COMPLETE THE CIRCLE
Every year at this time I am struck by the scope of the readings at Mass, both daily and Sunday. Beginning with the pageantry of Palm Sunday’s entry into Jerusalem and the history and presentation of the synoptic passion and death of our Lord and Savior we know we are in a sacred liturgical time.
We go with Jesus to visit his special friends in Bethany, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus whom he had recently raised from the dead for the last time before his death and we anticipate with Jesus the solemn nature of the days which loom ahead. We return with him to Jerusalem and the events cascade. We eat in the upper room, we have our feet washed, we experience the first Eucharist and eat his Body and drink his Blood.
We go with Jesus to the Garden but our human weakness overcomes us and we first fall asleep and then fear grips us as we see him taken into custody and led away to be tortured and abandoned by us, his closest friends. We watch him be humiliated, struggle with his cross to Golgotha and die ingloriously on the cross as we watch only from a silent distance.
We are petrified and can’t understand all that has just happened. We hide ourselves in a locked room and pray no one comes for us to die with him.
On Sunday morning more incredible things happen. First, Mary of Magdala goes to Jesus’s tomb but the stone has been rolled away and Jesus is no longer there. She runs back and tells Peter and John who didn’t believe her but did run to the tomb themselves. John being younger gets there first but defers to Peter who enters the tomb first and sees the linens which had wrapped his body and head neatly folded and placed where his body had been. They still don’t know what to make of it all so they return to their safe locked room and wait in shock and disbelief.
The scriptures next relate the fascinating and compelling story of Jesus joining two disciples on their way to Emmaus dejected from the recent events in Jerusalem and overwhelmed by the stranger who explains the scriptures to them and finally reveals himself to them in the breaking of the bread.
He leaves them and they are so excited they run back to the locked room and tell those gathered what had happened. They did not believe them either (Mark 16:13). Later on the same first day of the week, Jesus appears to the disciples in the locked room. Mark reports that Jesus “rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raised.” (Mark 16:14)
Yet he immediately commands them “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15) John reports on that first visit that when Jesus appeared he immediately said “Peace be with you” and showed them his hands and side and said to them “As the Father has sent me, so I send you. And breathed on them and said “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22)
Thomas had missed this visit, was adamant that he would not believe unless he saw Jesus’s wounds for himself which occurred on another visit a week later and led to his unforgettable utterance “My Lord and my God.” The scriptures continue throughout the Easter season to tell us the beautiful stories of Jesus’s reconciliation with Peter following his appearance at breakfast at the Sea of Tiberias following the wondrous catch of fish, of the miracles of healing of Peter and John and their own miraculous escape from prison assisted by an angel. All of these give us reason to believe as John tells us “that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.”(John 20:31)
The readings in the Easter liturgies also inspire us to do what the apostles and disciples did as shown in the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. They took Jesus seriously once he breathed the Holy Spirit into them and sent them. They went and preached everywhere “and great numbers of men and women were added to them” (Acts 5:14).
They built a church on what Jesus taught them and the Holy Spirit inspired them to do. “The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.” (Acts 4:32) Could not our church today use a healthy dose of being of one heart and mind. Would not our efforts to serve the common good rather than selfish needs and wants transform our community as the early church did theirs.
If we truly live the Easter story and followed the person at its center would we all not experience a new freedom and freshness found nowhere else except in the Risen Lord. We have nothing to lose. Let’s try it.
(George Evans is a pastoral minister at Jackson St. Richard Parish.)
COMPLETE THE CIRCLE