I have here a stone. It has got some heft to it, even though it isn’t very big. Still, you wouldn’t want this to fall on your head. Any idea where this stone came from? (from the construction on the church).
Well, for reasons that I hope are quite obvious, I have been thinking quite a bit about stone lately. So the stone in our Gospel this evening caught my attention.
You remember the stone. At the end of the proclamation of the Passion last Sunday we heard that Joseph of Arimathea had put the body of Jesus in a new tomb hewn out of the rock. And then they sealed the tomb with a huge stone. Only Matthew, whose Gospel we read tonight, tells us that it was a HUGE stone. It was massive, and very, very heavy.
Not only that, at the end of the Passion last Sunday we heard that fearing the disciples might steal the body of Jesus the chief priests secured the stone, put a seal on it to make sure it was not tampered with, and finally posted a guard. That stone was going no-place. // So they thought.
I think St Matthew, in the way he presents his Gospel, has a special significance for that huge stone.
I think this huge stone represents the crushing weight of all the world’s sins that was supposed to crush and block out the Light. They falsely condemned Jesus, executed Him in a most horrific and degrading way, then put Him into the ground and sealed the tomb shut with all the insensitivity, greed, hostility, laziness, lust, anger, jealousy, dishonesty, superstition, prejudice, indifference, stubborn hard-hardeness and sin of the world. It was an enormous weight. They buried the Light and the greatest hope for humanity under that crushing and immovable weight of all the sin in the world: all things degrading, false, crooked, wrong.
But they couldn’t even keep Him in the ground.
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. What was there to see? There was nothing there but the rocky hillside that the tomb was in and the huge rock sealing the entrance to the tomb. But they went anyway.
And what did they see? An angel, appearing like lightning, descends from heaven, easily rolls back the huge stone and sits on it. That huge stone, representative of all the sins and offenses of humanity, that appeared so immovable and weighty, gets easily rolled aside and becomes a stool for Jesus’ messenger boy. He sat on it.
The tomb was empty. Even before the stone was rolled away Jesus was gone. He was raised up! He had risen! Alleluia!
The very first thing that Angel says to the women: “Do not be afraid!” The very first thing that Jesus says to the women: “Do not be afraid!” What the Gospel is telling you tonight is: “DO NOT BE AFRAID!!”
Catechumens and candidates: You are soon to make a commitment to Christ and to His Body the Church. You will receive special blessing and graces in the Sacraments you are soon to receive. You will be strengthened to do and be more like Christ. It will bring challenges and hardships. DO NOT BE AFRAID!
Because Jesus has overcome that great weight of all the world’s sin. Christ has conquered death. Jesus is alive, He is Risen, He is with us here this evening. He will strengthen and lead you, and all of us.
Jesus is Risen! Alleluia! Happy Easter!