Why the empty tomb is a sure sign that Jesus is with us

“I am risen, and I am with you still, alleluia!” Thus begins the entrance antiphon for Mass on Easter Sunday. And how palpable the Lord’s presence with us is after His return to our tabernacles following His absence from them on Good Friday and Holy Saturday.

And yet the readings for both the Easter Vigil Mass and the Easter Sunday morning Mass seem at first glance to focus on His absence rather than His presence. In these central Masses of our celebration of the Resurrection, we are confronted not yet with the appearances of the Risen Christ but solely with the empty tomb. And while the emptiness of the tomb points to the Resurrection, it does not make it unquestionably clear: Mary Magdalene, for example, first thought that the Lord’s Body had been taken, and the chief priests instructed the soldiers to spread just such a rumor among the Jews. 

We are faced here with the necessity of faith. The reality of the Resurrection is ultimately not something that can be proved merely scientifically; it must be received in faith as revealed by God who is trustworthy, through the witness of the apostles and their successors. Faith, while still reasonable, is by its very nature dark; it is only in the Beatific Vision that we will see clearly. And yet faith is utterly credible and trustworthy. 

We know by faith that the apparent absence of Christ in the empty tomb is actually a sign of His living presence among us! Through our faith, we are able to touch God. Jesus Himself draws near to us (cf. Luke 24), and we recognize His presence; even when at moments we do not feel that presence, we know in faith that He is with us still. 

This touch of God in faith transforms our lives. In baptism, we are engrafted onto our living Lord. We die to sin and arise to new life in Him. It is in this relationship with Him that we truly live and not merely exist or survive. He is the One who brings vibrancy and purpose to our lives; He is the One who brings meaning to each moment of our existence. And He calls us blessed, because although we have not seen, we have believed (cf. John 20:29). It is the gift of faith He Himself has given us that makes us so blessed. Through the grace of the virtues of faith, hope and charity that He infuses into our souls, every instant is touched by His abiding presence and living vitality, guided by His providence for our ultimate good.  

How can we keep such good news to ourselves? If we have truly allowed ourselves to be touched and transformed by His love, we will feel the urgent impulse to share this life-giving truth with others: He is risen as He promised! Death no longer has power over us because it no longer has power over Him. He has defeated it by His own death and resurrection. And He is with us still!

Sr. Mary Martha Becnel is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.