They found the stone rolled away from the tomb… While they were puzzling over this, behold, two men in dazzling garments appeared to them… They said to them, “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised. (Lk 24:2, 4, 5-6)
St. Paul declared consistently that death befell mankind as an effect of sin. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul states that we were all once “dead in our transgressions” (Col 2:13) and in his epistle to the Ephesians Paul states much the same, adding that we were brought to life only through Christ (Eph 2: 1, 5). Thus when we read the above quotation about the angels speaking to the women who came to visit the tomb of the crucified Jesus on the first Easter morning, we must consider that “among the dead” relates not only to those who have physically died. In the spiritual sense, “living… among the dead” means living a life of sin without the rectification of grace offered by Jesus Christ – the Son of God who became man, suffered, died, and rose from the dead, and who is most alive because he never sinned.
On Easter morning Jesus not only broke from His own tomb; He smashed all our tombs as well. He set man free (Jn 8:36) so we might arise from our spiritual death in sin and so approach the waters of the baptism unto new life (Rom 6:3-4). Easter and baptism are intimately connected which is why the Church baptizes its new, adult Catholics at the Easter Vigil Mass and why those of us already baptized renew our promises at Easter. As St. Paul writes in his Letter to the Romans, our bloodless baptism makes us die and rise with Christ.
This is very important because we must renew our commitment to evangelize the truth about the necessity of baptism for salvation. Easter Sunday is a good day to begin. Now it is true that the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches “a baptism of desire” unto salvation for those ignorant of the Gospel message. However, we must be honest and admit that self-satisfied, post-modern man is becoming ever less likely to seek the truth and do the will of God (CCCC 1260) without intervention from an Easter person. To be an “Easter People” means not only that we are saved, but that we work to save others through baptism and by calling people back to their baptismal roots.
We place on our bulletin cover for this Easter Sunday a painting by the Dutch master, Rembrandt, entitled Christ and St. Mary Magdalene at the Tomb (1638). Here we see Christ the Creator at a distance from Jerusalem establishing his new creation represented as a well-kept garden. We see angels leisurely guarding the empty tomb; we see Jesus in the attire of a gardener. The figure of Mary Magdalene is a hinge between the angels and Jesus.
In the lower left we see two people walking away uninterested; they represent the world. Yet Mary who once anointed Jesus in Bethany (Jn 12:3) and comes again Easter morning to do the same, is full of interest. She will be glad to be anointed herself in the cleansing of baptism still to come (Mt 28:19).
–Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services