Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Scott Borden, OHC
Easter Vigil B – Sunday, April 5, 2015
|Mary Magdalene at the tomb turns to see Jesus (Rembrandt)|
How the disciples must have struggled to make any sense of this. The Lord is risen? Some two millennia have passed and we are still struggling to come to terms with it.
Jesus lives! This is an occasion of great joy, but we have to clear - Jesus lives in spite of our best efforts.
Just a few days ago we were shouting crucify. We might console ourselves that we were just actors reading a part – but that lets us off the hook too easily. There is no escaping the fact that Jesus died at human hands - hands like ours. And if we examine ourselves in the clear light of Easter morning, we will find that we still fail to recognize Jesus... still deny Jesus... still crucify Jesus. Jesus is still dies at our hands.
With not too much work I can take the Alleluia right back out of Easter... but that is not what I propose to do.
We may still be in the process of crucifying Jesus, but there is another inescapable truth – we fail... every time... its just that simple. Human hands did their best. Jesus was crucified to the very best of our ability and was good and stone cold dead - three days in the tomb. Yet the Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia. Who knew failure could be so wonderful.
Here we are on Easter Sunday - a happy bunch of failures...
But Jesus hasn’t risen just to show us we failed... It would seem that Jesus is not finished. Jesus has more to say.
In dying and rising from the dead, Jesus isn’t just demonstrating the power of God - the invincibility of God. There is a subtle but extremely important lesson. Jesus is telling us something about the persistence of God in our lives - our personal and private lives...
Lets look how Mary of Magdala finds Jesus. She has come to the tomb and found it open. This means something is wrong. She raises the alarm. Others come to her aid and investigate the scene. We have a small crowd on hand. But this isn’t when Jesus greets Mary – when there is an audience. He waits until she is once again by herself – weeping. Jesus comes to her, to each of us, in our private moments of despair. Or perhaps this is when we are vulnerable enough to be aware of Jesus’ presence.
“Don’t hold on to me” Jesus warns Mary. Is this a safety warning? And if so, who’s safety is at stake? Could Jesus be injured by Mary’s touch - or could Mary be injured by the raw power of Jesus?
Or is it something else. Is this a more profound warning. Could Jesus be warning to Mary not to hold on to what has been, to what has passed? Perhaps, in a way, Jesus is saying don’t hold on to who I have been – because I am.
This is a very powerful message for all of us who worship and seek to follow a living God. We can’t hold on too tightly to what we have known, to our experience, to our traditions – and at the same time we can’t let go. Living relationships are complicated, messy, and wonderful. I think Jesus is calling Mary to be in a living relationship, rather than to live in her memories. Jesus is calling Mary and each of us to a living relationship.
Jesus is not terribly concerned with comforting Mary. He might have said: “Why do you weep, Mary, for I am alive again and the nightmare is over. Everything will be all right.” But he doesn’t give her many comfortable words. Instead he gives her a job to do. “Go and tell the others I am ascending.”
But look at what Mary of Magdala does. She goes to the others and says “I have seen the Lord.” This is the first thing out of her mouth. This is not what Jesus has told her to say. This comes from her own heart. Jesus told her to tell them “I am ascending,” whatever that means. But Mary has seen the Lord.
Jesus dies. Jesus rises. Jesus lives and comes to us in very personal ways. And we are given this example of Mary of Magdala. Jesus comes to her in her grief, her despair, her sorrow, and asks her to do something. Jesus calls her to witness. And she does this in her own way – I have seen the Lord.
So how does Jesus find us on this joyful Easter morn?
Perhaps tired – to the point of exhaustion... We’ve been keeping vigil for a very long time... And that on top of the seemingly endless activity of Holy Week.
Perhaps sad and guilty. We’ve had time to call to mind the ways we have failed to follow Jesus and the ways that we still, to this day, continue to deny and crucify Jesus in our hearts and in our lives. We live in a world where the hungry are not fed, the sick are not cured, the defenseless are not protected...
Perhaps joyful. We know that our redeemer lives and that our sins are forgiven. That we are beloved children of God and heirs of God’s Kingdom.
It is in this mix of emotion that Jesus comes to us, asking us why we weep. Telling us not to be afraid. Warning us not to try to hold on too tightly to what we have known. To be witnesses of the love of the Jesus.
This is our baptismal covenant – we die to the old and are born again to new life in Jesus the Christ. It is, I think, not something that happens once and for all, but happens a little more each day.
Regularly we push Jesus out of our lives – maybe just for a moment, maybe for a long time. In big and little ways we crucify Jesus. Just as regularly Jesus rises and comes back to us.
This is the durable, patient persistence of God. We can do our absolute worst – and at times we do... And yet when it comes to killing Jesus we will always fail. And at times we may even be blessed to say, as Mary of Magdala says, that we have seen the Lord. Alleluia!