by Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv.
Bishop-President of Pax Christi USA
“Why do you look for the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5)
That was the question from the angels poised outside the empty tomb to the faithful women who had arrived to perform the sad but reverent ritual of giving a proper anointing to the already buried body of Jesus. How could they grasp the startling meaning of those words? It defies all of human experience and they had witnessed with their own eyes the tragic end of Jesus’ earthly life even as many of his followers joined in the taunts of the deriders or ran away in disappointment and despair.
With the evidence of an empty tomb before their eyes, and knowing how soundly the tomb was sealed and how securely it was protected, what other kind of answer could there be? Is it true?
“Why do you look for the living among the dead?”
It is a challenging question, especially for Christians, throughout the ages. It is one that as Pax Christians we should ask ourselves as well during this Eastertide. Do we acknowledge how “our way of life” may actually be related to the culture of death?
We live in a nation that again and again chooses to build up state-of-the-art weaponry and seeks to employ the best of technology for the purpose of destroying human life — often claiming that our defense is for the purpose of protecting “our way of life”. We know the industries that engage in weapons research (including nuclear weapons) employ many people, i.e. “provide a living” for them. Is that not like searching for the living among the dead?
What about the preservation of a culture that depended on the enslavement of people from Africa? Monuments and plaques that the descendants of the enslaved must see day after day and the rebel flag flapping in the breeze defended as a symbol of “our way of life”?
And what about those unaccompanied minors, teenagers, little kids, toddlers held in confinement at our southern border because their presence might threaten “our way of life”, as if they were taking bread from our tables rather than eager to work to provide for those tables? They ran away from death-dealing gangs and the devastating consequences of climate change which eliminated their ability to provide for themselves — and no one offered a hand.
There are many more examples that resemble the apparent failure of Good Friday as Jesus’ body was sealed in a tomb. But that cannot be and is not the end of the story.
With the celebration of Easter, hope is reborn. Life is possible, we learn, even in the midst of what appears to be death. If our eyes are open, we can’t help but see the Good Fridays that are all around us, the plight of a crucified people. Our faith assures us that they will know life in abundance. What a great celebration and great tribute to the Risen Christ it would be to separate ourselves from the powers of death and stop looking for the Living One among the dead.
“He has gone ahead of you” (Matthew 28:7) are great words of promise from the angel to the women at the tomb … and to us. Jesus has shown us the way to the fullness of life. Let us commit ourselves to that life in abundance that God desires for all the human family.
Christ Is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!