Homily of 1 April 2018
Acts 10:34a,36-43; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-18
Mary MacNamara, a leader in our Contemplative Eldering Team, shared how her three-and-a-half-year-old grandson asked her just out of the blue: “Grandma, are you an old person or a new person?” After some thought, she said: “Both! I’m an old person. Yet every morning when Grandma Mac gets up, she wakes up new.”
After 40 days of Lent and these past days of the Holy Week, we end up celebrating “an empty tomb!” How does that make sense?
No sense at all if we don’t wake up to a new day as a new person. This Easter morning let us reflect on how the Risen Lord ushers us into newness. Mary Magdalene went to the tomb, early in the morning. John the Evangelist writes, “while it is still dark” – while there were still remnants of the darkness of death. Only upon seeing the stone removed from the tomb, she hurried to tell Peter and the other disciples about it. Pope Francis, in 2016, has elevated the commemoration of St. Mary Magdalene as a Feast, officially recognizing Mary Magdalene as the Apostle of the Apostles. She who “loved the Lord” and stood by the foot of the cross. Her sense of loss and grief that led to the first ever-recorded encounter with the Risen Lord has transformed her into an evangelizer proclaiming truth of the Risen Lord. She has become a ‘new person.’
St. Peter, upon learning about to the empty tomb, rushed to verify. He who shied away from the Lord and even denied him three times before daybreak now wakens to a new break of dawn with enthusiasm to see even just where the Lord had been, the burial cloths in the now empty tomb. Peter wakes up to a new dawn as a new person, bold and ready to lead again.
The other disciple, traditionally identified as John who stood with the Mother of Jesus at the foot of his cross, also rushed and arrived first to the tomb, entered only after Peter, also saw and believed. This other disciple wakes up a new person who was first to believe the meaning of the empty tomb.
The Risen Lord ushers us to a newness. What are the empty tombs we encounter? Our experience of loss, of grief over the death of loved ones, over lost youthful health, over wellness and peace when we are maligned. May all these human struggles waken us up as new persons with new attitudes and vigor and let us know that the Lord never abandons us, that He sticks it out with us.
Of course, there are challenges. Who is the new person and who is the old person in us in anger, in fear, in joy and hope? How does the new person and the old person in us act in times of financial difficulties, in frustrations or in just plain inevitable tiredness at the end of the day?
Let us know that Christ has gone ahead of us even in the pain and darkness of death. He joins us in our daily dying to self so we may join Him in His resurrection, so he may cast out the darkness from every corner of our human struggles, that our fears and sorrows may turn to joy, until we come to our ultimate death that leads to fullness of life with Him.
This Easter, we renew our Baptismal vows. With the sprinkling of the holy water, we commemorate our Baptismal rebirth as children of God. Every Sunday we gather to commemorate Easter. Every time we sign ourselves with the Cross, let us call to mind the passion, death and resurrection of Christ for our salvation, and that Christ does not just call us but accompanies us into newness. As we grow old, may we never cease to grow new! Happy Easter!