We are still celebrating Easter and the wonderful light of the Resurrection yet death has been on my mind.

My wife and I are having our first child this coming July. A baby girl named Imma Bernadette and we’re very excited. I always wanted a little girl. I’m a fan of the little bows you can put in their hair, their cute outfits and smiles, up until they get interested in boys. Then they’re not so cute...Imma please love me!

Yet death has been on my mind. I begin thinking about Imma's birth, then her graduation, then wedding, then my grandchildren and all of a sudden I see myself old and slipping off to death. It’s scary when you look at your life from its entire timeline. It’s very short! When life begins to blossom within a family, death becomes more apparent, for there is greater loss attached to it. But if there is one thing that Jesus taught us, it’s that life does not end at death.

Remember the Gospel reading for Easter Sunday?

John 20: 1-9

                   On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. 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 don’t know where they put him.”

                   So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.

Fear of Death

Let’s look at the first half of this scripture. Mary begins walking in the middle of the night to the tomb of Christ surrounded in utter darkness. Not only darkness of night, but a darkness in her heart, one stricken with grief and despair for the loss of her best friend and Master. Death is darkness. When she arrives at the tomb she notices the stone has been rolled away and immediately believes that someone had stolen the body of Jesus. “They have taken the Lord from the tomb and we don’t know where they put him.” Mary was fearful of death. Death was final. It was the final period on the long run on sentence of life. Of course she was afraid. If Jesus could be put to death than what hope did anyone else have?

There is another person who was fearful of death. A fictitious character. Very different from Mary.
Yup, you guessed it. It's Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter series!
His very name means “Flight from Death”. This was someone who was so obsessed with eternal life and power that he ripped his soul into seven pieces, hiding them in earthly objects, and sought to take control of the Deathly Hallows, the three tools that would make one a Master of Death. What were the deathly hallows again? A cloak of invisibility to hide from Death, the most powerful wand ever created carved from an Elder tree, and the Resurrection Stone, a stone to bring loved ones back from the dead.

We can learn a lot from Voldemort…I mean He Who Shall Not Be Named. His fear of death stemmed from his misunderstanding of love, or rather his complete non-understanding of it. He was an orphan who was obsessed with finding out his own family heritage. Without a family, Tom Riddle (Voldemort’s actual name) could not grasp the concept of love mainly because he was conceived while his father was under a love spell.

At Hogwarts, Tom was obsessed with his heritage. Although he knew since his first year that he was the Heir of Slytherin, he didn't learn the complete story until he tracked down and visited his uncle, Morfin Gaunt. Morfin told him that his father was a Muggle and his mother was a descendant of Slytherin. Tom then murdered his father and grandparents and be-spelled Morfin into confessing to the crime. Morfin was convicted for the murders and sentenced to Azkaban. Tom then stole the Slytherin ring and turned it into a Horcrux (HBP17).

A Horcrux is an object where one hides a ripped piece of their soul after they commit a murder. Horcrux is a word that has similarities to other words that suggest pain and horror. 

Death and pain were all this boy knew. He never trusted people, he never had a family, he only sought after power because his sole motivation was to defy death! "You will hear many of his Death Eaters claiming that they are in his confidence, that they alone are close to him, even understand him. They are deluded. Lord Voldemort has never had a friend, nor do I believe that he has ever wanted one" -Dumbledore (HBP13). Imagine that you were immortal, but never felt love in your life, never had a friend to talk to, never had a mother comfort you, or a father tell you bed time stories or never even confided in someone you trusted.

That is the epitome of darkness and death. That is what Mary is walking in as she discovers the empty tomb. For her, death is a permanent state, just as her grief. She remains fearful of death just as Voldemort remained fearful of it. In Matthew 28 we hear that “Mary ran away from the tomb quickly, fearful yet overjoyed.” The difference is that Mary’s motivation to walk through the darkness was the feeling of love for Christ, while Voldemort’s motivation was his fear of dying.

Resurrection in Culture

Now our story does not end at death. Thank God! Literally!
If Death is darkness then Resurrection is… Light.

Let’s take a look at the other half of that scripture. “For they did not yet understand the Scripture he had to rise from the dead.”

Now John wrote this Gospel and he refers to himself as the “Other” disciple. Both he and Peter listen to Mary’s claim that the body of Jesus was stolen and they bolt like a beam of lightning down to the tomb while it was still dark. John gets there first, but doesn’t go in the tomb. Peter arrives and walks right in probably ready to fight for Jesus as he did in the Garden of Gethsemane where he chopped off Malchus’ ear. They find no body, just two burial cloths. One that covered the body and the other that covered his face. Peter doesn’t understand it, but the moment that John enters the tomb and sees those two cloths he has spark of revelation. For it says “he saw and believed.” What the scripture doesn’t say is how I like to read this passage. That the moment that John stepped into the tomb and saw the burial cloths, a new sun began to rise outside illuminating the tomb. Resurrection is light.

