…for I know that you seek Jesus.” These are the words of the angel to the women that early first Easter morning. “He is not here, for He has been raised…Come, see the place where He was laid…”
No message can possibly have been more confusing, more startling, more incredible, than these words. After all, these were the women who watched Jesus’ tortured death and burial. He’s been what???
These women were the first “apostles”—sent (for this is the meaning of the word apostolos in Greek) to proclaim Jesus’ triumph over hatred and death—first to the Twelve, and then through them to all Jerusalem and the whole world. What is the essence of Jesus’ life/death/resurrection, then? It is to convey a simple and fundamental message, beautifully expressed by Rwandan massacre survivor Immaculée Ilibagiza: “I’ve seen hatred and I have seen love. And love is more powerful.”
The triumph of Jesus is the triumph of love, of mercy, of forgiveness, of healing—in the face of hatred, vengeance, infection of soul. It is the triumph that assures us that in the end, love wins. It is the assurance, to quote Mother Julian of Norwich, that in the end, “…love is our Lord’s meaning.” It is the promise, in the words of Pope Francis, that “The Name of God Is Mercy.”
If there is nothing else of benefit to us in the face of the current COVID-19 epidemic, it is that it will (or can, or should) bring us face-to-face with our own mortality. It forces us to reckon that we are not, after all, gods. I could share stories of friends who have friends or relatives battling for their lives with this disease. CS Lewis was (as always) insightful when he commented that being in the trenches during World War I didn’t make his death more imminent—it only made his awareness more imminent. What will happen if I go to Walmart and someone coughs on me? What indeed?
Easter Sunday reminds us that whatever happens in “this valley of tears,” it is not the end. What is and has been the quality of our life and love and generosity and sense of justice? How will that quality determine our eternity? Not that that earns us anything, but it makes us people capable of accepting God’s embrace (and how can we, if we have not been willing to embrace others?).
So: the tomb is empty, the women are babbling, the disciples are incredulous. Where are we in this mix? For myself, I think I want to remain with the babbling women…
Happy Easter. He IS risen as He said. What do we say, you and I? And how will it affect our lives as a result?