Bishop’s Letter: Roll Back the Stone

Mar 29, 2021


“Who will roll back the stone for us
from the entrance to the tomb?”
When they looked up,
they saw that the stone had been rolled back;
it was very large.

Mark 16:3,4

My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Last year on Good Friday, our Holy Father greeted us in the darkness of the night.  It was a profound encounter with Him as he stood alone – isolated – on the street, a solitary figure and then after prayer, he bowed and kissed the feet of Jesus on the Cross tenderly.  The image of the Cross illuminated the evening and brought forth the light of Christ.  The encounter was profound for me because it showed visually the isolation I was feeling from our priests, our religious sisters, and you, the holy people of God.

After this season of Lent and commemorating a little more than a year since the start of the pandemic, I reflect upon St. Mark’s words, “Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”  I think about these words in light of this past year where you and I have felt the helplessness of that stone pressing upon us; the stone of loss or suffering; the weight of isolation; the difficulty of not getting our way; or the countless fractures our misdeeds created.  The bewilderment held in our hearts as our daily living unfolded was not caused by our prayerful living, but our abandonment of God in which we allowed fear to replace the life-giving hope promised by the Resurrection.

We relate to the women who approach the tomb.  Like us, they may be weary of things unknown.  They may have forgotten how to notice the wonder of God within the world.  They saw the crucifixion of Christ; but, fail to recognize the utter gift of divine love which lives in each one of us.  Pope Francis said, in his homily of Holy Saturday on April 11, 2020, “Yet in this situation the women did not allow themselves to be paralyzed.  They did not give in to the gloom of sorrow and regret, they did not morosely close in on themselves, or flee from reality . . . Easter is the feast of tombstones taken away, rocks rotted aside.”  Pope Francis goes on to say, “Human history does not end before a tombstone, because today it encounters the ‘living stone’, the risen Jesus.”

Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?  What do we notice about the tomb when we enter?  It is empty of the dead body.  But that emptiness is completely full – of life everlasting.  This is what we seek through, with and in Christ.  We don’t want the stone to seal our hearts from God, we want to push that stone away so we can be filled up with that emptiness, the chalice of Christ.  The stone within each one of us divides the time between our choosing God or abandoning God.  For Christians throughout the world, the stone divides all time before Christ and after Christ.

With all our heart, with all our being, with all our strength, and with all our mind we remove that stone and are given the Eucharist, the Covenant of Love Divine.  There is only One who dwells within the tomb of our soul – Christ, who is living, the glory of Jesus’ resurrection.  In our action to remove the stone, are we simply going to rest because the stone ‘was very large’?  No, we receive His Presence and go and tell others that we will see Him; He is before us.  He is with us.

May our alleluias of this Easter season not be empty, but full of God’s love to declare the works of the Lord.