21 April 2019 – Easter Sunday
Acts 10:34, 37-43
(Gospel for the Easter Vigil, Luke 24: 1-12)
Many years ago I knew a young married couple, very happily married. Then after 15 years of marriage the husband died suddenly. Sadly they had had no children. For the woman life all but ended with her husband’s unexpected death. She said to me once at that time that the sun would never shine again for her in her life. She didn’t see any point in living. She was totally devastated. This went on for about 4 years. Being the quiet retiring person she was, she had depended very much on her husband and after his death, she felt totally alone. Others helped her for awhile but then they had to look after their own families. With the help of a few close friends and her faith in God, she gradually started to live again. In fact, because her husband was no longer there to depend on, she had to develop talents she never knew she had. Bit by bit she grew in self-confidence and now this woman thinks nothing of travelling to the far end of the world alone where before she would hardly go a 100 kilometers. She had matured out of all recognition and the sun certainly shines again for her in her life. I know that it was her faith in God and the support of a few friends, which made all the difference. But it took time.
Perhaps Easter Sunday is something like that. Up to the moment of the Resurrection, after the terrible death of Jesus on Good Friday, the disciples of Jesus were devastated. The one they had leaned on was gone. They never imagined Jesus would be taken prisoner and crucified. In that instant their dreams evaporated like that of the woman when her husband died suddenly. The disciples experienced a dreadful loss and no doubt were shattered, their hopes taken away in those short few days. They were also afraid for their lives and half expected to be caught and punished by the religious leaders who plotted the death of Jesus and had him crucified. For them too at that terrible time, they never expected the sun to shine for them again in their lives.
Now in today’s gospel, a woman no less, Mary of Magdala reports to Peter and John that the tomb is empty. In nearly all the Resurrection accounts, it is the women who first experience the Risen Jesus. Women at that time as in many places still today were looked down upon. This may be why the disciples did not believe them. It seems that the proclamation of life of the Risen Jesus starts with the very people who were marginalised and who count for little in society. In any case the curiosity of the 2 is awakened and they run to the tomb. Peter sees the linen cloths on the ground in an empty tomb. He did no more than merely ascertain the facts. However, it is said of John that he ‘saw and he believed’ even though his own faith was not yet perfect because the full impact of the vision of faith of the Scriptures had not yet dawned on him. It took Thomas even some days to surrender and accept – very consoling for us. To discover fully how rich faith is, takes time and growth and God in incredibly understanding and patient.
Maybe we all stand condemned in some way by the woman interviewed on an international radio programme. Because of modern technology, after an operation she was able to see for the first time in her life at the age of 54 and her comments in that radio interview were. “I cannot understand how all of you who were born with the gift of sight can be so unmoved by the beauty of life. You seem to take it all for granted – the beauty of a flower, so many marvelous colours, the dimples on the hands of a new born baby, the serenity in the faces of old people who are content with life, etc. etc.”
I feel she is correct – faith is like a new way of seeing. The resurrection does make a difference. If we believe, our eyes are opened to enormous possibilities. Jesus was in a tomb for 3 days and then burst free from its darkness and the stone that imprisoned him.
For me, that is my experience of resurrection. Whilst the empty tomb has its importance I know that I have experienced much freedom because of the gift of faith in the resurrection of Jesus that God gives me. So anywhere I see love in action in life I see the power of the Risen Jesus at work. Mary Magdalene went in the dark and found an empty tomb. Since Jesus was not there it was indeed darkness, but later in meeting Jesus a new light dawned for her and all other believers.
The resurrection doesn’t mean that we gloss over pain, suffering and difficult daily life situations, but it does give us a new vista or outlook on life. It gives us the freedom to face the dark side of life, and even death with confidence knowing that Jesus broke the bonds of human limitation and slavery in our lives. Jesus is alive and if we really have experienced the joy of the Risen Jesus in our daily lives we don’t have to wait until we die to experience resurrection now – deep joy, peace and serenity because of Jesus, now alive and out and about. In the first reading today Peter says that he and the disciples are now witnesses of all they saw Jesus doing even if for a few days they were paralysed by his death and seeming failure. If you and I have experienced the Risen Jesus at work in our lives we are like the woman who lost her husband suddenly. If we are faithful despite the great difficulty of these times of loss, Jesus is there with us then and he will surely help us experience the sun shining again. Not only that we will begin to develop talents and gifts we never knew we had because fear gives way to trust. This empowers us to break free of former limitations.
“Thank you Lord Jesus for the gift of our faith in your resurrection. May we be witnesses of gospel joy and peace to others still searching and doubting. Amen”.
Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA