Reflection for Easter Sunday – March 27, 2016
Readings: Acts of the Apostles 10:34a, 37-43; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-9
Preacher: Sr. Barbara Moore
Each one of our Gospel writers shares different aspects of the resurrection story. There is a value in looking at the four, comparing them and asking why the writers chose the characters and stories they did. This Easter, 2016, the C Cycle, we begin with John’s story on the first day of the week after the crucifixion.
The horrors and grief of Good Friday are fresh in the minds of Jesus’ companions. We find Mary Magdalene, early in the morning, coming to the tomb. She must have been present for the whole event the day before, and observed the place and the obstacles she faced, if anointing his body was her goal.
But to her surprise the stone was removed and she went to inform the others. Most of them were gathered together in a place Mary knew. “She ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple….” She proclaimed, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb…”
Peter and John ran to the tomb, observed the empty space and the burial cloth’s placement. It seems they did not explore, ask questions or engage in a search. And we are told, even at this point they “did not understand the scripture that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.” They returned to grief and isolation.
But Mary did return and this time entered the tomb as she tried to discover what happened. There she engaged two angels with her grief, questions and fears. “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Even at this juncture, she too did not seem to understand the scriptures that he must rise for it was his dead body that concerned her. His body that may have been “laid” somewhere else; hidden or stolen for any number of reasons.
In that moment, in the midst of her questions and exploration she found an answer. “She turned around and saw Jesus standing there.” We know it was a process that gradually revealed the risen Lord to this faithful woman.
Faith is like that isn’t it? It is a process.
What elements of faith development do we see in this story? Mary’s presence, even when the odds seemed so daunting, remains consistent. Rather than give up because she did not understand what was happening, she persisted in her faith in the one she loved. She was willing to ask questions and was honest about her fears. The spiritual experience of the two in white did not silence her but moved her to ask a question. She shared her experiences with Peter and the others even when, in time, they found her difficult and they questioned her relationship with Jesus. It was in the midst of her grief, her questions and her anxiety that she turned around and saw Jesus. Even this experience did not frighten her but moved her to a deeper level.
At the end of the next verses she proclaims, “ ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.”
Mary Magdalene, so misunderstood by the early Church, is a model of faith and courage in the midst of a tragedy that seems to paralyze others. She pushed on even when she did not understand. She chose presence rather than isolation and she shared her concerns and questions. She did not falter because her eyes remained on the One with whom she cast her lot. May we, like Mary Magdalene, keep our eyes focused on the Christ and his message even when events and people around us are calling for answers to life’s issues that are so contrary to our faith. May we reach out like Mary to those who are isolated and share the things we have learned about the message of Christ and its capacity to bring resurrected life in the most troubling of times.