Reflection on Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord
Today’s readings tell the story of Easter according to John and how it unfolded. The story seems to indicate that the disciples of Jesus needed each other to understand what was happening. In the days after the crucifixion and before Easter they stayed together, afraid and confused, and tried to understand the meaning of events. On the first Easter, Mary of Magdala saw the stone removed from Jesus’ tomb but did not go in nor did she simply sit down and weep. She went back and told the others she thought Jesus’ body had been taken from the tomb. The next person to arrive at the tomb did not go in either. He saw the clothes that Jesus had been wrapped in but waited for Peter to arrive. Peter went in and the other disciple followed. Then the Gospel said they saw and believed that Jesus was risen, something that they had not fully understood prior to this moment.
Then, in the Acts of the Apostles, written to describe events after Easter, we are told that the Apostles understood that it was now their role to continue to preach and testify as Jesus had done.
What we hear in both of these narratives is the fact that they did this together. Together they discerned what happened and what it meant for them. Together they tried to put together all of the things that Jesus had said to them and to make sense of it in light of Jesus’ death and resurrection. I can imagine all of them gathered, trying to take in this new information and understand what Jesus had directed them to do. Words and phrases might have come back to them with new meanings after the Resurrection. They might have shared their thoughts to see if anyone else was thinking the same thing. John’s Gospel begins to define the new faith that Jesus taught and lived. One Scripture scholar notes that this new faith is risky, full of uncertainty, calling to be shared with the world and not as prescribed as the Jewish faith.
I often think of Easter in terms of spring, new light, new life and new beginnings. For the disciples that new light and new life might have been more than a bit overwhelming at first. We know that light can sometimes be blinding instead of clarifying. What did it mean? How would they live out this new life Jesus had spoken about while he was with them? I imagine they struggled to figure everything out and their sense of things continued to evolve over time.
As we celebrate Easter, experiencing the new light and life offered in the Easter message, it is our gift and challenge each year to discern its current meaning and call to each of us. What new insights are now available to us? What new hopes and dreams do we see rising and being illuminated? What is evolving within us and in our world today? What are we called to preach or teach or testify to?
There is no shortage of possible answers. We know the power of prayer and community. We, like the disciples, know the strength of commitment, even when we may feel powerless or uncertain of next steps. We hear the urgent cry of Earth, immigrants and refugees. We know the divisive power of fear, discrimination and indifference. What role do we have as today’s disciples? We could easily list thousands of good and worthwhile things that we could do. And we, like the disciples in Jesus’s time, have to discern what is ours to do.
I am sure they had to make some difficult choices, knowing they were making the best decisions they could with what they understood and what they believed at that moment in time. And our understandings will continue to evolve just as theirs did.
I was thrilled to receive Anne Manganaro’s new book of poetry last week, and one poem, written in 1981 when life in El Salvador may have felt like Good Friday every day, reminded me of this Easter message:
Bend your mind, lend your heart to break
open the tombs which bind me, you.
What is at stake is Paradise. Lost
no longer: now holy and glorious flesh,
now apprehended under the skin
of such as you, as me. It is so. Go.
What is at stake is Paradise.
Go and show forth lightning transformations:
new heaven and new earth in me, in you.