4/20/14, 2014 Easter Vigil

Matthew 28: 1-10


      The death of Jesus had been mightily gruesome and tortuous. It was a public bloodletting.  His family and friends, his apostles and disciples, all who had witnessed his miracles and heard his parables, and those who had come to believe he was the Messiah, those who hoped in him... were grieved -- stunned.

     Some of them were ashamed of their behavior when Jesus had been taken into captivity -- ashamed that they had run away and hidden, ...ashamed they had denied him.  Some were afraid that the thirst for blood may not be over,  and that their close association with Jesus, might bring the same fate upon them.  

     When it was over -- when Jesus had finally died --- the Sabbath was very nearly upon the Jews.  His friends sought and received permission from Pilate to remove his body from the cross. Hurriedly they entombed it to comply with Jewish laws regarding the Sabbath.

     Very early in the morning of the day after the Sabbath, two women, Mary of Magdela, and another known by the anonymous title, “The Other Mary”, had collected fragrant herbs, spices and some oils, with which they could now properly anoint Jesus’ body, the one whom they loved and who was now dead.  As the two women approached the tomb they wondered how they would enter.  Who would roll away the heavy stone which sealed it so that they would have access to do what they intended to do?  They, like the apostles, the disciples, the family members, were also grieved and exhausted.  They were no doubt also concerned about the soldiers whom Pilate had ordered to stand guard at the tomb in the event Jesus‘ followers might attempt to steal the body.  Nevertheless, Mary of Magdela, and “The Other Mary”, went on to the tomb.

    It was at the tomb that something completely awesome happened.  It was astonishing, absolutely wonderful!  It also must have been pretty scary, leaving  the guards laying helplessly on the ground in a dead faint!  Also, the heavy stone which had previously concerned the two Marys, had been removed in grand manner by a spectacular angel and it was no longer an issue.  They had completely free access. They saw with their eyes that Jesus’ was no longer there.  They knew in their hearts that he had risen from the dead, as he had previously foretold.  And they knew in their minds that they must now return quickly to the apostles, Jesus’ family, and his friends.  They must share with them the joyful news:  Jesus is no longer dead;  he has  risen; they will see him soon.


     Do you think that it mattered one jot or tittle to either of them whether the apostles, or anybody else for that matter, might think they were out of their minds?

            An angel had visited them!

               The risen Jesus himself had told them not to be afraid!  

                  They had experienced God! 

                      ...these two insignificant women?

But then, Jesus was always disregarding rank, wasn’t he?  He was certainly no respecter of “position”.  In fact, he seemed to have a preference for little children, lepers, sinners and women.


“The last shall be first......and the first shall be last.”   


     I am reminded of the words of the Psalm: 


...Those who sow with tears,

 will reap with songs of joy.

Those who go out weeping,

 carrying seed to sow, 

will return with songs of joy,

 carrying their sheaves with them...

       

     Richard Rohr tells us that each one of us is a son or a daughter of the good and loving God.  The Divine Image is planted inherently and intrinsically within each of us -- within me.  I certainly didn’t create it, nor could I manufacture it; nor earn it, nor achieve it.  I cannot attain it,  nor can I cumulatively work up to it.  We, you and I, along with Mary of Magdela and “The Other Mary”, already have it. That is the core of the Gospel.   

      Rohr goes on to say that God will lead us to a place where we will be transformed.  I know I can’t transform myself.  I’ve already tried.  It will be done to me.  It may be a situation in our lives which will lead us to that place, or an event, or a relationship.  It might be a failing or falling apart, ...some kind of dying, or something wherein we can’t control our lives anymore, and we can’t understand it.

     So, what to do?  There is nothing else...  We collect own herbs and spices, and begin walking toward our own tomb, one step at a time...

     I know in my heart that my small, egoic, distracted self is simply inadequate to the task before me.  But I will continue to walk anyway, because I trust the one who went before me, ...and because of my conviction...  (expressed so beautifully by St. Paul)

 

...neither life nor death,

nor angels,

nor principalities,

nor present things,

nor future things,

nor powers,

nor height, nor depth,

nor any other creature,

will be able to separate us from the love of God... 


     And finally, thankfully, I, along with all of you,  we will collapse into our larger selves, we who are in God, we who are inherently beloved.  It is ridiculous to think we can make ourselves more beloved.  We can’t make ourselves less beloved either.  At this point in my life, I recognize that this is actually true.  I know that one day my eyes will be opened.  My ears will hear the words, “Do not be afraid!”  My heart will be expanded beyond imagination.  I will be overflowing with joy, and I too will see God.


     I also know that we don’t have to wait until we die. It even happens in this life, perhaps many times.  There are people in this room who have actually experienced God. Some of us see God through the eyes of faith alone.  For me, God seems to be everywhere, and then when I look up again, God is nowhere.  No matter.  My day will come. Wherever God is, is heaven on earth.

                             

      This gospel story of Mary of Magdela and “The Other Mary”, and their journey to and from the tomb carrying their fragrant herbs and spices, and their message of hope, are words for people like me and you...

              we who are in God,

                  we who are imprinted with the Divine Image,

                      we who are beloved,

                         we who long to see God with our own eyes.

                              ...and one day, who surely will!



by Marcia Lee