There’s a scene in Marvel’s WandaVision series wherein Vision is sitting with Wanda after the death of her brother. Wanda is completely lost and grief-stricken as she has now lost her entire family and her country. She describes her grief: “It’s like this wave washing over me again and again. It knocks me down and when I try to stand up it just comes for me again. And I can’t – it’s just going to drown me.”
Vision responds, “No it won’t.”
“How do you know?”
“Well,” he begins, “because it can’t all be sorrow, can it? … I’ve never experienced loss because I’ve never had a loved one to lose. But what is grief if not love persevering?”
In that little moment, Wanda was pulled out of the darkness that had enveloped her – that she was so certain, moments before, would destroy her.
This morning’s Gospel begins with grief. Mary Magdalene goes to Jesus’ tomb. Why? What will she find there? What do any of us find when we visit our loved ones’ graves? It’s grief that draws us; it’s grief that draws Mary. That is why she lingers at Christ's tomb. It's why any of us linger at our loved ones' graves. It’s love persevering.
We all know this feeling – all of us who have lost, all of us who have loved and fear the end of it all. This is part of our humanity, because we have all been created to love. Mary was at the tomb because grief is love persevering.
But something is different this time. At the tomb, “they saw that the stone had been rolled back,” “removed from the tomb.” And that tomb that had held the Lord was empty. Imagine what Mary and the other women were feeling at that point. In their grief, that wave washing over them again and again, almost knocking them down. Darkness, it seemed, is only going to get darker.
But, friends, this night/day is not about that darkness. In fact, that darkness is now dispelled by the light of Christ, risen from the dead! While grief brings us to the tomb, and that love perseveres, what do we discover? What do we discover at any tomb that we visit now, with this new Christian outlook?
Faith. Faith remembers what Jesus tells us. Faith brings light into the darkest of places. Faith is what ignites Christian love and transforms it into hope. And Hope is a response to grief. If grief is love persevering, then faith and hope are the reward for that perseverance. Hope is love triumphant. Faith is love victorious. And this is what Easter is all about. In Jesus Christ risen from the dead, our hope for eternal life has dawned. With His resurrection, the new and eternal resurrection has begun, and we are sharers in this new life through our Baptism. This is what brings joy to all believers and hope to those who mourn.
In the Exsultet, the great Easter proclamation sung at the vigil, the Church proclaims:
“This is the night that even now, throughout the world, sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices and from the gloom of sin, leading them to grace and joining them to his holy ones. This is the night when Christ broke the prison bars of death and rose victorious from the underworld.”
The women at Jesus’ tomb have a hard time comprehending the young man’s message to them. They cannot yet fully grasp the wonder of what has happened. They know the tomb is empty, and they see this glorious person sitting there explaining what has occurred, but still, their response is silence and fear. It is not until later, when the power of God has been shown in the encounter with the risen Lord, that people begin to understand the meaning of the last week – and, indeed, the meaning of Jesus’ whole life. That, then, becomes the kerygma, the preaching of the Church: the Crucified one, whom you seek, has risen! Now, he goes before us and beckons us. We will see him where we go; we will encounter him. The encounter with Christ is what that persevering love brings - that encounter is love victorious. It is Easter faith.
This is what the victory of love looks like. This is our faith – love triumphant. While we might be tempted to see the difficulties and grief that sweep over us as obstacles to living our lives fully, God reminds us that as grief is a form of love, so too is hope, so too is faith. And this faith is what calls us together here, on this night/day.
The novelty of the Christian perspective is that it cannot all be sorrow – it is not all sorrow. There is the triumph of love, after love perseveres – and that triumph has a name: Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. We are invited today – and every day – to acknowledge our faith in Jesus’ resurrection, and to share in that life through our Baptism. Easter means that the gloom of death cannot win; God has seen to it. And now, we too share in the eternal life that Christ has won for us.