In the past week, we have revisited Jesus’ passion and death and celebrated God’s raising him from the dead. It is sometimes a challenge to enter deeply into these central mysteries of our faith unless we have life events that thrust us into them, since we all know the story has an auspicious ending. Imagine for a minute what Mary and Mary Magdalene might have been experiencing - they did not know it was all going to “turn out OK”. They had been at the foot of the cross when Jesus died and again present when he was laid in the tomb, eyewitnesses to his death. We are told they were “fearful yet overjoyed” having heard from the angel that Jesus was risen. I’m thinking the “overjoyed” came some minutes after terrible fear. Perhaps in those moments they recalled some of the cryptic words of Jesus: "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." Or, “I will come back again and take you to myself”. Perhaps they were in such shock they were unable to think at all. Whatever those moments held, in the midst of their fear and bewilderment, they trusted and acted….they ran to tell the other disciples. And they received confirmation and blessing of their decision-action-faith by meeting Jesus himself. … tangible experience of our risen Lord. In the midst of fear, joy, and confusion they went to tell the others….. The meaning of the empty tomb came to be revealed in the days and weeks that followed as they experienced the risen Christ together and reflected upon all that happened.
The guards and the chief priests have a very different approach to dealing with these fearful and puzzling events. They assembled a meeting to scheme and strategize and ultimately twist the report of the events to fit their beliefs, bribing the guards, and assuring they would be protected if word got to the governor that they had fallen asleep. They decided what meaning this event was going to have…that the guards fell asleep and his disciples came and took him… in order to preserve their previously held convictions. They are not interested in seeing or understanding the truth of the events, because then they might have to face the fact that they had been wrong, or made an error of judgment about Jesus’ sin and guilt. How many more people might have heard the good news that week if the chief priests had admitted they were wrong, and opened their hearts and minds to this mystery?
Two very different ways of responding; likely Peter’s proclamation to the gathered crowds on the day of Pentecost, as recounted in the first reading, had similar responses.
How do we deal with the puzzling events and troublesome emotions of our lives? Can we be present to the mystery of the risen Christ, and, in relationship with him, seek truth? Be humble enough to admit we may only have a piece of the truth, or none at all? Be vulnerable enough to let the meaning of events unfold, and not impose our story? We, too, can experience the same joy of the resurrection that Mary and Mary Magdalene knew some 2000 years ago!
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