Have you heard of the shroud of Turin? It’s said that it is possible for this shroud to be that same burial cloth

that Peter and John saw. On the shroud is a faint image of what looks like a man, but inverted you see that the shroud is really a picture negative! Nobody has been able to explain how it was formed and how it is a negative! One theory that could explain  is that at the moment of Christ’s Resurrection, a burst of light shot through his body and he vanished from the cloths. The cloths would have been bounded together as was Jewish custom and when John saw the facial cloth separated from the other cloths he knew something had happened.

It’s not surprising to see the resurrection as light, for throughout scripture we continuously hear God’s relationship to Light.

In the beginning God said Let there be Light.

Jesus said "I am the Light of the World."

"Why he said, Awake you that sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light." - Eps 5:14

"In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." - Jn 1:4-5

Now if Darkness is Death and Resurrection is Light where does that leave us with our Harry Potter analogy? Voldemort represents death and who represents light? Harry.

Both Voldemort and Harry grew up Orphans, both were outcasts in many ways, both suffered terrible darkness in their lives, but Harry found his strength from the friend’s he chose and he was protected by something that Voldemort could not kill, his mother’s love. So Harry became the boy who lived, and grew up never knowing his own heritage as Tom Riddle did. He watched as Voldemort regained power, sought out the deathly hallows and finally sought to kill Harry once and for all. If Harry is light then when do we see his resurrection?

Harry realizes that a part of Voldemort’s soul lives inside of himself and so in a Jesus like fashion he must make the decision to sacrifice himself in order to destroy Voldemort completely. We hear Corinthians 5:21 echo in this decision “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Harry was going to sacrifice himself for his friends and ultimately the entire world. 

Just before he meets Voldemort in the Forrest what does he do? He turns the resurrection stone 3 times in his hand and all of a sudden he is surrounded by his family. They give him strength to perform the task he must bear similar to the angels that descend down on Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. Harry equips himself with family and love. As he walks to his death, once again Voldemort uses the killing curse on him and strikes him dead. Harry wakes up in King’s Cross station only to find a piece of Voldemort, a decrepit infant like being sent there to die. Harry sacrificed himself and was resurrected to life in order to save the rest of humanity. Well you know how the story ends….death is destroyed.

That is what John realizes in the empty tomb. The resurrected Jesus has destroyed the binds of death. There need not be any more fear of dying if we believe in Love that is God our creator, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Every day we are called to resurrect our lives from the sins that weigh us down and it is our family and friends that help us draw the strength and fortitude to continuously choose love over fear, life over death. Every day we are witnesses to the flowers that die and blossom again, the earth’s continuous destruction and creation of sea floor which is what causes earthquakes, our faithful animal companions who pass away and the new puppies we go goo goo gaga for in the pet store. Resurrection is all around us.

It’s not just in Harry Potter. We saw it in Thor when he sacrifices himself to protect that small deserted town. After he is blasted to death we see a flashback of his father whispering into the hammer “Whosoever holds

this hammer, if he be worthy worthy shall possess the power of Thor.” Then boom he gets his iron clothes back.

We see it in the Avengers when Iron Man flies the bomb into space sacrificing himself for humanity. He gets resurrected.

We see it in The Dark Knight Rises when Batman carries the detonator out to sea and we watch the Bat-Copter explode. But a little later we see him resurrected in France living out his true identity as Bruce Wayne.

We see it in the Chronicles of Narnia after Aslan gives himself up to the White Witch on the Stone Table. He is resurrected after he explains to the astonished girls that there is a Deeper Magic from Before the Dawn of Time: because he was an innocent, willing victim and was sacrificed in place of a traitor, the Stone Table broke and Death worked backwards.

We see it in Star Trek: Into Darkness when Kirk sacrifices himself to save his crew and Spock brings him back to life.

"The resurrection is God’s gratuitous gift – we receive it even before we ask of it. It heals our broken humanity at the same time elevates us to the dignity as his adopted sons and  daughters! A Family! Therefore we can cooperate in this grace in order to share in the Divine Life! St. Augustine said, 'We gave Christ the power to die so that he may give us the power to live!' The resurrection is not just Jesus’ story, it is also ours. A great hero once said that we are worth dying for. A greater Hero, however, the greatest of them all in fact, proved that we are more than worth dying for. The silence of His empty tomb echoes His message with an increasing intensity, even up to this very day: WE ARE WORTH RISING FOR!" - Carlo Enrico Tinio; Pope Saint John Paul II
Death is Darkness and Resurrection is Light. Does that mean that we will never suffer or have to walk in the darkness again? Of course not, but it brings us great hope that we too will live again as Christ does.

We close with Pope Francis who says: “Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey. To those who suffer, God does not provide arguments which explain everything; rather, his response is that of an accompanying presence, a history of goodness which touches every story of suffering and opens up a ray of light. In Christ, God himself wishes to share this path with us and to offer us his gaze so that we might see the light within it, Christ is the one who, having endured suffering, is ‘the pioneer and perfector of our faith”(Heb 12:2).(Light of Faith).

God cannot guarantee that your life will be free of suffering and darkness, but he can provide you with a Church and family who always remind you of the light. And if your family are the ones that are shrouded in darkness, then today make the decision to start becoming the light that guides them to the resurrected Christ.
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