CHRIST IS RISEN! ALLELUIA!
Victorious words! And we shout them out with passionate gusto on this greatest of all feast days!
But, to fully appreciate them, we need to go way back in time to the people who first discovered this reality. We need to put ourselves inside their skin and see with their eyes.
All throughout his public ministry, Jesus powerfully impacted the lives of a certain group of people, and they were radically changed. These disciples of Jesus were the very same ones who walked and talked with him, who were present when his many healings occurred, who listened to him talk about a merciful and loving God, a God of compassion beyond their furthest imaginings.
For these early followers of Jesus, life took on a whole new meaning. In him, they believed they had found the Messiah long promised by the prophets. They came to believe that, at last, things could really be different: the hungry would be fed; the poor would be acknowledged; the sinful made whole.
Initially thought, Easter is the story of how these same faith- filled people became devastated to the point that their hopes turned to despair, and their dreams of a glorious future became a horrific nightmare.
Jesus was crucified.
He was executed in the most gruesome way that anyone could be at that time in human history.
Overnight the story of those hope-filled people became a very dark one, becoming instead a story of betrayal and abandonment.
And then came the gospel account we read today – an account that begins with words reflecting that very gloom:
“On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark.”
In the gospel of John, “darkness” implies a lack of faith. “Darkness” tells us that at that moment Mary had no faith, no hope. She was numb to the depths of her soul.
And then she finds the tomb is empty!
She’s startled, bewildered. She doesn’t know what to do. And so, she runs. She runs to get Simon Peter and the other disciple Jesus loved. And together they run – right into that same empty tomb.
Now the Easter story begins to unfold in an entirely new direction.
Darkness gives way to the bright light of victory. Little by little Jesus’ earliest followers begin to realize that what has truly happened is something new in all human history:
God has raised Jesus from the dead! He is alive! He is risen!
And the wondrous ending to the Easter story is what all four gospels and St. Paul tell us repeatedly:
Jesus is not only alive, but he is still here, still present, still among us. Only now he is with us in a whole new way.
That’s the Good News of Great Joy for each of us:
We are not alone.
The Spirit Jesus promised us is alive – alive in the scriptures we read; alive in the Eucharist we celebrate; alive in the hungry that we feed; alive in the gathering of two or more in his name.
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb and we don’t know where they have put him,” Mary of Magdala says mournfully.
The ecstasy of this day is that we now know exactly where “they have put him:” inside each one of us – in our hearts; in our values; in our prayers; in our reaching out to the “least of these.”
That’s why now we can truly sing together with overflowing joy:
Christ has risen!
Ted Wolgamot, Psy.D.