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LITURGY AND LIFE

By Tom Saretsky

03/25/2015

Easter Sunday
April 5, 2015

 

Acts 10: 34a, 36-43
Psalm 118
1 Corinthians 5: 6b-8
John 20: 1-18


 
Spring, if you’d actually want to call it that, hasn’t been very kind to us these past few years: unrelenting cold, ice that lingered into May, snow too stubborn to melt.

This year, however, is promising to be different. A few weeks ago the cold was trying to hurl one more insult at us, but even then it didn’t seem to have the same sting. Winter was in its final death knell, and its oppressive yoke was beginning to crack.

The March winds of late — spring’s morning yawn — have been drying things out, and its force is driving away the last remnants of winter’s occupation. I’m not thinking that winter will leave us altogether, but spring is doing its best to evict the tiresome occupant. There may be some stark reminders in coming weeks that winter will not go gently into that good night. It tends to rage against the returning of the light!

How are we all doing this Easter day? Are we still resistant to new light and life? Are we still in lenten winter mode or are we basking in the blossoming of new life, warmer temperatures, longer days and an empty tomb? Death has been defeated. Now is the time to rejoice in Jesus’ ultimate triumph.

In the first reading for this Easter Sunday, Peter declared that those “who were chosen by God as witnesses, ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” We, too, are witnesses in faith to the risen Jesus; for when we gather together to eat and drink in Jesus’ name, he is there in our midst.

The angels, witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection and who stood at the tomb, remind us not to “seek the living among the dead.” They urge us to seek what is above, not below, and to bury our fears, anxieties and despairs: “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad.”

“On the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.” It is ironic that Mary Magdalene’s life was threatened by a murderous throng of people who wanted her stoned to death, yet she was the first to witness the stone of her eternal life rolled away. Mary’s accusers rolled away their stones and tossed them aside. Through Jesus’ intervention and compassion, she was given new life, and we were given new life as well. “We can choose to throw stones, to stumble on them, to climb over them or to build with them,” wrote William Arthur Ward. Jesus ultimately chose to build with them, for the stone that was rolled away has become the cornerstone of our salvation.

But later in the gospel, Mary is distraught that she cannot find Jesus. “Mary stood weeping outside the tomb.” She says to the two attendants, “They have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have laid him.” Then Jesus, whom Mary mistook for a gardener, says, “Mary.” At once Mary recognizes Jesus and and she reaches to embrace him. However, Jesus warns, “Do not hold on to me.”

In life, it is difficult to let go of what we knew, what we loved and what we wish we could have back again. Acceptance of change is never easy. How difficult it would have been for Mary and the rest of the apostles. I’m sure they longed to have Jesus back, and for things to be the way they used to be. It’s like that for anyone who has ever lost a loved one. We want to embrace what we knew and loved. But holding on doesn’t allow us to move forward. We can’t receive the garments of new life if we hold onto burial shrouds.

Spring, like Easter, gives us another opportunity to begin again, and to embrace life with renewed hope. Spring beckons the Lazaruses of our own hearts to return to the living, and to leave behind our tombs of despair. It’s a season that calls us to participate in the unfolding of new life for ourselves, and to take an active role in the building of a new world.

We are blessed with renewed energy, renewed enthusiasm and renewed life. Spring, like life, shatters you. It does not simply accommodate you. Every seed destroys its container and every tomb empties. If they didn’t, there would be no growth, no fruition, no resurrection. This Easter season, shatter the seeds of your own lives and realize the potential of your own growth. May your new life be a life of unmeasured growth, unlimited life and strings of empty tombs. Happy Easter!

Saretsky is a teacher and chaplain at Bishop Mahoney School in Saskatoon. He and his wife Norma have two children.