‘Mary!’
  • Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Day

Acts 10:34-43 or Isa. 25:6-9
Ps. 118:1-2, 14-24
1 Cor. 15:1-11 or Acts 10:34-43
John 20:1-18 or Mark 16:1-8

Throw the seed of the Resurrection along the path, but do not expect the blade, the ear, and the full grain in the ear to erupt from every scattered promise. “God raised him on the third day and made him manifest not to all the people, but to certain witnesses preordained by God” (Acts 10:41). Earlier lines say that “God shows no partiality” and that all God-fearing and right-doing persons are “acceptable to him” (10:35). How inclusive and exclusive! “Jesus Christ is Lord of all” (10:36). Throw his life to the wind and do not worry. Go about doing good and healing your languishing neighbors. Yours is not to know the hour of the Lord’s entry to any human heart. In the meantime, all witnesses to Christ raise their voices to the only truth they know: “He ate and drank with us after he rose from the dead” (10:41).

If we place, however, the passage from Acts in its cultural context, its historical location, its once-and-never-again character, we are forced to say that a few disciples ate and drank with Jesus after his resurrection. They did; we have not. So doing, we miss the point of this story, the point perhaps of telling any story. If it is good only for the time, it dies with the time. But the true story of the gospel lives by the lives it ignites. Those so ignited walk by faith toward his broken body and shed blood.

Please — at this moment — may we put to rest the idea that the reformers retreated from a living table. “The very letter of the word of Christ giveth plain security that these mysteries do as nails fasten us to his very Cross, that by them we draw out as touching efficacy, force and virtue, even the blood of his gored side, in the wounds of our Redeemer we there dip our tongues, we are dyed red both within and without, our hunger is satisfied and our thirst for ever quenched” (Richard Hooker). Tasting eternity, we are those preordained witnesses.

Before the moment of faith, a bold and threatening obstacle stands, blocking the path. Scanning left and right, no new way opens. Mary leans into the tomb, and though she sees two angels, she is thinking death. “They have taken my Lord, and I do not know where they have put him” (John 20:13). The distance between this sorrow and the birth of life is a long way, notwithstanding the proximity of the promising next line. Our lectio divina will force a long and necessary caesura and will call to mind anyone we have ever known who has stood before an impenetrable wall of grief which, in its most intense form, grows like a killing prison around the soul. Call to mind someone. Call to mind yourself.

If we remember that Lord here is not a confessional address, but a title of respect and love, we may hear the sorry cry of Rachel for her children, the parents of the holy innocents, the moment when someone said a sad and necessary truth: Death. Not death as the punctuation of a long and good life, but death as the thief and destroyer of the innocent. This may be the most persuasive reason not to believe, a reason of the heart, to be sure, but a reason nonetheless for which there is no “reasonable” reply.

So Jesus speaks to the heart. Cor ad Cor loquitur (J.H. Newman). Jesus said to her, “Mary!” So by the sound of her name Jesus raised her from the death of her grief. She lives in him, hidden in his body and bathed in his blood.

Look It Up
Read John 20:16. “Mary” mutates into your name.

Think About It
Read 1 Cor. 15:1-11. Stay here.

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