The “Borrowed Tomb” – Fr. John Harris
Life Giving Mercy
It is no coincidence that the Feast of Divine Mercy takes place during the season of Easter. It is during these days of Easter that the Apostles got used to Jesus being with them in a new way. During these days, they experience mercy as life-giving and life-renewing. In this living Christ, there are no words of retribution or judgement, but rather words of peace and mission. Don’t keep my mercy to yourself. Your sins are forgiven you now go and bring this forgiveness to the whole world.
New After the Resurrection
All the biblical accounts of Jesus after the Resurrection describe moments of confusion in which the Apostles are not sure that it is Jesus or whetherHe is someone else entirely. This shows us that His glorified presence was not simply an appearance of Jesus as he was before. His Resurrection is much more than a simple re-awakening of a dead body. The Resurrection of Jesus is something completely new. It is completely different to the “resurrection” of Lazarus. Lazarus simply woke up from being dead by an act of Jesus’ power. But our faith in the Resurrection of Jesus is much more dramatic, much more profound and a life changing reality, not simply for Jesus but for the whole of creation.
A New Creation
You could say in Jesus’ Resurrection we all, and indeed, the whole of creation, becomes new. In the Resurrected Body of the Lord, a new creation has dawned. The story that we find in the pages of the Book of Genesis is reworked and a new creation has come from the ashes of the old. What began in the ash of Ash Wednesday has been given new life in the Resurrected Body of Christ. In the Resurrection of Our Beloved Lord, everything has changed.
The "Borrowed Tomb"
Good Friday ends with the burial of Jesus in His “borrowed” tomb. It is borrowed in two ways; first because it was not His own, but it belonged to Joseph of Arimathea. But, secondly, in a much more profound way, it is borrowed only for a few days, Jesus did not stay there. From a human point of view every tomb or grave looks very permanent. When we place someone in the ground it is a final act of saying good-bye. It is over.
Does Everything End in the Grave
In a way, we can see in the burial of Jesus all human doubts placed clearly before us. Does everything end in the grave? If so, why then do I try to be good? Why do I keep on struggling in this world of pain and suffering? Is this the total of my life? Is it all to end in nothing, a grave, a wet lonely place? Is this the sum of human life? The grave laughs at all our struggles and our attempts at success. Without Christ, the grave is the final victor in the human story. Without the Resurrection, life is all for nothing.
But the grave is not the end of the story. In his mercy, Jesus only “borrowed” the tomb. He is alive and His new way of living is something far more wonderful then the fear of the grave. Jesus has entered into all our doubts and anxieties; He has taken on our pain and suffering. Jesus has taken on himself everything that tells us that our life is useless and meaningless. The Old Testament says of Jesus, "Ours were the sufferings he bore, ours the sins he carried and by his sufferings has my servant justified many”.
But take heart, I have overcome the world
Because Jesus has taken on himself all that human life fears, such as failure, sickness, condemnation, betrayal, abandonment, loneliness, weakness, public ridicule and finally death itself, we don’t have these fears anymore. All that sin has brought into the world, He has forgiven and renewed. He has not simply set things right and we can go back to where we were before, He has actually changed everything. After the Resurrection the Apostles didn’t simply go back fishing, they converted the world.
A New Life has entered the World
The Mercy of the Resurrection makes all things new. Life is now different. Our lives do not end in failure and disaster. As we look around us, things may seem not to have changed all that much because of the Resurrection. There are still terrible injustices in the world, we still continue to suffer, if anything things seem to be getting worse, in the end people live and die.
But a new seed has been planted in the ground. Jesus was buried in our world but He has risen and we live now in the sure knowledge His goodness reigns, that holiness has overcome sin, and that love had triumphed over hatred. How do we know this? Because Jesus only borrowed his tomb. He is now alive and a new life has entered the world; a new life that will only come to flower for all of us when we share fully in the Resurrection after we die. Heaven calls us to a renewed life.
A Secular Outlook on Life
We hear a lot of people talking about the onslaught of secularism in our modern world. I am more aware and fearful of secularism in the Church. Secularism, by its nature, tells us that this world is all that matters; the ways of this world are the only things by which we must live. Secularism tells us that the grave is the end; it is all about this world. If that is so, then Jesus is dead and buried. But the faith of the Church tells us that the story did not end there.
Our faith is not secular, it is Godly, it is Heavenly. We must fight against those who are trying to rob our faith of Eternity and make it secular. Our faith tells us that life does not end in the grave, that all our graves are only borrowed. When the Church stops talking about Heaven and is no longer interested in being the means by which we gain entrance into Heaven then we are facing a real crisis of faith. The Church if she becomes secular, if we Christians become secular, then Christ can stay in His grave, because this world is all that matters. But, this is not the mercy we celebrate at Easter.
Renewed Faith in the Eucharist
In his first homily as Papal Nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop Charles J. Brown said the reason for the forthcoming Eucharistic Congress in Dublin “is to renew our faith in the reality which is at the absolute centre of Catholic life – the real presence of Christ Himself in the Eucharist. Ultimately, it is renewed faith and love for the Lord in the Eucharist that will renew our lives and renew the life of the Church. It is His true presence in the Eucharist which can heal our own spiritual paralysis, which fills us with light and joy, which gives meaning to our lives, and which prepares us for the life of the world to come”.
If we lose sight of the Church’s mission as preparing us for Eternal Life and if we ever stop believing that our graves are only borrowed, then we know that we have buried Christ and walked away. But this is not the message of mercy, because Christ lives and our lives have new meaning when they are centred on the Risen Lord.