Acts 10:34a, 37-43
We listen this morning to the Gospel account of Mary Magdala coming to visit the tomb of Jesus while it is still dark. She was one of the faithful women who had followed Jesus from Galilee and who was present near the place where Jesus was crucified. She had supported Jesus and was among his most trusted friends. We do not know exactly what she was thinking as she made her early morning pilgrimage, but the darkness around her must have also been deep inside of her. She was deeply shaken by Jesus’ cruel, violent death. Seeing the stone rolled away only added to the darkness and confusion. Now, she thought, someone has stolen his body. But immediately after this account of the finding of the empty tomb, she will encounter the Risen Lord in the garden, who will call her by her name, “Mary.” This is a voice that she thought had been silenced forever. From this momentous encounter with the Living One, she will return and announce good news to the disciples: “I have seen the Lord!”
The Easter experience changed everything for Mary Magdalene and the other disciples. It was the presence and impact of the risen Christ that enabled them to look back on his life, his ministry, and his death and to begin to make sense of things. It gave them a whole new set of “eyeglasses” through which to view the life, ministry and death of Jesus. It was the Easter experience that brought them back together and restored their hope after the terrible trauma of Good Friday.
The disciples’ encounter with the Risen Christ also led them to a renewed understanding of God. It showed them that God can be found present in the suffering one, even in one undergoing a shameful and horrific death by crucifixion. God is not distant or aloof from the suffering person; rather in the person of Christ, who was truly human and truly divine, God came to know suffering from the inside. Because of this, God can be discovered as present in every suffering person.
The resurrection also disclosed to them that at Calvary Jesus was not really abandoned by the Father, even though it may well have felt that way. Easter showed that Calvary was actually an experience of communion between Jesus and the Father, though communion in the midst of unspeakable suffering. The Easter experience revealed that at Calvary the Father was faithfully present to the Son in his suffering, silently at work from within to overcome the powers of death. The God who is revealed in Jesus’ death and resurrection is the God whose character comes to be known as tenacious fidelity and enduring communion. This God could be named as the One-Who-Never-Abandons-Beloved-Sons-and-Daughters, especially when they are suffering.
Most of all, the raising of Jesus from the dead reveals that the God whom Jesus had proclaimed in his kingdom ministry is the God who brings life out of death. This is God’s signature activity. What happened to the crucified Jesus is happening wherever God is present – and thus, everywhere – God is on the move, acting from within, to bring new life out of all of the wretched manifestations of death that oppress people. This is God’s characteristic act. And it is the ultimate reason for our hope as Christians.
- Fr. Robin Ryan, C.P.