Catholic Franciscan Volunteer Service Experience for Post-Graduate Young Adults | Syracuse, New York

Reflection on the Empty Tomb

April 19, 2014

I was recently on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
It was my fourth time there and my third as a leader.
One of the things you learn early about the Holy Land
is that there is a difference between a pilgrim and a tourist.

Tourists invariable come in very large groups,
are always trying to cram way too much into a day
and are usually more concerned
about the camera shot
and checking another place off their “bucket list”.

Pilgrims on the other hand
tend to journey with smaller groups of people,
are often found praying at sacred places
and are there to not only see the site,
but to experience it’s meaning in their lives.

A striking example of this difference
was recounted to me by a friend of mine
who leads pilgrimages on a regular basis.

She was waiting in line with her group of pilgrims
to gain access into the Holy Sepluchre in Jerusalem.
This is the tomb where Jesus was laid to rest.
A group of tourist came by and they seemed unsure
whether it was worth waiting in line to go in.

The tourists asked my friend:
“Is there anything to worth seeing in there?”
to which she responded
“No, there’s nothing to see in there. It’s empty!”

empty-tombThat is the essence of what we celebrate this evening
a tomb that is empty!
Jesus has been raised by,
and now reigns as the Risen Christ!

Where he has gone
we hope to follow.
The question remains… will we, Follow him?

Are we truly pilgrims on this journey to Resurrection
Or are we mere tourists,
spectators watching the events unfold
from the bleachers.

Just because we are here in church
is not enough
even tourists do as much.

To follow Jesus from the Cross
to the empty tomb
means to allow ourselves
to honestly acknowledge our sins,
our pain, our struggles and doubts.


It also means that like Jesus we must remain open and trusting
and allow God to raise us up…
up to heaven on the last days…
but also here on earth right now!

For example
when we realize
that we have been selfish and mean
and find ourselves asking forgiveness of a friend
it is the power of Christ’s resurrection
lifting us up and out of death
to a place of healing.

When we look at our miserable neighbour
who is a pain to all who know her
and we suddenly find ourselves
driving her to do her shopping
it is the power of Christ’s Resurrection
lifting us up out of our smugness
into a place of gentle service.

Whenever we find ourselves,
reaching out
becoming more gentle, more compassionate, more forgiving, more loving
it is the power of Christ’s Resurrection
lifting us
up and out of the tombs of our broken lives
and drawing us to himself.

“Tourists pass quickly through sacred places
Sacred Places pass slowly through pilgrims, leaving them changed forever.”*
At the empty tomb,
are you a tourist or a pilgrim?


* Father Thomas Rosica, csb


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