30 Apr Easter Sunday
Deacon Blaine Barclay
April 21, 2019
What does it mean to confront the empty tomb? How are we to encounter the Risen Lord? The Easter gospel readings are not just stories from a long time ago, about something that happened to other people in the past. Mary Magdalen, Peter, John, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Thomas. These texts were written for us, to invite each one of us into the same decisive Encounter with our living Lord, Jesus Christ.
Each one of is called to be Mary Magdalen. Having stood with Jesus at the foot of the Cross, when almost everybody else ran away in fear of their own crosses, she love him to the end, and into the first day of the new creation. Having not yet seen the empty tomb, she shows up on that first Easter morning with oils and herbs to care for him even in death. A tender love, accompanied by a bottomless grief. With tears so thick that they blind her from seeing the Risen Jesus. Is this not true for us as well, that our grieving hides from us sometimes, its comfort and its healing? ‘He is not here, he is Risen’. But, so far he is still absent. Where have you taken him? Mary Magdalen asks. But, do not be afraid, it takes only a Word from Jesus, to shatter our deafness, to lay aside the veil of our tears. “Mary”, he says, and in the hearing of her name, called by Jesus, comes the moment of recognition. ‘Rabounni, Teacher’. Call and Response. The risen Jesus knows my name, he calls me by name. Likewise, each one of us. He sees us, he knows us, he speaks us into being, and we are made alive in this speech event, this moment of mutual recognition. The one who made us by his Word, now names us by this same Word. And sends us to be witnesses. ‘Go tell my brothers and sisters’. Witness to the witnesses, sent to those who are sent. Mary Magdalen, and each one of us, called to give apostolic testimony to the dynamite of the Risen Jesus, on this first day of the new creation.
We are also called to be the disciples on the Road to Emmaus. The Glory of the Resurrection is an excess of Light. It overturns the so called sovereignty of death and darkness in our lives. ‘I was blind, but now I see’. The Resurrection of Jesus is the founding event of the New Creation, the 8th Day. ‘Behold, I make all thing new’. For the disciples on the road, and for us on our journey, there is an apprenticeship of Faith, a pedagogy of discipleship, a pattern of growth into what it means to die and rise with Christ in our new Baptismal life. The gradual unveiling of the identity of Christ on the Road to Emmaus prefigures what takes place for us in every celebration of mass.
First, Jesus meets us where we are, along the way, pilgrims on a journey, overcome by our sadness and our fears. Jesus walks with us and, before he teaches us, he asks, what were you discussing, as you walked along the road? Jesus breaks into our lives ‘in media res’, in the middle of things, in the middle of our walking, talking, lives together. Jesus comes to us, like he came to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, even when we don’t at first recognize him. Welcoming this stranger Jesus into the journey and conversation of our lives.
On Emmaus road what does Jesus do next? Jesus unpacks the Scriptures for them and for us. He who is the Word interprets the Word, so that we can meet him there on the sacred page, now interwoven into the story of our lives. And even though our hearts are burning within us as we enter into the mystery of his Word about the Word. Still, we don’t recognize him, except as a stranger when we welcome him to stay with us, to eat with us.
I love, in the story of Emmaus , how Jesus pretends that he is going further, in order to give the disciples the opportunity to recognize him in the act of hospitality.
Next comes the decisive moment of Encounter, the Recognition of the Risen Lord. We sit at table with this one who is still a stranger to us. Then, he says the blessing, the berakoth, ‘Blessed are you O Lord our God, who brings forth bread from the earth’. He Breaks the Bread and we recognize his transfigured broken body. He is Risen, he is Risen indeed! The transforming moment of recognition. We have seen the Risen Lord. Resurrection, this surplus of presence, even as it recedes in the very moment of its overflowing. What do the disciples do? What are we to do with this Empty tomb, this Risen Jesus in our midst? What can we do, with such glad tidings, good news, gospel, evangelion, except to run the risk, to run in haste, to tell the others, ‘we have seen the Lord’. On Emmaus road we meet the Lord in the heart burning breaking of the Word, and in the Eucharistic Breaking of the Bread. Alleluia! Alleluia!