Easter Message 2023

Rev. John J. Raphael (’89)

Rev. John J. Raphael (’89)

Rev. John J. Raphael (’89)

Christus surrexit Dominus, Alleluia! 
Surrexit Dominus, vere, Alleluia! 
Christ the Lord is risen, Alleluia!
The Lord is risen, indeed, Alleluia!

So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we do not know where they put him.”

That may sound like an odd quote to introduce an Easter message.  Where is the joy?  Where is the excitement?  Where is the exuberance that ought to pour forth from every Christian on the very day that we celebrate the ultimate feast of victory, the Resurrection of Our Lord from the dead!?

On Easter Sunday are we not accustomed to joyful shouts of alleluia, to triumphant hymns, majestic garments and to bright and beautiful flowers everywhere, all heralding the mystery of the empty tomb?

Yes, we are, and that very reality–the empty tomb–is precisely why that somber quote was chosen to frame our Easter reflection. The empty tomb!

For us, it immediately calls to mind everything that Easter means, everything that gives us hope, everything that gives us life. The empty tomb!

For us, it is the first sign that God’s power and love have overcome sin and death. The empty tomb!

For us, it is the confirmation of all the things that have been promised to us.  It is a source of strength, comfort and peace. The empty tomb!

For us, it is all that and more, but for the very first to witness the empty tomb, at their first encounter, it was something else.

We see that powerfully expressed in today’s response of one of those closest to Jesus, Mary Magdalene.  Mary was the first to encounter the empty tomb and she did not react to it as we do.

We see her initial response as one of worry and concern.  She is perplexed and confused.  We see her run to Peter and John, who themselves are left wondering, pondering.  Shortly after that we will see Mary weeping as she pleads with one she believes to be the gardener–a caretaker of the place where Jesus was buried–to take her to where his body had been removed. 

We will also see it in the gloomy countenance of the disciples on the road to Emmaus and in the fear of the forlorn disciples, huddled together in a locked room.

These were the very first reactions of the very first disciples of Jesus to the empty tomb.

How different was their Easter morning from ours….

It would take them some time and it would take them several encounters with Him who had risen from that very same grave before they would finally get to the jubilant celebration that we take for granted at Easter.

But as different as their Easter was from ours, there is still much we have to learn from them.  Their Easter reminds us that Easter is not an emotion, it is an event.  Their Easter reminds us that the victory of the Lord can often still seem like defeat.  Their Easter reminds us that the discovery of the empty tomb is also an invitation to personally encounter the Risen Lord.

Because of their Easter, our Easter continues to sustain us when the remaining effects of sin and death that he destroyed on the cross threaten to distract us from the ultimate completion of His works in us.

Thus do we approach the empty tomb, with the same solemnity and the same sobriety as the first disciples of Jesus. 

When we have done that, then, and only then, can we cry out with full and understanding hearts; then, and only then can we unite our joy to the immaculate joy of the one disciple of Jesus who understood the empty tomb completely, the Regina Coeli, Notre Dame, Our Mother; then, and only then will we bear faithful and fruitful witness to the Risen Lord when we exclaim:

Christus surrexit Dominus, Alleluia!
Surrexit Dominus, vere, Alleluia!
Christ the Lord is risen, Alleluia!
The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Father John Raphael, ’89 is a chaplain at Saint Thomas West Hospital in Nashville and Chaplain of the Nashville Guild of the Catholic Medical Association. Following the motto to be an ambassador of Christ and dispenser of the mysteries of God, his work was recognized by the Catholic Medical Association during its annual convention in September 2019 as the “Chaplain of the Year.” For more about Father Raphael, please see the Tennessee Register article recognizing his 25 years of ministry.

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5 Responses to “Easter Message 2023”

  1. J.M.J.

    With Thanks and Gratitude for all you do, Father Raphael, for our beloved Notre Dame.

    Come Holy Ghost!

  2. Thank you, Father Raphael, for that hopeful Easter message. Congratulations to you on your 25 years of service! To all of the distinguished board members of the Sycamore Trust, thank you for your service! Father Raphael is the perfect one to deliver the hopeful Easter message. After all, Raphael is the healing angel.

  3. Alfred (Fred) Gade ‘60 April 9, 2023 at 1:22 pm

    Nice Homily Father. The “empty tomb” – is it sufficient proof of the Lord’s Resurrection and our participation in His eternal life? It got me thinking that we need to know more of “the rest of the story”, but it’s a good start.

  4. Dr. Anne Marie Vickers Quin April 8, 2023 at 11:40 pm

    Thank you Farther Raphael for your magnificent homily.

  5. Dr. Anne Marie Vickers Quin April 8, 2023 at 11:38 pm

    Thank you Father Raphael for your magnificent homily. Peace, love and joy!

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