On the first day of the week,John 20:1
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
Many years ago, I came across a photo that ripped at my guts and broke my heart. In the photo a veiled Iraqi woman sits on the back of a flatbed truck, wailing, her face contorted with anguish, as she tears her clothes in mourning over the bloodied and mutilated body of her dead son.
That photo has come to have a lot of associations for me. It is a kind of contemporary Pieta. When I look at it I make connections between the Passion of Jesus and what is happening in our world today. As COVID-19 ravages our communities and upends our lives we can become overwhelmed and even numbed by the daily statistical reports enumerating the growing number of infections and deaths. The woman in the photo keeps on reminding me that each of these numbers is a person, a beloved family member, and friend.
The photo makes the women, like Mary Magdalene, real for me who went to tend the dead body of Jesus early on the morning of the first Easter and it makes me appreciate what a leap of faith they were asked to make.
No one witnessed the resurrection of Jesus.
Mary Magdalene and the other women had witnessed the horror of the crucifixion and the death of Jesus. They had witnessed his burial. When Mary came to the tomb in the darkness of that early morning it is clear that she wasn’t expecting a missing body or an empty tomb.
Nothing is as Mary expects it to be when she arrives at the tomb. John’s description of the events of that first Easter morning reflects the consternation and confusion she and the other disciples felt.
The stone has been removed from the tomb’s entrance; inside the discarded burial clothes.
How did they, how do we, get from the darkness of Good Friday, from the darkness of the back of that flatbed truck, from the darkness of a world-wide pandemic to the resurrection? Our world leaves us just as confounded as they were.
The Gospel of John leaves us to make up our own minds about the resurrection. Just like the first women and men who first followed Jesus we live in a world where life is cheap, violence is casual and cruelty gratuitous. Along with these first disciples we peer into the darkness of the empty tomb, and into the darkness of our world and we are not confounded. The faith we received at Baptism enables us to say, “Yes, I see the darkness, but . . .”
After the but, comes our declaration of faith. We leap into the darkness, trusting that Jesus has been raised and that we too will be raised. Soldiers in war zones are issued night vision goggles so they can see in the dark. Our baptism has given us night vision goggles so that we can see quite clearly. It may be so dark that we can’t see our hands in front of our faces, but in the light of this Easter our vision widens and expands—we see beyond ourselves, beyond the circles of our families and communities, beyond the borders of our state and our nation. We see the needs of our brothers and sisters and the path we must follow through the darkness. Like the first disciples, we stop searching for Jesus among the dead and we set out to proclaim the good news we have heard. He is Risen!
Empowered by the spirit of Jesus we work in the darkness, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, forgiving those who have hurt us, and speaking out for peace and justice. Without us, the world is left with an empty tomb. We make Jesus’ presence known by proclaiming his gospel to the world through our words and the example of his love.
~ Sister Mary Ann Strain, CP