Reflection for Sunday – April 9, 2023
Readings 1:Acts 10:34a, 37-43; 1 Corinthians 5: 6b-8; John 20: 1-9
Preacher: Marlene Bessette
As with many young adults, when I went to college, I drifted from the practice of my faith, eager to start fresh and honestly, to leave my prior life, including faith traditions, behind. I had a rough upbringing, and this was my chance to break away. I wanted to get away from it all and redefine myself. I made this my goal to the extent that I rarely shared any facts about my life before college, giving only vague and sometimes untrue answers about how I grew up and especially about how Catholicism shaped my youth.
So, I was surprised that as I headed toward my 30th birthday I found myself experiencing a profound longing as Spring rolled around, not for the joy of flowering plants and the promise of warm sunny days, but for the joy of Easter and the promise of the resurrection. At the time, I didn’t really understand why.
I was professionally successful, financially secure, I had a wonderful husband, and we recently had our first child. Life was good, but there was something essential missing. After nearly a decade away from my faith life, it was the need to experience Easter that brought me back to the church.
And the experience I was missing was not the celebration on Easter Sunday where we all went to church in our Easter best, but rather, the practice from my early teen years, when my cousins, friends and I would walk across our little town and visit each of the five Catholic Churches on Good Friday to venerate the crucifixes. We walked miles to be with the crucified Christ in five ethnically different churches. This solemn little pilgrimage was intense and personal; I was always overwhelmed with the feeling that Jesus loved me so much he died for me.
This all rushed back to me as I prayed over the gospel reading and found myself drawn to the first verse: “On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb.” The image of this lone woman stumbling in the dark through the streets of Jerusalem to the tomb outside the wall of the city filled my imagination. It was dark, she was in shock, feelings of despair, fear, and confusion coursing through her. But despite these daunting emotions, she was drawn to the tomb.
Why? After what she had just witnessed—the crucifixion of Jesus, whom she deeply loved and accepted as the Messiah—why was she returning to the tomb while it was still dark? What was she seeking? She didn’t yet know of the resurrection, in fact, our gospel ends with the sentence “For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.”
Could it be that Mary was seeking her own resurrection? A resurrection from despair to hope, from uncertainty to conviction, from paralysis to action? Mary was by Jesus’s side through most of his ministry, experiencing first-hand his teachings, his healings, his forgiveness, and most especially, his love of all of humankind. Where would she find the courage, strength and direction to keep the ministry alive and be the person Jesus would want her to be? Her answer was to stumble through the darkness to find the greatest love possible.
It’s been 30 years since I stumbled my way back to the church. Much has changed. Every Lent is now an opportunity to focus on some large or small part of my person that needs to be resurrected in Jesus. I now realize that all I need to do is walk toward our Lord with an open heart and his unconditional love is there to light the way. And that every day that ticks forward, bringing me closer to the eternal life God has promised, is an opportunity to ask myself how I am fulfilling the call to resurrection.
How are you fulfilling the call to resurrection? What in your life needs to be resurrected? Is it growing a loving relationship, righting a wrong, forgiving a grudge, helping the poor and vulnerable, serving as a volunteer, changing careers, or simply living in gratitude for God’s love in your life. Whatever it is, don’t be afraid of stumbling through the dark because our resurrected Lord is, and always will be, there to love and guide us.