I think the fact that the Church gives us the Octave of Easter followed by Eastertide right up until the Ascension and Pentecost, is not only because this is the biggest feast of the liturgical calendar. I think is also because it often takes time for us emotionally, to shift from the intensely painful experience of accompanying Jesus in his passion to sharing in depth the joy of his resurrection. As human beings we are not designed to shift instantly and dramatically from the intensity of one kind of emotions to their opposite. While it does occasionally happen, more often we hold a mix of feelings until we realise that we truly can allow our grief or despair or anger to dissipate and give way to the joy and peace of a transformed reality. We have to sometimes allow ourselves time to catch up emotionally with our present reality.
It is true, that in the Gospel story today, the women realise with awe and great joy that the tomb is empty. That Jesus is not there anymore. But the reality of encountering the risen Jesus who greets them must have been an intense experience. There was utter joy of seeing again the one they love, but also perhaps a sense of being overwhelmed by surprise and confusion. Almost the first thing that he says to them is, “Do not be afraid.”
They are being asked two things. Firstly, to shift to the realisation that what they thought they had lost in the death of Jesus is not lost. And then, almost immediately, to witness that reality and not be afraid to go and say what they had seen and heard. In a society that did not recognise women as legal witnesses, they are called to claim and share the truth of what they have experienced. They are being sent out to tell the men who followed Jesus that they had met the risen Lord and that he would meet them in Galilee. We too are called to experience that Jesus is risen and to find ways of letting others know.