By Fr. Dan Merz
Christos anesti! Alithos anesti! Christ is risen! He is truly risen!
Those words have gone to the ends of the earth. And they still resound today with hope and joy for those who have received the gift of faith. The empty tomb is our gift of faith. Open wide your heart to receive it! Intimately connected with the gift of faith is the gift to love and be loved. Faith alone is not enough. The letter of St. James proclaims to us, “you believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble!” (Jam. 2:19)
But the demons’ faith is dead, because they have no love. Love is intimately connected to faith. A great Easter image for us of the coming together of faith and love is Mary Magdalene, first at the cross, and then at the tomb. Neither Roman soldiers nor the Jewish religious authorities could stop her from being at the foot of the cross. She loved Jesus…because he had loved her first.
The Gospel says that Jesus had cast out seven demons from her; demons who had no love in them. And with Jesus, she finally experienced real love. But her own love was not yet complete, because her faith was barely there. The lack of faith is why she was weeping uncontrollably at the tomb, why she couldn’t recognize Jesus when he appeared to her risen from the dead…until he called her by name. When she finally believed in the gift of the empty tomb, she received the gift of faith…and love came to fruition. If you’re struggling to love, check your faith. If you’re struggling with faith, check your love. Mary Magdalene is a great Easter icon for us…an icon of the need, indeed of the essential intertwining of faith with love. Christ is risen! He is truly risen!