Readings (Year B)
Reflection: Life out of death
In the opening line of the gospel passage for Mass on Easter Sunday, we are told: “On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark.” Can you imagine what was darting through the mind of this brave follower of Jesus on that somber, loveless morning? Her mind must have been filled with conflicting memories. There were cherished images of Jesus bringing life and hope to so many people whom he encountered, including her. But these memories were crisscrossed by the nightmarish images of Calvary: the deafening shouts of the crowds and the horrific sounds of hammers driving nails into wood. The dramatic events of Calvary had taken from her the one she had come to love and to follow. The darkness of that early morning hour reflected the darkness that enveloped her heart.
She and the other disciples discover, however, that Jesus is no longer a prisoner of the tomb. At first, she does not fully understand the wondrous event that has taken place. So she goes to share her news with Peter and the Beloved Disciple. The gospel tells us that the Beloved Disciple came, saw the empty tomb, and believed. The good news of Easter begins to sink into the minds and hearts of the disciples.
During the past year, our world has endured a time in which a pandemic has at times made us feel that we were enveloped by darkness. It has taken the lives of more than half a million people in the United States alone. We have been waiting for the stone to be rolled away so that we might come out of the tomb. And in addition to a lethal virus, we have experienced political strife and a resurgence of the racism that has scarred our nation so severely through the centuries.
And so we Christians celebrate this Easter Sunday as part of a wounded nation and a wounded world. We come at this time to profess our belief in the resurrection of the Lord. As Peter says in the first reading for today’s liturgy, we have been chosen by God to be witnesses to the good news of Easter. Our belief in the resurrection does not give us easy answers to the profound questions occasioned by suffering, like, why are there killer viruses in God’s good creation? But our faith does give us the hope that there is a light shining in the midst of the darkness.
It seems to me that two aspects of the Easter message are especially important at this time. First, the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus assures us that the presence of God can be found in the person who is suffering, even in one undergoing a horrific death by crucifixion. And second, Easter assures us that God’s signature activity is to bring life out of death. We cannot always grasp how God is doing that. The lines of God’s lifegiving action cannot be drawn with precision. But we believe that God is always on the move to bring new life out of the many forms of death that we experience. This is, in fact, what God does for a living.
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