enough, they reasoned that now it would be their turn, after the Master. Isn’t this the same fear that visits us as we lock ourselves in our homes, because we could be next?
The greeting the angel gave to the women at the graveside is the same greeting that we hear proclaimed on this night of the Resurrection. “Do not be afraid”. Not because we are naïve or stupid, unaware of the realities that surround us. But because we believe in a Jesus that is Risen. He who came out alive from the darkness of the tomb, in a way that could not have been imagined beforehand by those women who loved him, can somehow bring life out of our own darkness. And it will be a life that we cannot yet imagine.