Acts 10:34, 37-43
Psalms 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23
Colossians 3:1-4, or First Corinthians 5:6-8
There is a sense of relief when one stops hitting one's head against a wall; it feels so good when one stops. The joy of Easter is not that Lent has stopped beating us up, but rather, there is no more need to bang our heads against a wall of uncertain identity. Whatever we may have “given up” for Lent, Easter invites us to “give into” a few more realities.
We hear today in the First Reading, a section from a witnessing by Peter to his Jewish listeners. He affirms that they all had heard about this Jesus and that He went about doing good things and was hanged on a tree.
Then Peter recounts that the faithful God of the Jews raised Jesus from the dead and appeared to some and ate with them. This One, to Whom the prophet’s attest is now to be preached as the One in Whose Name, sins are forgiven. Peter’s listeners would themselves have to “give up” former means of expiation and atonement, and “give into” the power and mercy of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
The celebration of Jesus’ rising predates the liturgical celebration of His Nativity by three centuries and remains a more puzzling mystery. Being born is mysterious enough, but an understandable event. Christ’s birth, therefore, is easier to celebrate liturgically and culturally than His returning from the dead. I think it was G. K. Chesterton who said that if he were to begin a religion, he’d begin with somebody who rose from the dead. Now there’s a mystery you can take your hat off to! It is just enough not to be understandable, to be from God alone and not convenient for our culture to pervert or rearrange.
The Gospel from John does not recount a resurrection, but a discovery. The scene opens while it is still dark. During the Last Supper, when Judas went out to betray Jesus, “it was dark”. The darkness emphasizes the confusion. Mary Magdala assumes that “they” have taken Jesus away and she doesn’t know where “they” have placed Him.
Mary alerts Peter and John who come running. They see, believe, but do not understand. That’s all folks! They see evidence of a burial, but the corpse is missing. What they saw moved them to belief, but as for understanding how it happened, they had to “give into” that mystery as we do these centuries later. For them, the dawn would be breaking soon.
There will be Sunrise Services this day and in one sense they are misleading. The sun brings sensible clarity. When we see the sun, we can also see other things because of its light. I know that people who attend such services hope there are not clouds. In my Jesuit-way of pondering, I’d rather there be fog or mist. He rose mysteriously, and befuddled His dearest companions straight through to His being taken up into heaven. There was less dark, but not the clarity of understanding our minds desire.
This Easter we are invited to begin to “give up” our intellectual satisfactions which surround His rising and our own. We “give into” the new ways of seeing just enough through the fog and doubts to believe. Our strong belief is not that He rose and “that’s all folks”, but that His rising is a promise of our own, both at the end of our days and during them, and that’s enough folks!
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