Image: Arctic Cotton kissed by Snowflakes, Paulatuk
As we celebrate the feast of Easter it would be fair to expect that the Gospel reading for today would be a bit more definitive in its description of the resurrection. Instead we find those who are closest to Jesus are still experiencing so much doubt, so much hesitation.
Mary Magdalene, who had shown great faith throughout Jesus’ ordeal and who remained with him at the the foot of the cross even after most of the disciples had fled in fear, now seems defeated. Her goal that early morning had been only to tend to the body of her Lord, her only concern was who might help her to roll away the heavy stone. When she finds the stone removed and the tomb empty her instinctive reaction is not joy but fear as to who has taken the body of Jesus away.
As Mary tearfully shares the news with Peter and the other disciple, their response does not seem any more hopeful and the author describes in painful detail the process of their journey to the tomb. They run together, but Peter falls back. Perhaps he hesitates as he recalls his shameful behaviour in the courtyard only days earlier as he vehemently denied Jesus not once, but three times. The disciple whom we are told that Jesus loves reaches the tomb first, but he does not cross the threshold. Even though Jesus had told them all explicitly what to expect, that he would rise again on the third day, none of them could truly grasp the reality before their eyes and they remain trapped in their self-made prisons of hopelessness.
Would we have responded any differently? Do we respond differently?
Our celebration of the pascal mystery is not merely a re-telling of an historical event. It is meant to be a reliving of Christ’s resurrection today. The pascal mystery is a celebration of Christ’s loved out-poured for us. And yet we continue in so many ways to mirror the responses of the disciples on that first Easter morning living our lives full of fear and despair.
St. Paul challenges us to live differently. If we truly believe that Christ is risen then we must live as though we have been raised with him. Christ has conquered death so there is no reason to fear, no reason to be despondent. “Set your minds on things that are above”, St. Paul preaches. If Christ is alive, then so are we meant to be and it is about time that we really started living. Do not let fear keep you from living your life the way God intended the psalmist says, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it”.
Mary Magdalene approached the tomb while it was, “still dark”. The other disciple who reached the tomb first, “saw and believed, though he did not yet understand”. Understanding the gift of the resurrection is a process. The disciples did not understand at first but, in time, they would be transformed by their experience of the resurrection. As we celebrate today may we also begin this process of transformation from fear to joy, from death to new life.