We share in Christ's divine origin, destiny

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  • March 19, 2008

Easter Sunday (Year A) March 23 (Acts 10:34, 36-43; Psalm 118; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-18)

Peter’s conversation with Cornelius, so unexceptional to us, would have been stunning and even disconcerting to most of his contemporaries. Cornelius belonged to a different nation, ethnic group, religion and system of values. He was also a Roman officer — a member of the hated occupying army — and Peter was not only in his house but was relating to him the wonderful account of God’s power manifested in Jesus.

But Peter has been led by the spirit to his house and now he feels divine prompting to relate the good news of Jesus. Preaching, anointing of the spirit, healings, exorcisms and good deeds — so far exceptional but by no means unique. But a shameful death and being raised up from the dead by God — now that is new and is a clear indication that the new age has begun. Jesus’ message of peace, forgiveness and reconciliation must be shared with all creation. The old order with its barriers and separations was passing away. There are many ways this message can be proclaimed, but the most effective is by living the message rather than merely talking about it. Acting like a redeemed and empowered people is the most eloquent proclamation of the good news.

Setting our minds on the things that are above does not mean living a distracted and other-worldly existence. So often this sort of language has provided people with a justification for disinterest in the needs and concern of our world and the struggle for justice and peace. It is actually both a challenge and an invitation to think on a much higher plane and to receive inspiration from a higher source. It is possible to live our lives simultaneously on two levels: the ordinary, everyday life in the world of sight and sound — and the transcendental life that forms our eternal soul, which is hidden with Christ in God. The exhausted and discredited worldly ways of thinking and acting, based on fear and the quest for power and domination, must give way to God’s principles in their purest form.

The resurrection of Jesus was not any easier to accept in the first century than it is now. Perhaps it was even more difficult — death was an unvarnished, stark and ever-present reality. And there were no witnesses to the actual moment of Jesus’ resurrection — we have no idea exactly when and how it occurred. The four Gospel accounts all differ, and the individuals in the stories don’t seem to know what to make of the empty tomb — even after angelic explanations. Mary Magdalene believes that someone stole the body. This is the story that circulated then as well as today in some sensational books. But after their race to the tomb, this little rumour is put to rest. The death wrappings are neatly rolled up and placed to one side — a careful and deliberate act rather than an act of hasty tomb robbing. Peter and the Beloved Disciple see and believe in the empty tomb but are unsure of its full meaning, for at that point the appropriate Scripture passages were not fully understood. The empty tomb itself is not enough, for it must be interpreted with spiritual understanding. What does it mean, besides the fact that Jesus is raised and is no longer there?

Mary Magdalene was given the honour of receiving the answer and carrying it to the apostles. At first she was also clueless, and as she continued her weeping she supposed that the voice behind her was the gardener. It was only when Jesus spoke her name that she recognized Him. His strange warning not to handle or touch Him speaks of His still unfinished business: He must return to the Father in order to complete the mission.

His resurrection and return mean that the veil of fear, ignorance and death that separated humans from God is gone. All humanity shares in the same divine origin and destiny. When we forget, misunderstand or refuse to accept this fundamental principle we set the forces of intolerance, hatred, violence, greed and lust for power in motion, and our wounded world is the victim.

“My Father and your Father, my God and your God” — with all of the implications — is a recipe for peace, healing and a new world.

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