Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
This is a day we have been waiting for several months. I thought of setting off firecrackers or having a cloud of paper pieces descend from the ceiling of the church to celebrate that Easter was here. What a momentous day this is because we heard from scripture that Jesus fulfilled his promise and was raised from the dead. It was important to the disciples because now they knew that Jesus was God. Now they knew that that what he said was true.
It is important to remember that the disciples were in disarray and were filled with unmistakable grief because their friend and teacher, Jesus, was brutally killed on the cross and was dead. He had been placed in a tomb and the stone was rolled across the entrance. It was Mary of Magdala who went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, to grieve at the tomb. She was the brave disciple who went when it was dark, although was frightened, to be near to the man she loved and respected to be near his body.
Can you imagine her confusion and terrible fear as she walked near the tomb? The very large stone had been rolled back. I wonder if she looked in to see if Jesus was there. In Jerusalem I have seen the tombs like the one the guards would have put Jesus in. The stones are huge and round and are rolled in place by strong men to cover the entrance to the tomb. It would have been very startling to see the open tomb.
She was very frightened but she had the courage about her to run to where Simon Peter was and told him that Jesus had been removed from the tomb and that she did not know where he was. The courageous Mary of Magdala had gone by herself, driven by great love, to be close to Jesus. Peter followed her towards the tomb to see for himself.
When Peter went into the tomb all he found were the burial clothes rolled up and put in different places within the tomb. There was no Jesus!! Peter could not find him!! As scripture says they did not understand that "Jesus he had yet to rise from the dead". Peter and other disciple could not fathom what had happened.
We know what happened after that because of the telling and retelling of the stories by the people who were there. The sources we use are the Sacred Scripture. But even with this there was much, much more of the life of Jesus that we will never know because it did become written down. During the next weeks you will appreciate the disciples seeing Jesus time after time until they finally realized the true significance of the Resurrection. Be like a pilgrim during the next weeks and listen carefully to how the disciples really began to understand the meaning of the death and resurrection.
Today I would like to remember some of the teachings of Jesus and how we can imitate his life. Do you remember how he healed the people who were sick and the people that seemed mentally deranged? Jesus wanted the ones who were ill and needy to gather around him. If they could not come to him, Jesus would go to them. Healing of the lepers was a good example of healing. Jesus would go toward these people who needed healing and touch them. His disciples were aghast that he went against the law and common sense to heal the people that society had literally made laws that they were to stay away from the other members of the community.
Remember too that Jesus healed and had compassion for the people that were demonic/ mentally ill. He sought them out and was not afraid of them. He listened to them and healed them. These were the people that were outside of society. They thought differently and behaved in ways society thought was strange and unusual. Were these people really mentally ill or did they act in ways that made people afraid of them? Jesus repeatedly reached out to the different, the strange, the ill, and the poor. He was always compassionate. He always was speaking with the people that were not like the mainstream of society. Compassion was his calling card. Compassion is what we remember and are asked to duplicate.
The last few weeks have shown me that change is always possible. I watched the voting and naming of the new Pope Francis. Of course I was concerned about the lack of women in the discerning process, but I tried not to be angry and sad at the same time. When the new Pope Francis was elected I became aware that this seems to be a new pope. This week I learned that the pope was breaking away from an old tradition of washing feet on Holy Thursday. Instead of washing the feet of his brother priests and cardinals, he had decided to go to a prison and wash the feet of prisoners. Today I read in the paper that not only had he washed the feet of prisoners, two of the prisoners were women. He changed a holy tradition in the Vatican by not only washing the feet of people who were charged with crimes but changed the tradition by including women in the service. Francis acted very compassionate by making decisions that to me reflect the teachings of Jesus.
Compassion and love are to be at the center of our lives as well. Reaching out to the poor, the outcast, the prisoners, the mentally ill, and to our community of Jesus Our Shepherd is what we are all called to do. We are not just to act sometimes but all of the time. Compassion is needed for ourselves and to others in our life. To live this way means that we will be able to imitate Jesus more and more.
I know we are up to the challenge. Let us forge ahead.