To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 10:34, 37-43; Col 3:1-4 John 20:1-9
The story is told of a child who began to read the Gospels. Like billions before her. She quickly became charmed by Jesus. Suddenly, she ran out of her room crying hysterically. She ran into the arms of her alarmed mother. She cried: "They killed him. They killed him." Her mother comforted her and then whispered to her, "Now go back and finish the story."
Death is not the end of the story. After Jesus it can never be the end. There is one more chapter. This is the most important chapter because, as the saying goes, they who laugh last laugh best. And in the last chapter of the story of Jesus we see him rise from the dead in all glory and majesty. He is vindicated. His enemies are shamed and confused. Jesus regains his eternal glory with the Father. He is the Lord, who will prevail over all humankind, his enemies included. For us his followers this is good news. The story of the suffering and death of Jesus on Good Friday seems at first glance to be the story of the triumph of falsity over truth, of injustice over justice, of evil over goodness. Easter turns the tables. Really truth has triumphed over falsity, justice over injustice and goodness over evil. Death has been conquered. Life now triumphs even over death.
This is why Peter advised his Gentile audience that the message that God sent is characterized by radical inclusion, for God is a God of the living not of the dead. He is a God of acceptance and not favoritism or partiality. The Easter message is also unapologetically comprehensive and universal: Jesus is "Lord of all". Finally, according to Peter, the message that God sent is good news about peace, not violence, and forgiveness of sin, not its condemnation.
This is also why the text from the letter to the Colossians exhorts the Colossians and us who are an Easter people to focus not on the negatives and narrow parochialism but universality as God himself has revealed in Christ. Our focus and thoughts ought to be on things which enhance and build up, things which give life and unity not which cause death and division. By looking in love upon the one who is truly good and radiant with every grace and virtue we come by this grace to be re-fashioned in his likeness.
This positive focus was not easy to have especially when Mary Magdalene saw the stone rolled back and not only decided that the tomb was empty but even that the body of Jesus had been taken out of the tomb. It is a picture of dismay and loss of hope. Peter and the beloved disciple go to the tomb not knowing what to expect, but surely not expecting the resurrection. However, even as the beloved disciple sees the linen wrappings from outside the tomb and as Peter sees these as well as the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, faith dawns.
In presenting the disciples and not the risen Christ in this scene, John gives us a picture of the Church which is struggling to come to hope even in her despair, to come to trust in her doubt and to come to life even in her death. It is important to note here that this change of heart is communicated from one to another and even as this communication is taking place faith is increasing and light is being shed on the mystery. We have each a part to play in the dawning of faith for those with whom we live and converse, by what we say, the faith we profess, but also by how we attend to each other, treat each other. The life of faith is necessarily collaborative. The Good News of the resurrection is not something discovered and proclaimed by only one of the disciples, by Peter, by the beloved disciple or by Mary. But the experiences of each together give rise to the common faith of the Church.
The collateral implications of this basic message are radical and comprehensive. Anticipation displaces dread. Regret gives way to equanimity. Cynicism vanishes before creativity. Self-control conquers addiction. Purpose usurps futility. Reconciliation overtakes estrangement. Inner peace calms disquiet and distraction. Creativity banishes boredom. Darkness has turned to light, fear to confidence, anxiety to calm, and despair to hope and death has indeed turned to life in all its fullness. These collateral implications are something like the fulfillment of one’s deepest desires, one’s wildest dreams, one’s fondest hopes, and one’s secret wishes, only in this scenario one’s desires, dreams hopes, and wishes originate from the heart of God rather than from the human heart curved in on itself. The Easter message shatters and subverts conventional human wisdom. We will, in fact, cheat death. The physical, material world is not all that exists, which is to say that spirit transcends matter, and that for all the many gifts that science has given us, it is not always the best way to know or the only way to know. Knowledge is a gift and a pleasure, but love is more powerful still. Despite the shadows of death that darken our world, if we look carefully we see Easter resurrection breaking out everywhere. When we see a tree in full blossom and hear the laughter of a child. When we give and share and live in communion with each other. In our reaching out to those who have lost hope and communicating hope to them. In the self-sacrificial goodness of so many people the world over. Then Easter happens again and again. Magic is in the air. Easter joy, hope, peace and life are for all.