Jesus said to her, "Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them,
`I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"; (John 20:17)
Mary Magdalene is the first to report the startling news of the empty tomb! She assumed that Jesus' body had been stolen!
She was not yet prepared to meet the risen Lord who would reveal himself to her while she lingered in the garden near the tomb. Mary was a woman in love. Mary was in love with Jesus. Love is unconquerable- “passion fierce as the grave” something that lives beyond the grave and death- as the Song of Songs tells us.“For love is strong as deathpassion fierce as the grave, its flashes are flashes of fire,a raging flame. Many waters can not quench love, neither can the floods drown it.” (Song of Songs 8: 7-8)
On Sunday morning the women went to the tomb to pay their last tribute to a dead body. The disciples thought that everything had finished in tragedy.
What is the significance of the stone being rolled away? One of the 5th Century church fathers, Peter Chrysologus, remarked:
"To behold the resurrection, the stone must first be rolled away from our hearts".
John is the first of the apostles, to see the empty tomb on Easter Sunday morning, after the women returned and gave their report. What did John see in the tomb that led him to believe in the resurrection of Jesus? It was certainly not a dead body. When John saw the empty tomb he must have recalled Jesus' prophecy that he would rise again after three days. One thing is certain, if Jesus had not risen from the dead and appeared to his disciples, we would never have heard of him. Nothing else could have changed sad and despairing men and women
into people radiant with joy and courage.
The reality of the resurrection is the central fact of the Christian faith. St. Paul, in his first Letter to the Church at Corinth,
that we just heard this morning, says:“If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.“ (1 Corinthians 15:19-20)
Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Lord gives us "eyes of faith" to know him and the power of his resurrection. Faith is the threshold into something “MORE” in life.
The greatest joy we can have is to encounter the living Lord and to know him personally. “Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni!" (which means Teacher).” (John 20:16) Mary recognizes Jesus when He calls her by name by name. We are called by name in our baptism.
Just as our Jewish sisters and brothers recall the story of their Passover from bondage in Egypt as a way to experience their deliverance in the present, retelling the story of Jesus’ rising to a new experience of life two thousand years ago enables us to be aware of the potential we have to live into this new life.
At Christmas I spoke about the mystery of “God becoming human in order to bring humanity to the realization of its divinity:” Easter points to the other dimension of that mystery,
that our ultimate union with God will not be at the expense of our own person, our own identity. Just as his disciples witnessed the experience of divine life in the risen Christ, they also recognized the human Jesus who they knew and loved.
Our celebrating the resurrection of Jesus is not just the
remembering of an event that happened two thousand years ago, but the affirmation of what is happening to us in the present. Thus, at the conclusion of the Apostles’ Creed that we will solemnly affirm in the renewal of our Baptismal Vows this morning, we profess our belief in “the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting”. This faith gives birth to the hope that is in us.
Meg Gilley, a British writer, last Easter wrote: “Hope is more terrifying than despair. Jesus is dead, laid in the tomb. And God does something utterly different. God brings the corpse back to life and transforms him, not just restoring life but making him different. This is a new creation, similar to but different from a human body, similar in some ways to the angels, but different again. The Resurrection is not natural. The Resurrection is not normal. God breaks in and breaks all the laws. This is supernature. And it makes no sense in our disenchanted world.
In our world, we have left no room for the supernatural. When we find it, we deny it and find all sorts of explanations to make it safe. I have read all the arguments about the resurrection
being about the new life of the early Christian community,
or the way the evangelists chose to tell the story – so many attempts to conform to the spirit of the age. But I don’t want to edit out or play down the supernatural – in my life or in my world or in God’s engagement with that, least of all in the Resurrection. To rationalize the Resurrection is to reduce it, diminish it. Christ is risen! He is Risen indeed! Really He is. Alleluia!”
Her words express my faith better than I could ever have done!
Thus, as an Easter people, as those who believe in “the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting” let us renew our commitment to Jesus Christ and vow in the words of our Baptismal Covenant to “seek and serve Christ in all persons,
loving our neighbor as our self... and strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being....”