I have listened to the story of Mary Magdalene’s arrival at the empty tomb every Easter Sunday for my entire life. But this year two aspects of the story are resonating in a new way. The first is the image of Mary weeping as she looks into the tomb and sees two angels in white. She does not pause to marvel at the angels or wonder why they are there. Her grief and sense of powerlessness are all consuming: “They have taken my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”
This year, Christians all over the world are celebrating Easter alone or with only immediate family, isolated in our homes and unable to gather in communities of faith. Instead of the white of the paschal candle, the Easter vestments, the baptismal garments and the flowers that fill the church, the white image that fills my mind this year is the white tents of the field hospital set up in Central Park, an hour and a half drive from where I grew up. As I read the Easter story, Mary’s anguish and incomprehension of an unimaginable reality are echoed and amplified in the anguish and desperation of doctors, nurses and families in Italy, Spain, New York, Ontario … (the list goes on and on.)
This year it is very easy to understand how Mary could overlook the presence of the angels and see only the emptiness. If we are not careful, we too can look right past the reality of Easter and the victory over death and see only the death and the threat of death that seems to be all around us. Like Mary we need to listen carefully to the voice of the one who calls us back to our senses by calling our name. (Insert your name here) Why are you weeping?
The second aspect of this Gospel story that seems particularly significant to me today is the fact that Jesus tells Mary, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the father.” The story of Easter is both a completed and an incomplete story. Death is defeated. Suffering is no longer a permanent state, yet death and suffering remain realities. We would like something tangible to hold onto. We want the sense of control that having physical proof in our hands would give us, but like Mary, the only proof that we are given is a story to share and the lightening of our hearts that came when we listened to the sound of our own names, spoken with compassion by the God who loves us. . (Insert your name here) Why are you weeping? I am here.
On this Easter Sunday, celebrated in the midst of a global pandemic, may each of us speak the names of those around us in love and may each of us hear our own names spoken with love. We are the body of Christ; the presence of the risen Lord is visible in us. Today, when we speak each other’s names with love, the love of God becomes audible. And when we cannot touch each other, when we cannot hold each other, may the sound of our voices speaking love be enough to change the world. Today is the day we proclaim, “God’s mighty love is stronger than death. Christ our light, shines forever.”