GOD IN SPITE OF IT ALL

Author: Fr. Michael Byron
April 21, 2019

“Then the other disciple also went in, …and he saw and believed.”  Saw what?  Believed what?  A dead body that wasn’t there.  A story of grave robbers having taken him away—a story that wasn’t true.  Fake news—or at least unprovable news.

What exactly was seen and believed by those first witnesses to the resurrection?  It could not possibly be anything that our frail human senses of perception could capture or describe or photograph or record.  It was God in spite of it all.  What they saw and believed was not anything that was strictly of this world, which is why it’s both so astonishing and hopeful, as well as so risky and dangerous to believe.  To be possessed of Easter faith—which is always God’s gift and not our achievement—is to be able to see God in spite of it all.  It is to see what is invisible, and to believe what can seem incredible.

An empty tomb is no forensic proof of resurrection.  But for people of faith, it is the reason to hold fast to faith in God.  What do we make of what we literally cannot see?  It is one thing to see an empty tomb and to announce that someone has moved the corpse.  It is something very different to see an empty tomb and to announce that the dead man is alive again.

And in drawing all this forward to the year 2019, it is one thing to look out over the state of our church, our world, our politics, our discourse—to notice what is missing (and there’s a lot that is missing) and to announce that God isn’t here among us anymore.  In many ways that’s the far easier conclusion.

It is something very different to survey all of that same data and to conclude that God is freshly alive right in the midst of what can seem to be so much decay, so much absence, so much evil—God present as a life force greater than all of it.  We don’t get there without Easter faith.  And I presume that we don’t find our way to church here on this most holy night/morning without a good dose of it. 

So even as we remember gratefully the astonishing faith of those first apostles who looked squarely into the abyss of loss and absence, and came away pronouncing resurrection, let us dedicate ourselves to the very same mission—to announce to a very weary church and country and planet that what we cannot yet see or hear with our senses is that which is the very deepest truth of our existence.  That is faith’s gift.  Let us be the heralds of Easter hope, Easter joy, especially when others find it hard to imagine.  (Our catechumens and candidates, those good and brave prophets among us, are among our best examples in how to do that well!)
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