We have been preparing for this day during the past forty days of Lent. We are never prepared enough for the important days of our lives, for the important events. These past few days of the Holy Triduum we have watched and listened to and about Jesus Who prepared well for these events.
We too have intensified our experience of His love for us and the whole world. He poured Himself out, emptied Himself by being obedient to Who He was. By this emptying, we are allowed a fullness of life. We pray at the empty tomb for the graces of excitement and joy which the early-risers enjoyed, beginning with Jesus, the first Riser and the three holy finders. We pray to be open to the mysteries of life which any explanations fail to fill. We pray as well to be freed from the easy addiction to head-filling answers and rational remedies. We pray simply for the grace of believing in the person of Jesus, risen and alive today.
There is a sign in a local restaurant which reads, “When God made time, He made plenty of it.” In the First Reading for this great celebration, Peter is preaching a review of the life and times of Jesus from Nazareth. He sums up Jesus’ life by saying that He went around doing “good”. Jesus lived in time, plenty of it and did the things and was the person Whom God called from eternity to embrace and bless all time.
Peter knows he is a witness to extend the person and message into all time.
We might think that Jesus, with His resurrection, was allowed “over-time”, but rather, His resurrection continues through the preaching and witnessing of those who believe. Over time Jesus has continued living in the lives of those who can stand in the face of mysteries, not only those of the life of Jesus, but mysteries of our own human days.
The Gospel for this Easter Sunday has no Jesus. Where is the joy in that? There is confusion, wondering, running back and forth in fear and doubt. There is running all right. Mary Magdala went to the tomb while it was still dark; darkness is a symbol for the opposite of Jesus as Light. She thinks up a good reason for the stone’s being rolled away, somebody, “they” has removed Jesus. She runs off to inform Peter and presumably John, the disciple whom Jesus loved. John the Quicker runs ahead of Peter the Slower and arrived back at the tomb and looked in, but did not enter. Peter enters, sees the evidence neatly laid out and believes for they did not yet understand.
Peter took his time it seems. He arrived last and was first to experience the joy of the empty. Evidence enough was there for belief, but no guide book or video replay was provided. These first believers spent the rest of their time raising the hearts and minds of their hearers and readers. There has been plenty of time since then to have the excitement pass on and the joy become trite. This holy season which begins today is our time to allow the mystery of the Resurrection to befuddle our minds, but rejoice our souls. We might be the late-comers, but there is still time and plenty of it.
The joy of Easter is liturgical of course, with the return of bells, bright colors, lively music and the Alleluias. The joy of Easter is also a spiritual or interior settling. Jesus came out of His tomb to continue the life-giving mission for which He was sent. St. Ignatius, in the Spiritual Exercises, pictures Jesus visiting His mother first. This is not in the Gospels of course. Mary stood believing while grieving at the foot of the cross and after. The Gospels picture Jesus as appearing to those who most were in need of their untombing. The scattered were His mission and true passion.
Tombs can be comfortable if we stay in them long enough. When coming out into the light after being in the dark for a while the bright light can make our eyes blink and want to stay shut. The spiritual joy of Easter is the celebration of the new life that continues to call humanity out of its eye-closed darkness and into the light which does take some getting use to.
The tombs of comfort can be regret, guilt, past-hurts, protective-privacy, inferiority, especially spiritual, and arrogant-intellectuality. The walls of these tombs are time-thick and the roof is callused-concrete. The comfort results from not having to face the eye-opening light of the risen Son Who takes His time compassionately, but insistently. Jesus’ resurrection brought joy to the scattered of the “quicker” or early Church. His resurrection brings joy to the “slower” or “later” Church by bringing us out of our tombs whatever they may be. When God made Grace, God made plenty of it.
“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.” Ps. 118
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