Christ Is Risen~The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Reading I: Acts 10:34a, 37-43

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23.

Reading II: Col 3:1-4

Gospel: Jn 20:1-9

Liturgical Colour: White.

Christ is Risen!!

My dearest brothers and sisters in Christ,

Halleluiah! Christ is Risen!!

A blessed and joyous Easter to you all!

Today, early in the morning, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb with absolutely no idea of the wonder which she was about to experience. She knew only that the very heart of her being had been ripped out with her grief. Jesus, who had loved her and believed in her like no one else, was dead (or so she thought!). So, when she got to the tomb, feeling totally grief-stricken and distraught, and saw that the stone has been rolled away, Mary panicked and, rather than first taking the time to look inside, she immediately ran to tell the others.

After Mary had found Peter and John, and informed them of the situation, Peter and John ran to the tomb, they felt very confused about what Mary had informed them. Of course, they felt true and deep love and grief, but I can imagine that Peter also felt ashamed and afraid – and the desperate need to put things right. I feel there was likely some feelings of doubt also about what Mary had told them, because they hadn’t yet got their heads around the fact that their dear Lord, Jesus had been killed. They’d been sure He was the Messiah, but the Messiah was meant to lead them to victory; not to die at the hands of others.

And so, they managed to reach the tomb and looked inside and saw that the linen cloths had been neatly lying there. They must’ve felt this was indeed extremely odd: for the most logical explanation for the missing body would’ve surely have been due to grave robbers. But grave robbers wouldn’t have tidied up after themselves; they certainly wouldn’t have wasted time unwinding all those linen cloths and then folding them again in a neat fashion! So – I can well imagine that they definitely had wondered what had been going on?

And so John and Peter  after seeing what had happened with Lazarus raising from the tomb: maybe had an inkling somewhere in the back of their minds, that Jesus really has risen from the dead – not like Lazarus, who came back in his human body and will eventually die again. But maybe into a new kind of body – if that was in any way actually possible! But the mere fact that Peter and John see this and then simply return home and lock themselves in, suggests to me, they still needed time to process all that happened. They were more focused on what the religious authorities could’ve done to them rather than what Jesus would have had them do.

But Mary Magdalene stayed at the tomb because her only concern was for the Lord and what had happened to him. Mary didn’t care a hoot about what the authorities might have threatened. And so, she became the first person to see Jesus alive again – and the first to receive Christ’s commission to ‘share the good news’.

And this too is strange – because no-one wanting to persuade others of the truth of Jesus’ resurrection, would have written into the script a woman as witness! Women, like shepherds, weren’t deemed trustworthy enough to act as witnesses in the law courts in those times.

But unlike the others, Mary ‘gets it’. She knows deep in her being what Jesus tried to explain to the disciples through the foot-washing: that his compassionate unconditional love is the beginning and the end of his whole purpose, it is his life and his death. She knows it because she’s experienced it firsthand. Before she met Jesus, Mary was ostracized by society, but Jesus ignored all the social mores, and befriends, trusts, and loved her – not in a man-woman romantically linked way but still in way such that, as soon as he spoke her name, she knew without doubt that it was him. And her heart leapt for joy! For a name spoken in love has the power to change someone as it says in Isaiah:

“Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine.”

And to me Mary’s not just Mary. Jesus’ relationship with Mary somehow echoes the stories of the Prodigal Son, the Good Samaritan, the two debtors, the woman caught in adultery, the foot-washing and so many others. So it’s no surprise to me that Mary is the first witness, chosen as the first evangelist. For she is the exemplar not just of all that Jesus came and lived and died for, but also of all that the resurrection was about.

It is indeed fascinating that for centuries people have been arguing over exactly what Mary and the other disciples had actually truly witnessed:  Was it bodily resurrection or something else totally new and different of origin? But perhaps we don’t need to understand this. The Holy Scriptures simply tell us the story of what occurred and ask us to have faith – to take that same leap of faith that John took when he saw the linen wrappings ‘and believed’!

Perhaps all we need to know is that by coming through and overcoming death, Jesus offers us what St Paul calls a new creation, a new and better way of doing things. Perhaps here we can hear echoes of John’s Prologue: “In the beginning was the Word ….;” and Genesis, where ‘in the beginning’ Jesus, The Word, is co-creator. 

But in the beginning, things went wrong because of Adam; and Jesus comes to put things right. So Easter marks the end of the old and the first day of the new creation. Victory over death!

Like Mary Magdalene, too, our past probably doesn’t bear close inspection, yet Jesus calls each of us by name, redeems our past mistakes and asks us to respond by living the good news. We don’t have to wait until we die for new life. It is here and now, simply waiting for us to respond!

Let us pray:

Our Lord, may we realise afresh today what Your death and resurrection mean for us. Forgiveness, freedom, and the ability to walk with You through this fallen world into eternity. May we always find our satisfaction in You and Your willingness to offer Yourself to us. In Jesus’ Name.