Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Sunday

Mark 16
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ 4When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ 8So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Who will roll away the stone for us?

Who indeed. The grief-stone, the stone of mourning and sadness is heavy and seemingly secure. It fits tightly into its appointed place: it is not meant to be moved.

Such is the architecture of that early day, awake to the confusion and terror of hours past, the sting felt once more, and a resolve to anoint and safeguard the body of one so recently lost.

But who will roll away the stone for us?

Call it one more problem of many. The stone that the caretakers erected had become the chief obstacle to what little these women could do: what final devotion they could give, what final sign they could make.

It was as if the natural world itself had conspired to test them one last time, with the dead weight of stone, the work of many men, set in the way of what they knew to be their duty that day.

Who will roll away the stone for us?

Hearts heavy, we each walk with these women to the tomb. We each trace their steps to the place where death lives and seems to reign. We know that the human way, hewn time and time again from the rock of our reality, seems utterly insurmountable.

But looking up,
They saw the stone;
Though very large,
Was rolled away.

What began as a barrier became a marker: the stone that God alone could move. The barrier became a doorway and shape of it can scarcely be known:

Christ is Risen!

Thomas Merton wrote these words: “No one saw the Resurrection. Everyone saw the Crucifixion…the cross is everywhere. But the Resurrection is secret. The saints, who have understood it, in all its reality, cannot explain” (Run to the Mountain, p. 279).

If the saints can’t explain it, what am I doing up here? If I can be bold enough to expand on the words of a saint, I think he means that we live one reality and struggle to grasp another. One is immediate, the other far off. One is all too human; the other divine. One repeats endlessly, the other is for all time.

A brave band of learners has concluded their trip through the Bible, ending Thursday with a little Greek thought that seems to shed light on this day of days. For the Greeks, you see, there were two states, to modes of existence: becoming and being.

Becoming is the world we know: growing into things and moving beyond things, meeting and saying goodbye, knowing that all will one day be dust. Being, on the other hand, is eternal. It is. Becoming will be and then can’t be anymore, but being is. It was in the beginning, is now and ever will be.

So death was and eternity is. Jesus entered our world and lived among us, came to understand the reality of human living, knew our joy and felt our pain, and died becoming the “crucified one,” the God who dared to taste death, even death on a cross.

But in Resurrection, God is. The Risen Christ is. And we are, we who choose to put on Christ, to experience a death like his and to be raised with him.

We put on Christ, not as armour in the midst of strife, but as a way of being in the world, a way of meeting each new day, a way of finding the centre of all that is. We live in two worlds, becoming and being: one surrounds us and one calls our name. One begins at birth and the other is completed in baptism. One makes us human and one marks us as God’s alone.

But who will roll away the stone for us?

Who will help us pass though the door of suffering and enter the light of eternity? Who will help us leave one world behind and embrace another?

Mark Van Doran, when teaching Don Quixote, would say to his students: “One of the lessons of this book is that the way to become a knight is to act like a knight.” To a young Thomas Merton it became a lesson about sainthood and the contemplative life: for us it is a lesson beyond the stone entrance and into an empty cave. To understand resurrection, we must live as resurrected people. Having entered the waters of baptism, having tasted death, we rise with Christ to new life.

Stone rolled away, we look into the shadows and try to understand new life. But it is not an intellectual exercise: it cannot be taught. We must set aside our familiar surroundings on this side of the cave and bravely enter. We do not belong here, we belong in there, the stone is rolled away, enter in!

God is the author of this journey, this passage though stone to grace. May God encourage you on this doorstep to resurrected living, may you find new life in each day ahead. Hallelujah, Amen.


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