That is a powerful Gospel reading - and Jesus doesn't even appear in it. He is curiously absent.
We heard details about everything: what time it was, who was there, what she said to the apostles, which apostle got to the tomb first, and even how the burial cloths were arranged.
But no Jesus.
It's almost as if the shock would have been too much for them. The gospel tells us that they "did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead."
Let's imagine that moment. They haven't seen Jesus yet, they don't know for sure - but the tomb is empty. Let's join them there on the edge of hope. Is it possible? Could He be alive?
What were they thinking?
It seems that Mary Magdalene is still deep in grief - grieving over the one who showed her so much love and mercy. We know that she stays at the tomb after the others have left - and is the first one to see the Lord alive.
What about Peter? He had denied Jesus - just as the Lord predicted. He ran away. "What if He's alive? Will He forgive me?"
And John, the author, the disciple whom Jesus loved: he witnessed the crucifixion. He saw how much Jesus had suffered, saw His violent death, and heard His last words from the cross.
We can only guess what these disciples were feeling, how they reacted to the possibility that their friend and master was alive. The tomb is empty and soon He will show Himself to His friends. What does it mean for us that Jesus is alive?
If Jesus is alive, then He really hears me when I pray.
If Jesus is alive, then He is ready to help me when I'm suffering.
If Jesus is alive, then I must make it the purpose of my life to know Him and love Him.
The death and resurrection of Jesus is God's great act of mercy. Jesus did what we couldn't do and went where we couldn't go. He took our sin and death onto Himself in a way we never could - and conquered them. He descended to the very depths of existence - and rose up again.
God has shown us that His response to our weakness and sinfulness is overwhelming mercy. To death and despair He responds with life and hope. In the face of humanity's cruelty, greed, and hatred, He has offered LOVE.
- and so must we!
If Jesus is alive, we must show mercy, we must love.
Those Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy that we've been focusing on in this Year of Mercy aren't just nice suggestions. Our response to God's unbelievable mercy is to show mercy to others: to friends and family, strangers and enemies. The mercy we receive through Jesus' death and resurrection should overflow from our hearts out into the world.
The tomb is empty. Jesus is alive. And so we must live through Him and with Him and in Him.