The First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles sounds like a Press Release from Peter about Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection. Beginning with His Baptism (we read about this on the second Sunday of this calendar year) and the anointment by the Holy Spirit, followed by his ministry doing good and healing all. The whole passion is summarized in just one sentence: “They put him to death by hanging him on a tree.” I once heard a homilist saying that God must have first confirmed with the devil that the death and burial of the son meant victory of evil over good. Once reassured, God proved the devil wrong by instructing Jesus on the third day to “Be raised”, making real the good news of eternal life. And to prove the point that the resurrected Christ was real, Peter reports about Him eating and drinking with the witnesses chosen by God in advance. Ghosts don’t eat and drink.
The Gospel of John is one of the four accounts we have about the Resurrection. While in most of the gospel stories we can relate up to four complementary views about the same story, with the Resurrection we can find several contradictory narratives. It seems to be saying, they really don’t know the exact nature of the chronology of events leading to the discovery that Jesus is no longer in the tomb. Interesting to note is that the first one to observe the empty tomb is Mary Magdalene, a woman. We are going to come back to why it may not have been Peter and John, but Mary who gets first to the empty tomb and (in the Gospel of Mark, which we are not reading today) is the first one to see Jesus resurrected.
Towards the end of the 20th century a random blind sample study on three thousand people in the US discovered that 94% of the interviewed people spend their entire lives looking forward to something or not accepting where they are, here and now, but expecting something significant to happen tomorrow, the next month, the next year, when everything will come together… looking forward to something and not living the today. We may interpret this as the missing of an internalized construct to appreciate the resurrection other than cerebrally. We want to believe it, we say we’re going to believe it, we in our minds decide that that’s the way for us to go. But emotionally acceptance that we live out on a daily basis means nothing to most of us, at least to 94% of the sample. Because if you believe that you’re going to rise from the dead, you can live like it, right here and now.
Peter and John hit the ground running when they hear about the empty tomb, just like today’s American society. Kind of the reaction that most of us have in our daily lives, we wake up in the morning and we often hit the ground running, without stopping to think about why, or where, or what it all means. In general we can’t stand silence, we have difficulties coping with quietude… while we claim we want tranquility, we often get anxious because we’re not “doing something”…. sometimes to the point of pain out of fear about what is going to happen in the future.. pain that comes from not putting the whole thing into a larger context in which the Resurrection of Christ is not just intellectually accepted as true but activated by the way we live… through the capacity to grow in love, which most of us know intuitively that it has an effect in our lives. When we are in love, we get emotional and this is exactly why Mary is the first one to see Christ… because Peter and John, like most men, were living in their heads… while Mary in her capacity to love has the emotional ability to connect with Christ, by whom we identify our own resurrection. We may or may not genuinely accept the reality of the Resurrection… but whether we realize it or not, we hope that it is going to happen to us.
If you want to celebrate this Easter different than perhaps others, open your hearts and not just your heads to the message of a redeeming Christ who demonstrates his love for us by giving us the hope of immortality. Our mortgages, our jobs, our problems with all sorts of family members (children, parents, in-laws, remote relatives, etc.) whom we dislike or don’t get along with or don’t speak to and the neighbors and acquaintances that we despise, all that is related to the inability to see the loving Christ open himself to us in an act of immortality. Opening one’s heart is difficult because we think that if we do that, we’re going to get hurt… but unless we take the responsibility for the possibility of being hurt, this life retains little meaning… and we get to those places we’re so afraid of, which we can symbolized by the empty tomb… the only thing that makes that suffering and pain and anxiety worthwhile is that the empty tomb means that Christ is risen. The empty tomb of our lives has to be filled with something risen to make our lives make sense!
On the broader subject of faith, today’s Miami Herald reports on the front page about a University of Miami researcher suggesting that “people of all faiths, by a sizeable margin do better in school, live longer, have more satisfying marriages and are generally happier than their non believing peers”. The complete story can be read at http://www.miamiherald.com/486/story/995989.html
Talking about hope of resurrection… there was an older lady whose husband had died a few months ago and she had not been out to visit the cemetery. This couple had a very difficult marriage… they had made it but it was sort of the kind of relationship where they fought every day… getting along by fighting… as a way of communicating. Of course when one of them dies, the other one always feels guilty… so they’re especially devoted to going to the cemetery. While she was standing in front of the tomb one could see over her shoulder that the tombstone had something written on top of it: “Rest in peace …” and as you got closer you could see that at the bottom it read: “… until we meet again”.
May the smile (or loud laughter) enlighten your heart and open it for the love of the resurrected Christ! Happy Easter!
The complete text of the readings can be found at http://scriptures-my-journey-oflife-andfaith.blogspot.com/2009/04/easter-sunday.html
With God’s Love and Blessings,