Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-9
On Easter Sunday every year, ALLELUIAS fill the air, along with the lovely scent of lilies, whose trumpet blossoms join the chorus. Our Alleluias are a literal “HOORAY” in praise of our God, in the raising of Jesus from the dead, and in hope that we too will be raised up. Still, the resurrection of our Christ, and our own, is such a mystery. On this feast more than any other, we plumb the depths of our belief.
Let’s begin by “mining the meaning” of the resurrection account that we hear from John’s gospel; and then, reflect on our own experiences.
We need never ask “what really happened” as we in the Western world usually do. The Gospels and all of the Scriptures were certainly rooted in history, but are not primarily historical documents. They are accounts of faith, and their intent is to evoke faith in those who hear, to communicate meaning. What are some meanings hidden in John’s account?
“On the first day of the week. . .” John’s Gospel is rooted in the new creation in Christ. Thus, this reference to the first day of the week reminds us of the first day of creation from Genesis. On the day of resurrection, God the Creator, is doing something new. “What’s new?” is a question we often ask; how do we respond this day?
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb “early in the morning, while it was still dark.” John employs metaphors of light and darkness in regard to faith. So, it was still dark; faith had not yet come to light. But, it was early in the morning, so the light was near at hand. Relying on this metaphor, what time is it in your own faith-life? Maybe this feast will cause the light to shine!
“The stone was removed from the tomb.” In Ezekiel, Yahweh promises to remove the stony hearts of the people, hearts that were dead. In their place, Yahweh will give them hearts of flesh, hearts alive. The stone is removed from the tomb of Jesus; and in the same way, God is able to remove any blockage that keeps Christ from our hearts. This is God’s doing, and we need only respond.
“Mary ran to Simon Peter and the other disciple.” She was in a hurry to share what she had found; and by her sharing, a small community took up the search as well. Whose are the voices that rouse us to act? And, do we actively seek the risen One in our midst?
“He saw the burial cloths there.” This is likely a comment to respond to those who said that the body of Jesus had been stolen from the tomb. If a dead body had been stolen, the burial cloths and head cloth would have been taken as well. Thus, a clue to us all that Jesus was/is in fact alive.
It was in going into the tomb that they saw and believed. Being baptized into Christ is not a matter of observing him or learning about him. To be Christian is to enter into the living and dying of Jesus, to encounter Jesus alive in our lives and world, and to believe.
The last line of our Easter Gospel from John says: “They did not yet understand.” Do we?
The first time I visited the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, our group was at the chapel atop Mt. Calvary; and we had a very solemn prayer there, singing quietly: “Were you there when they crucified my Lord.” In the midst of this very holy moment, we got word that we should move immediately to the Franciscan Chapel of the Resurrection for Mass. We began Mass by singing “Alleluia, Alleluia Let the Holy Anthem Rise.” It was more than a little disjointing. But, the meaning was evident: life and death do not always, or even usually, happen in order; but at one and the same time, we experience both dying and rising.
In recent disasters like the earthquake in Japan, and in recent violence as in Egypt and Libya, there is dying. Even in the midst of death, there are those who reach out to help, to save, to raise up those in the midst of it all. There are touching stories of human kindness and saving action, reflecting the saving action of our God.
On Easter Sunday this year, may our belief in the risen Christ be deepened; may we find deeper meaning in our Jesus, who was crucified and raised up; and who abides with us always. Let us be attentive to the appearances of the risen Christ in our days, in our lives. And, may we continue to sing ALLELUIA, hooray for our God!
By Sallie Latkovich, C.S.J., Director of Biblical Study and Travel Programs
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