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At the heart of our Faith is the empty tomb. St Paul was right to observe: And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. It is yet another sign of the authenticity of the accounts of the evangelists that they made no attempt to coordinate their accounts of this, the most central events. Elsewhere on this blog we have shown how the accounts do not contradict one another, but are, rather, what one might expect from four different perspectives, none of which was by an eye-witness; that the first witness was someone whose testimony would have been worthless, Mary Magdalene, is another of those signs of truth, and we see in Acts, St Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, and St John’s first epistle, the importance the evangelists attach to their status as men who had seen and heard the Risen Lord. St Paul emphasises again and again that he is handing on what he had been told; he is an eye witness to tradition.

Christ is Risen! He had said He would rise, but not one of those who went to the tomb that first Easter morning expected that prophecy to have come true; they all seek for other, worldly explanations. Even the devoted Magdalene  thought ‘they’ had taken the body. The explanation had been given to them all in advance; none had believed. Jesus said that those who had seen and believed were blessed, but even more blessed were those who had not seen but still believed. On this Easter Sunday, as on every Easter Sunday, we are joined in our churches by those who do not often come, but who are called there by some old memory or some prompting of conscience or curiosity. We are joined also by those catechumens who have undertaken the long pilgrimage to the Easter consummation. We are called, also, to renew our baptismal vows and to renew our own encounter with the Risen Lord. Perhaps we are also reminded of what a minority we are in the secular culture which surrounds us?

Some will say it is all to the good, and that now only those who really believe come to the Church, that means we have a purer, if smaller, church. But that is not how the Apostles saw it, neither is it how the Church has acted in its long journey through time. It does not exist to be a small club for the pure, it is, in Pope Francis’ striking phrase, a ‘field hospital for the wounded’. We are not called by the Easter Resurrection to withdraw into the safety of our version of the upper room, but rather, as the recipients of the Great Commission, to go out there to testify to the hope that is in us.

Neither are we told there is but one way that this commission might be carried out: neither those of us who treasure the richness of the solemn liturgical tradition of which we are heirs; nor those who see vitality only in noise and enthusiasm; nor those who lament what was and fear what might be; nor yet those who fondly imagine that all is for the best in this the best of all possible worlds, have a monopoly on these things. The empty tomb poses a challenge to us all.

He could not be confined to the tomb, and He is with us to the end of time; what witness to we offer, not just at this time, to that great hope? How can we help both those who are newly entered into the Faith, and those who have come today on a rare visit? How can they help us? Are we an exclusive club for those who are pure, or are we a place where the brokenness and messiness of this fallen world can find some healing – and if so, at what price to us? We can, none of us in whatever Church, leave it all to the priests and those who have been ordained. Can we rise to the words of St Peter:

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light;

On this day of days, when the darkness of sin was banished and the light of God triumphed over it, may we be renewed in Him, and He in us, and may we bear witness to the hope we have been given. We are saved through His blood. We have followed Him through the path to Calvary, and we have stood with Him watching from afar at Golgotha, now may we rise with Him. He is Risen – He is Risen Indeed!