Christ is risen!
Easter Day 21st April 2019
The previous reflections for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday have focussed very much on who we are in relationship, who we are as members of a group, of a collective. It is very much the pattern of Holy Week, when the crowds welcome Jesus into Jerusalem; when the disciples have their last meal with Jesus and when people gather around the Cross.
However, the encounter on Easter morning, at least in John’s version, is very much an individual encounter between Mary and Jesus. Early in the morning, while it was still dark – we hear – Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb. Maybe she has taken the remainder of her costly oil to anoint the body of Jesus after his death. However, when she comes to the tomb, she finds it empty. Mary runs to the disciples; Peter and presumably John run to the tomb and they see it empty as well. They see and believe.
After they have returned home again, Mary remains. What follows is one of my favourite passages in Scripture. I imagine Mary to be alone, confused and bewildered by the events that happened only two days ago, and now the empty tomb. She is weeping. Two angels ask her why she is weeping, and she explains that she does not know where Jesus’ body is.
Then she sees another man, who asks the same question: Why are you weeping? Mary doesn’t recognise him through her tears and assumes him to be the gardener. When Jesus says her name ‘Mary’, and she hears his voice, she instantly recognises him. It is that moment that changes everything. What she thought was the end, was transformed into a new beginning. And it is only when Jesus says her name that she is able to see. For Mary, the moment that she is known by Jesus, the moment he calls her name, is the moment that she knows as well. And that, in a way, is the core of the Easter story: we can only know because we are known, and we can only love, because we are loved.
The encounter doesn’t last very long, as Jesus immediately says to Mary that she cannot hold on to him. She cannot stay in the moment, although I suspect she may not have wanted to let Jesus out of sight again. Instead, Jesus summons her to go and tell her brothers what has happened: she needs to share the good news.
The encounter between Jesus and Mary in many ways mirrors our encounters with God too: it is a deeply personal experience, we cannot hold onto it, but it changes our lives forever. Some of us may have had those moments when everything seems to make sense. Or maybe we even have had a moment in which we saw or heard God speaking to us directly. What me must not do is keep those moments to ourselves, but somehow we have to share them. How can we do that?
As I said earlier, in the Easter story we see that our capacity to know comes from the fact that we are known, and our capacity to love from the fact that we are loved. Each and every one of us is known and loved by God. And we can share that gift by showing an understanding of others and a love for others, precisely because we are known and loved ourselves. It brings us back to the commandment Jesus gave us at the last supper: “Love one another as I have loved you.”
Today we celebrate the Resurrection. What we thought meant the end on Good Friday, turned into a new beginning on Easter Day. On the Cross we saw the cost of our sin, the consequences of our actions, but today we see the power of God’s redeeming love, accessible to each of us. This we cannot keep to ourselves, but we have to share it. Love one another, and when someone asks, we can proclaim with Mary “I have seen the Lord!”
Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!