Jesus’ message never wears out

  • April 17, 2007
Easter Sunday (Year C) April 8 (Acts 10:34, 36-43; Psalm 118; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-18)

Peace — power — forgiveness — the words are simple enough, but what do they mean? They can mean many different things, depending on the one using the word and the context. Here they are used in an extraordinary way, for they relate to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
What would this proclamation have sounded like to the people of first-century Judea? Judea was occupied by the Romans and governed by corrupt, venal governors with legions at their command. A small minority of the aristocracy collaborated with the Romans and controlled the temple. And there was a burning hatred in the land towards the Romans and among various groups or factions. The one who went about doing good and who offered an alternate vision of the future had raised the hopes of many.

Perhaps there was a way out of this terrible situation. But all those hopes had been shattered when Jesus was arrested and executed. His followers were broken and His movement seemed to have collapsed. His resurrection from the dead was an unequivocal statement by God that Jesus had indeed spoken and acted on His behalf, and that the way Jesus had lived His life was the model God was giving to humanity. The peace that Jesus offered was that of justice and reconciliation, not conquest. The power He exercised was that of love, not domination. And the forgiveness He offered was a fresh beginning and a way out of the terrible web of hatred and vengeance.

The proclamation of Peter and the others must have been thrilling and hopeful. It could be so in our own time, but we would have to take it quite seriously and be willing to follow wherever the spirit led us. And we would have to proclaim and live the message as if we really believed in it. Peace — power — forgiveness: a message that never wears out, and needed now more than ever.

Those who have been raised with Christ must set their minds and hearts on Him and the things above. This does not mean that we despise or disparage our lives on earth or the needs of the world. Quite simply put, the author of Colossians is insisting that we must at least begin to think and act like Jesus. This means leaving behind a lot of the collective baggage of humanity: traditions, conventional wisdom, old ideas and symbols and looking at the world in a completely new way.

Unfortunately, the reality of “being raised with Christ” often remains in the realm of religious rhetoric or devotion. The resurrection of the Lord is something that is intended to make us — and the world — very different. It is quite clear that in John’s Gospel Mary Magdalene enjoys a very special role quite apart from the silly books that are now in the bookstores. She is given an important message from Jesus to deliver to the others. It is short, simple and rather cryptic, but it is a bombshell.

The first half of the story leaves us hanging: the tomb is empty, so what? Peter and the Beloved Disciple don’t really seem to comprehend the full meaning, and they scarcely know what to do. They go home. And Mary remains grieving. In fact, she is so caught in her grief that both the angelic figures and Jesus ask in puzzlement the reason for her weeping. When the sound of Jesus calling her name finally breaks through the misunderstanding and grief, she joyfully reaches out to touch Him. His admonition not to hold on to Him seems rather strange, but His mission is not quite complete. He is on the move, and now He is going to pass the lighted torch to her and to so many others after her.

Jesus is ascending to “My Father and your Father, my God and your God.” We can experience God now; we are loved by God now; we as a human family are one. All have equal access to God and absolutely no one can ever take that away from us. There is nothing we need fear, and there is absolutely no need to fight or be violent on God’s behalf. Not only that: what God is, Jesus is, and what Jesus is, we can be, for He shares with us everything He has received.

What better “good news” could we hope to receive? And can we pass this torch on to others?