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Easter, Year B

The Truth of the Resurrection

Readings: Acts 10:34-43; 1 Cor 15:1-11; Ps 118:1-2, 14-24; Marl 16:11-8

Through baptism we have been joined to Christ in his death so that we can begin a new life. That is the bold claim of Easter! What a message of hope it is. It is the message we acclaim with joy as we ring bells and shout joyful alleluias.

But is it true? Can I dare to believe it? How do we know that Easter happened? How do we know the truth of the resurrection? There is only one answer to that. We believe because we have encountered the risen Christ in the experience of the Church.

But when I read the gospel it raises all sorts of questions for me. The women are heading back to the tomb. They are grief stricken at the events of the past few days. Their beloved leader has been executed like a common criminal. His followers have scattered in fear. They themselves are heading to the tomb with a sense of futility. They had seen with their own eyes the huge stone that had been rolled into place across the entrance to the tomb. “Who will roll away the stone for us? They murmur to one another. It is a formidable obstacle. They could have given up and gone back home. They could have given up hope. Yet they needed to do something. And so they gathered together the spices needed for embalming and headed to the tomb.

And when they got there, the stone had been rolled away. They went in, wondering how it had been moved. All sorts of things must have gone through their minds. Who could possibly have removed the stone? What further indignity had the authorities heaped on their beloved leader? They must have been filled with fear. And yet they dared to enter the tomb.

And they were greeted by a man. “Go and tell his disciples and Peter that he is going to Galilee,” he tells them as if it is an everyday occurrence. And what is their reaction to his message? Awe and shock! Terror stricken, they flee from the tomb. They run and hide. They tell no one. What kind of a message of hope is that? What are we to take away with us from their response to the empty tomb?

I must say that I can understand their reaction. It is the normal reaction of people faced with the death of a loved one, right from the need to be doing something to the shock and disbelief at what their eyes are telling them. Following a death there is nothing to do, and yet there is so much to do. Nobody goes to work. Nobody is hungry. Nobody has anything to say. Helpers feel helpless and in the way. There are so many things to attend to. Legal matters! The funeral! Music! Choosing the casket! Finding a burial spot! There are people, relatives and friends, to inform about the death. There are dozens of phone calls to make. The reception needs to be arranged.

And through all of that busyness you are trying to grieve. You need to feel anything through that sensation of numbness that overwhelms you. The death of a loved one brings you face to face with the reality of death. Life is not easy. Facing the death of someone you love is overwhelming. The hardest thing of all is facing your own death. We struggle to exist knowing that death is the one constant in our existence. We even joke about it – death and taxes. That is one of the many ways we have of coping with the knowledge that we will all die. We live in the present, refusing to even think about tomorrow. Or we live our lives in a kind of dream world where we don’t have to face reality

We began our Lenten journey with the symbol of ashes. It reminded us not only of our sinfulness, but also that we are mortal. Our Lenten journey has taken us from ashes to the cross, to the empty tomb. We look for hope. And Easter gives it. Easter proclaims that Christ is risen. Easter proclaims that death has been conquered. Once and for all! It gives us hope in life.

But back to that question, do I dare believe it? Consider the people who were eye witnesses to the Resurrection. The holy women, those same women who scattered in fear when they saw the empty tomb! They became part of a Church alive in Christ. They had one of those ‘aha’ moments that are scattered throughout our lives. They got it. They began to understand the message of the empty tomb. They really got it! And in that ‘aha’ moment Easter entered their Good Friday world. It transformed them. It changed their grief and sorrow and pain into joy.

And it isn’t just the women who were transformed by the event. There is Peter, brash Peter who swore never to abandon Christ, but who denied ever knowing him. He became so fearful for his life that he ran away. But Peter became the rock that Jesus knew him to be. He preached Christ crucified; he proclaimed Christ risen from the dead.

And what is true of Peter is true of all the disciples of Jesus. Something so astounding happened that they began to proclaim their newfound faith in the risen Christ. Their fear turned to enthusiastic, spirit filled proclamation.

What about us? It is difficult for us to understand the terror of those first Christians. But it was well founded. They were in danger because of their allegiance to Christ. It is such a far cry from our experience of Easter. For us it means alleluias, special music, people we have not seen since Christmas, chocolate bunnies and Easter eggs. Those are not things that bring about terror or amazement. How do we recapture a sense of the wonder and awesome mystery at the hear of the Christian faith? Are we so anaesthetized by familiarity that we cannot fathom such feelings? Can we capture moments when that sens of awe breaks through? There must be moments on our journey when we say ‘aha’ and the light goes on. For a fleeting moment a door opens and we realize the beauty and the glory of the mysteries of Christ. We feel a sense of astonishment at the sheer grace and goodness of God. Those are moments to treasure and to keep. Those are moments that transform our lives.

Mark’s Easter account is full of Good News. It is good news that needs to be shared. They are to go to Galilee to meet the risen Christ. The resurrection is the cornerstone of our faith. And yet the ‘how’ continues to defy us. It is after all about going to Galilee. It is after all about meeting the risen Christ. It is not about proving through historical evidence or contemporary analysis. It is by living and acting on the basis that it is true despite any feelings or emotions or scientific evidence to the contrary.

The truth of the resurrection does not depend on me, on where I am, on my feelings. I can run away in fear. I can find myself unable to understand what is happening. But sometime I will stop running. Then I will see the face of Christ in those around me. I will boldly proclaim that Christ is risen. Alleluia!

Alleluia! Christ is risen.
The Lord is risen indeed, alleluia
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