If we want to be happy, we need to listen to the wisdom of the angels at Jesus’ empty tomb.
When the women came to Jesus’ tomb and found it empty, two angels appeared to them and said, “Why do you seek the living one among the dead?” (Luke 24:5)While this question is primarily aimed at the women’s search for Jesus’ body, it can also teach us a profound spiritual truth.
Nineteenth-century writer Elizabeth Hasell comments on this verse in her book Meditations for Passion and Eastertide, “These words, addressed by the angels of the sepulchre to the women by whom they ‘stood in shining garments,’ seem spoken to myself. For is not ‘seeking the living among the dead’ the very thing that I have been doing all my life, and seem inclined to go on still doing?”
Hasell expands on her commentary, reflecting on how we often seek earthly happiness “among the dead,” focusing on those things that are passing.
What do I seek for? Ease, rest, comfort, enjoyment, happiness. And where? (must I not own it ?) In this world. And, if so, am I not seeking the living among the dead? For can I gain these blessings in their completeness from earthly things, in all which sin has mixed trouble, and into all which it has brought dissolution? Am I wise then if I go on seeking happiness in a direction where I shall never find what I want in perfection; and where my imperfect gains can never be a lasting possession?
As St. Augustine so famously said in his Confessions, “you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
We always get distracted by earthly happiness, focusing nearly all our attention on maintaining our physical and earthly needs. While God does not negate our desires for earthly pleasure, he urges us to point everything back to him and search for him above everything else.
We will find no lasting happiness on this earth, and all joy that we experience is only a precursor to the joy we will receive in the beatific vision of Heaven.
The events of Easter reminds us of this simple truth and the angels at the tomb point our heart in the right direction.
Hasell concludes her reflection by asking what we should be doing, instead of seeking happiness “among the dead”:
And what are these unseen eternal things by which I ought to direct my course? Surely Christ Himself; and those things which He bids me seek after. The sense of God’s presence and favor, delight in His service, brotherly love, purity, truth, —these, and such as these, are eternal; begun here, they will endure and grow on for ever in the great hereafter. As I gain these I shall be able to make a right use of earthly good things; and, while not depending upon them for my happiness, still get more comfort and pleasure from them as my Father’s gifts to me, than I could do while I set my heart on them instead of upon Him.