This piece is the eighth in a series of reflections about Lent and Holy Week.
How to celebrate Easter in the midst of the pandemic, when I’m caught in Good Friday, not ready for Hallelujahs? I feel more like Mary Magdalene on Sunday morning, heading off to the tomb, “while it is still dark,” bringing her pain and confusion. But still, she went to the tomb. Some days I think the best we can do is simply show up, dragging our grief and our questions along with us.
Even when it gets worse—like discovering that the tomb is empty and thinking grave-robbers, not resurrection; like thinking we’re coping until the daily news explodes with ever more terrifying statistics. But maybe Easter starts with weeping outside the tomb; maybe tears open up space for comfort; as Bengali poet, Tagore, wrote: “Hope is the bird that sings to greet the dawn while it is yet dark.” Maybe….
Jesus appears to Mary, but she doesn’t recognize him—which always astounds me. But perhaps that’s how it happens—an everyday, ordinary gardener suddenly shines; it all depends on how deeply and attentively we look. Easter often comes in disguise; we need resurrection glasses to see Christ.
More Holy Week reflections from Broadview:
This Jesus-gardener asks questions, “Why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” Maybe that’s how Easter begins—with a Jesus who challenges what we think is obvious, who seeks to shift our perspective, trying to help us see differently. The questioning Christ….
Mary does recognize Jesus when he speaks her name, “Mary!” Maybe that’s the Easter moment—when we are seen and known, all the way down, and we hear our name spoken with total love; when we accept our acceptance, and, like Mary, we answer back, “Rabbouni!” Recall words from another poet, Isaiah: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” (Isaiah 43) Yes, crucifixion, pandemic, suffering; but also love and life, and redemption songs.
Resurrection is not just comfort. It is always about change, transformation, a new creation.
Mary reaches out to embrace her Jesus, but she’s told to maintain social distancing. “Don’t cling to me,” says Jesus. Perhaps that’s another Easter moment, when we recognize that we can’t bring back the past, can’t hold on to the way it used to be. Resurrection is not just comfort. It is always about change, transformation, a new creation: “Behold [says God], I am doing a new thing!”
Can we catch a glimpse of what our lives can be like, what the world might become? Can we trust this holy promise, where Jesus declares that resurrection has everything to do with being connected to, and empowered by, “my Father and your Father, my God and your God?” Maybe Easter becomes a verb, not a noun; a process, not a date; a becoming, not an event. As the poet Hopkins writes, “Let [Christ] easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us….”
Finally, Jesus says, “Go!” Mary can’t stay in the garden; we can’t be in our church sanctuaries. But as we share good news in the world, speaking and acting with love, then surely God will easter in us.
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