Acts 10, 34.37-43; Colossians 3, 1-4; John 20, 1-9.
Too much time has elapsed since the Jesus story occurred and since he was proclaimed as risen by those who had first believed in him but then just succumbed at the sight of his violent death. Those events today seem light years distant from us, from the world as we experience it, from the way we think and we live. What we logically keep asking ourselves is how can those events still have an impact on our lives and on the entire world.
Year in, year out, we risk repeating what can so easily be perceived as the same old stories. It is true, there is a 2,000-year-strong tradition to support what has been handed down to us. But that same tradition also encapsulates in it a history of mixed messages, a history of distortions that many a time have put at risk the credibility of the Gospel message itself.
Throughout history, the story of Mary of Magdala keeps repeating itself. Many still seek Jesus in the wrong places, or even fail to meet him in our liturgies and assemblies, or to discern his veracity in the way we proclaim him. Part of this same tradition are the many prophets and mystics who over time alerted the authorities, just like Mary of Magdala did when, faced with an empty tomb, she alerted Simon Peter and the other disciple.
Like Peter and the other disciple, we keep running to the wrong place and hammering on the wrong ideas and requisites where belief is concerned, not grasping fully that Jesus, the human face of God, does not, after all, belong to where we normally expect him to be. Even the two apostles, after running to the empty tomb to see for themselves and verify what Mary of Magdala saw, “till that moment had failed to understand the teaching of Scripture, that he must rise from the dead”.
We do not believe in a Jesus of Nazareth whose life simply came to a tragic end motivated by the traditionalism of the religious authorities of his time. “Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living,” writes theologian Paul Lakeland. Woe to us if we keep exchanging the form for the substance, the accessories of religion for the core belief that motivates the joy of living and that really gives meaning to life.
This should alert us on Easter to seriously stock take whether we are actually seeking to hand on to the emerging generations a dead faith that may have no impact at all on what makes the world go round; a faith that fails to connect with what ultimately and radically provokes our most basic questions not only about God but mostly about existence itself and its meaning.
For those who are Easter people, the revisiting of the tragic events around the violent death of Jesus are not a time of bereavement or events to be simply re-enacted as if to keep the memory alive. As we read from Acts today: “God has anointed us with the Holy Spirit and with power” not to keep re-enacting the tragic story but rather to discern profoundly and grasp boldly that in Christ we can be brought back to true life.
It is this true life that the world needs and that we all thirst for. Life can be true but it can also be fake. And it is our grasp of Christ through the anointing of the Spirit that empowers us to discern what is true and what is untrue in life as we live it, and as it is lived in the social milieu. The empty tomb, as seen by Mary of Magdala when it was still dark, was the strong proof that God has entered history to change it, not to remain subjected to its dynamic.
The empty tomb was an eye-opener that put all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle in place. Until then, all the parts were scattered, making little sense, and far from rendering the full picture and map of Jesus’s true life. Easter is the map of life fully portrayed but which we still struggle uphill to bring together. Easter empowers us to move on, not to linger on false perceptions of religion and not to settle down on a distorted narrative of Jesus Christ.
Easter injects in us the same strength Peter manifested when addressing the crowds with boldness, that same strength that peppered the history of Christianity with bold witnesses who refrained from being just bystanders in the face of evil, of violence, of abuse but who demonstrated unfailingly and untiringly that love is stronger than death, that God did not create us to end up decomposed in a tomb but to have life abundantly. All this can be logically and intelligently disproved. It is only love that can believe it all. And in the world around us there is enough of this love that can touch us and make us believe the unbelievable.
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