In the 24th chapter of the Gospel of Luke we read: “Why do you search for the living One among the dead?” It is so easy to call this picture to mind, being in the garden before the empty tomb of the two messengers speaking to the women who have come to the tomb. It could be very provocative for us to allow this question to be asked directly to ourselves. “Why do you or I search for the living One among the dead?”
Easter morning is a great time for Christians around the world. We sing: “Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed!” The proclaiming of this is to express victory of the greatest battle to be won, the battle of overcoming death itself and receiving the promise to actually live forever. But the truth of the matter is that many of us struggle with our faith in that very fact. We ask, “Did Jesus really rise from the dead? Will we really rise from the dead? Is there a resurrection, a life after death?”
I would submit that one reason for this faith struggle is that we, in fact, are “looking for the living One among the dead” – to use the words of our Gospel passage. Yes, we are quote, “among the dead” when cynicism holds us back from loving or when fear of the pandemic paralyzes us from really living. I believe we are “among the dead” when we cut off connecting with loved ones and those in need, and loneliness overcomes us or when prejudices blind us to truth or the goodness of all people suffering today from exposure or having contracted covid-19. In being part of these experiences, we have, in effect, “one foot in the grave.” And it can be very difficult from that place where we are standing, to trust in a loving God or even believe in a risen Savior.
In the face of this, the Easter Gospel tells us that some of Jesus’ friends find his tomb empty and they are initially bewildered and confused. And then the Gospel says, “While they were at a loss what to think of this, two men in dazzling garments appeared beside them.” The two individuals are not identified, but our tradition sees them as messengers of God, as divine spokespersons, as angels. And these two messengers speak the key words: “Why are you looking for the living One among the dead?” I would like to suggest that you and I, right from within our everyday lives and in these times of a pandemic, have similar messengers of God, similar divine spokespersons, similar angels. Yes, we might very well have individuals who steer us away from “looking for the living One among the dead” and actually take us to the places and experiences where we can find “the living One.”
I would like to suggest that most of us have an angel of trust in our lives. For example, a daughter instinctively reassures her aging parent who is now isolated from visitors and confined to her apartment. She assures her that “We will get through this. Everything’s going to be all right” as she recalls other struggles overcome. Is this daughter lying? Or naïve? Or is she expressing a profound truth about the ultimate goodness of life? Is she not instinctively saying what Jesus himself believed as he commended his life to the Father on the cross?
Today is the day to remember your angel of trust. See if that divine messenger doesn’t also reassure you that everything’s going to be all right. And see if that assurance doesn’t lead you to place on your lips or hold in your heart our song of victory: “Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed!” In many ways these are dark days. These are days to recall that one angle of hope in our lives, and move from that experience into becoming an angel of hope to another. Doing so, will call forth the very best in us and draw us into the Easter victory.
~ Fr. Nicholas Amato
Fr. Nicholas Amato was scheduled to present our Triduum retreat with Fr. Michael Schleupner and celebrate our Holy Saturday liturgy. He offers this reflection as we pray and worship from our homes. Click here to learn more about Fr. Nicholas and his summer retreat at our Center.