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Redemptorist Spirituality . NET



April 7, 2007


Law is wise.  The Sabbath law required that Jews stayed in their own house for the whole of Sabbath, and not go even to the house of the dead, to care for the dead.  The law of prudence required that women, especially visitors from the country, did not go out at night in a city like Jerusalem, controlled by a foreign army.  But something more was there than religious observance and normal prudence.  Something larger than any law.


Law is not brave.  While it was still night, Mary of Magdala went beyond the law, and went out to the tomb of her master and friend.  She saw that the stone that locked the tomb had been taken away.  She must have suspected an enemy of having stolen the body and further humiliated Jesus by profaning his corpse.  She did not know.  In panic, she alerted Simon Peter and the other disciple.  They ran in the night and saw that the tomb was indeed empty.  Only the headband and the strips of linen, carefully folded, remained. 


Mary Magdalen and the other disciple were not deceived.  They had been at Calvary at the hour of his passion.  They had seen what the soldiers did to him.   They had seen his tunic taken from him, and used as a prize in a lottery.  They had seen the body nailed to the cross.  They had heard and received his last words.  They had seen the water and blood flow from the pierced body.  They had held the cadaver, taken down from the cross, and placed it in a new tomb.  They had heard the sound of the stone closing the tomb.  They had seen it seal his death, irreversibly.  They knew he was dead, and buried.  But now, they did not know how to get to the body to minister to it.


They had seen all that with a clear evidence, and they were left powerless.   That broke their hearts.  They had seen the best of the disciples vacillate, they had seen their faith and hope disappear.  None of them understood what was happening.  They had no more reasons for living.  They did not weep.  There was only emptiness and stupor inside them.  They looked around and there was no response from their world, or from their religion.  ‘We do not know’, said Magdalen. 


It was still night, and something happened in the heart of the disciple who came with Peter.  He bent over and knew that the cadaver was not there.  He went further.  He went right into the tomb and saw the linen cloths that had wrapped the dead body.  But this disciple – who had been close to Jesus at the last supper – knew how to read the signs.  The linen cloths were signs.  There had been no break-in or profanation of the tomb.  He had seen Lazarus leave his tomb at the command of Jesus: Lazarus still wrapped in the burial cloths, his hands and feet and head still bandaged.  And he knew that something much more than death and burial had happened for Jesus.  Something much more than what happened to Lazarus.


The cloths had been left behind.  Jesus was alive, with a life that knew no constraint from linen cloths or anything else.  Suddenly the disciple knew RESURRECTION.  It was not resuscitation to the kind of life that was before.  Not a return to the past.  [Lazarus went back to what was, and eventually had to die again, this time for good.]  In Jesus’ case, it was death itself that had died. 


The beloved disciple saw the cloths, folded and put away forever.  He read the sign.  He saw.  He believed.  ‘He saw and he believed’.  He believed that God had not waited for the end of time to give God’s own new kind of undying life to his son.  God had not waited even three days to render justice to his servant.  He knew that God had not been tardy in showing the power of God’s life.  God manifested it in and for his son, his beloved, the one in whom, from the beginning, God had invested all God’s love. 


Alleluia, death is dead.


The tomb is empty.  It is not empty with a provisory or precarious void.  It is empty with a great emptiness, one that witnesses that a totally new world has begun.  If you believe in Jesus risen, you too will not die.  No grave will hold you forever.  There is no end-of-it-all in what we now call death.  It is only the gateway to undying life.  One step in the life from which we can never die.


Alleluia, the disciple whom Jesus loved saw it.  And he believed.


On this night, on this Easter day, we welcome the witness of this disciple.  We receive the message of the Magdalen.  We have a new key to open the scriptures.  We discover, in wonder, that the last word in the story of what has happened is not silence or absence.  We wait for the moment when other disciples – and we ourselves - are born into this new faith. 


But we hesitate.  We are not sure.  We have never experienced anything like this.  Do we have to believe that from now on there is no such thing as death?  That death is not an end-point?  That there is a life without any separations and differences, even without the separation and difference we know between ‘life’ and ‘death’?  That we are not going to die-out at all!  That we are going to be taken up, through the process we perhaps wrongly call ‘dying’, into the life that the Risen One entered on the first Easter?  Do we dare to believe it? 


Alleluia, we dare to hope so.


As we wonder, the first signs of dawn appear in eastern sky.  But it is not another day.  It is another kind of life. 

One without sunsets.  A new kind of creation.


On this paschal night, we have seen a new light, we have seen a new source of new life a-rising.  As we are plunged into it, we are reborn, or born for the first time to real life.  There is a story of a young girl who always assumed she had been baptized, and then discovered that she had never been baptized.  She said: it is as if I had never existed.  Until now.  We never existed till we were plunged into the existence of God in Christ.  We are, we live, in a world that death does not know.  We are within the resurrection.  Plunged into it, tonight.


But it does not matter now….Whoever you are, here today, it is all over, and something else is beginning.

Whatever you have done, or not done, it doesn’t matter now.


You, and all of us, and the whole universe, have been made new.  We cannot be separate from one another now, or separate from the power of Jesus’ resurrection.  Or separate from the God who raised him, and raises us, from the death permitted in the first creation. 


We have come home.  Alleluia.




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