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What Do You Do with an Empty Tomb? | Breaking Open the Word at Home

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It is not the glorified Christ who greets us this Easter morning, but the shocking fact of an empty tomb. Do you share the disciples’ first confused reactions?

by Jerry Windley-Daoust

It is not the risen, glorified Christ who greets us on Easter. The accounts of the resurrection appearances will come later in the Easter season (in the daily readings during the Octave of Easter and in the Sunday readings during the whole Easter season). All we get is all his disciples got: an empty tomb. In the Gospel reading for Easter morning, Mary Magdalene reacts with confusion, thinking that the body has been moved. The Gospel reading for the Easter vigil reports that the women’s account of the empty tomb was not believed by the male disciples (women were not regarded as reliable witnesses). But there must have been a glimmer of hope there, for Peter and John run to the tomb to check for themselves. The stone is rolled away and the tomb is empty; not only that, but the burial cloths are neatly rolled up and set aside—not exactly what you’d expect if someone had merely moved the body. At this point, one imagines the hair on the back of Peter’s neck standing on end, and a surge of hope flooding his breast as the events of the past few days take on a new context.

As Peter and the early Christian community unpacked the implications of the resurrection, the effect is electric. In the first reading (from Acts), Peter gives us the Christian kyrygma, a compact summary of the good news: Although Jesus, the Anointed One who “went about doing good,” was hung on a tree (a death indicating that the victim had been cursed by God), God raised him from the dead. He not only appeared to his friends, but ate and drank with them.

Do you believe such incredible claims? If so, then the implications ought to be life-changing. As Paul asserts in the Second Reading, if we are baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, then our life is folded into his; we, too, sit with him at the right hand of the Father. Our whole way of thinking ought to be changed by this new, heavenly perspective.

You can read this Sunday’s readings here:

Scriptures for the Resurrection of the Lord, Cycle C


Break Open the Word with Your Family


After Jesus died, Joseph of Arimathea placed the body of Jesus in a tomb. But when the friends of Jesus went to see his body three days later, the body wasn’t there anymore. Who was the first person to find that Jesus’ tomb was empty? Who else saw the empty tomb on Easter morning? Why was the tomb empty?


Think about the faith of the women who visited Jesus’ grave on the morning of the third day. They came to anoint his body with scented herbs and oils, part of the customary Jewish burial of the dead that got skipped in the rush of the initial burial. They came to perform these rituals of honor and respect even though Jesus seemed to have been abandoned by God—even though his ministry seemed to have ended in disaster, endangering all who knew him. What does this say about the strength of their friendship with him before his death? How do you think the resurrection affected or changed that friendship?


It is fashionable to dismiss the resurrection accounts as metaphors for a transformation of spirit within the early Christian community, or as a purely spiritual event. But again and again, the early Christian community insists that the resurrection was a physical, embodied event. The tomb was empty; the burial cloths, rolled up and neatly set aside; the risen Lord not only appeared to his friends, but ate and drank with them. Do you believe that the tomb was indeed empty on Easter morning? If so, what does the physical dimension of the resurrection imply for your faith—and for your life in Christ?

A little lectio

The ancient practice of prayerfully reflecting on bits of Scripture is known as lectio divina. Want to try it out with your family? Head over to Lectio Divina for Kids to find out how to adapt this prayer practice for your kids.


A little Bible study

Want to do a little Bible study with your kids? Here are some tips:

  • During Ordinary Time, the Church pairs the Old Testament and New Testament readings in a way that each sheds light on the other. Ask your kids to look for the common theme connecting the two readings. (Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it is subtle.) How does the “dialogue” between the readings help you understand them better?
  • Get a New American Bible, Revised Edition, and take a look at the footnotes for these readings. How do they change your understanding of what is going on?
  • Take a look at the context for the readings—what happens before, or after?
  • Read the NABRE’s introduction to the book of the Bible that the readings are taken from. How does that help you understand the readings?
  • If you don’t have a copy of the NABRE at home, you can view it online at the USCCB website at the Daily Readings web page. (The link will take you to today’s reading; click forward or backward on the dates to get to Sunday’s readings.)

For even more resources for breaking open this Sunday’s readings, head over to The Sunday Website.


The image for Breaking Open the Word at Home is taken from a 17th century illuminated manuscript by an anonymous (but very talented) artist. The text is from the beginning of the Book of Sirach, chapter 1, verses 1-12, which begins: “All wisdom is from the Lord and remains with him forever.”


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