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Dr. John Lee
Easter Sunday 2015
Jesus Christ is Risen (Jn 20:1-18)
Easter is normally lovely in Jerusalem. It is springtime with its greenery and flowers and promise after the harsh winters and biting winds. In the heart of the Holy Sepulchre stands the raised tomb of Christ, with all the signs around it of resurrection faith going back two thousand years. Under the nearby Calvary chapel- Golgotha- is the Adam chapel where Adam was said to have been buried. When Jesus visited the dead he is said to have brought Adam out of the underworld. Christ is called the New Adam by St.Paul, who calls the resurrection a new creation (2 Cor 5:18-20). Across from the Holy Sepulchre basilica is The Temple Mount with the Dome of the Rock. The dome was thought to have been built over the Holy of Holies and itself identified with the navel of the world. So for early believers the resurrection was the most important event after the foundation of the world. In raising Christ God creates a new world and a new humanity.
The resurrection reverses the tears of things. Jesus had cried, Mary Magdalen had cried and Peter cried. The women of Jerusalem had cried. And ever since the Church always remembers the mother of Jesus in tears. We pray to her all the time, for we are still mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Yet the resurrection is supposed to wipe away all those tears for ever more.
The foundational truth about the resurrection is that it concerned Jesus personally. He had died in agony. His work seemed in utter ruins. The evil people who connived at his death seemed to have won completely. They had sidelined his cause. They had reversed the brief effect he had had in his public life to a 'business as usual' in their own control. What then of the voice once sounded for the poor and the hopeless? What of the man whose withered hand had been restored in the synagogue on the sabbath, so much easier to accomplish than to forgive his sins? What of the paralytic lowered through the roof whose sins had also been forgiven? Were all the recipients of Jesus' care and concern somehow cheated in the long run? Was it all just a short-term outing, a promise that could not be fulfilled? Was he not who he said or implied he was?
For the believer the resurrection vindicates life's meaning as Jesus lived and proclaimed it. He breathed the air of freedom. He began at Nazareth with good news for the poor, relief for the captives, liberty for the oppressed, sight for the blind (Is 61:1-2). To remove fear from human hearts, to open up relationships in truth and love, to overcome the distance that egoism and injustice generated between human beings. This undid what had gone so wrong at the origins of humanity. The resurrection reversed the final dreadful treatment of Jesus himself. It is more than paradise regained; it is best imagined as a new creation.
In Jerusalem, in the garden where the Church of the Holy Sepulchre now stands, it seemed just another ordinary 'Sunday' morning. People were getting up for business in the normal way. However in the garden was one unimportant person, alone with her tears. The enemies of Jesus had won. There were no apostles even; they were silent or gone. But this most insignificant and unlikely person there, Mary of Magdala, remained faithful in love. She came to mourn at his tomb. For her too the whole drama had finished in tragedy. He was dead. It was over. But she had loved him too much to leave it at that, and she was not going to let it all fizzle out impersonally. She was there before the dawn to mourn- a dawn that ushered in the beginning of the end of history!
'Mary-Rabbouni'-they were naturally close once, but now it was experienced differently. 'My Father -and yours'. It was more than natural. It was more than ordinary. The whole drama of those silent and public years contains the meaning of human existence - can we but believe it. What Jesus was in all those years and what he made of life is our hope. What he underwent is fundamental to the resurrection. So when we are talking of his exchange with Mary Magdalene we are talking about you and me! We are talking about suffering and tears, and joy and hope, and values to live and die for. Nothing can or will destroy their meaning. Because he came back as flesh and blood, and said 'Peace be with you'. The morning tears in that garden-cemetery-quarry, were turned into unsurpassing joy. 'Do not detain me now, Mary.' It is resurrection. It is a new creation.
But that was then and realistically for those without faith nothing seems to have changed in history. The daily horrors are always there. The mystery of evil seems as impenetrable as ever. Human performance defies human imagination. What has changed?
He who underwent death is alive to endless ages (Rev 1:18). Through the tears love triumphs. Goodness is safe in God's hands. We all have our Easters after our Good Fridays. We have been hearing this just now after the loss of the German Wings plane in the Alps. Ordinary words do not suffice on such occasions; many French and German and Spanish mourners came together in church and chapel and comforted each other in prayer. While we see Christians shockingly targeted now in Kenya and Nigeria and Pakistan and in several countries in the Middle East we are constantly reminded by them and their leaders that we are all children of a loving Father and to identify with them. We are encouraged to live in our own communities as loving sisters and brothers. At Easter especially we experience the tradition and history and actuality of the faith we profess. We are following in a wonderful tradition of goodness as we try to live as a community of reconciliation and love. Gratitude and thanks are uppermost in our minds at this time of the year. And so we celebrate joyously, wearing our best apparel, and putting beautiful flowers everywhere, and eating and dinking gladly. And praying for all those who are less well off than ourselves. A very happy feast to you all. Amen.
-Fr. Richard J. Taylor