"Fear" is an interesting word to juxtapose with "Easter" -- in fact, the two words are diametrically opposed. "Fear" is about choosing death over life; "Easter" is about choosing life over death. "Fear" entombs us; "Easter" liberates us. "Fear" holds us back; "Easter" propels us forward. "Fear" is about dryness, aridity and decay; "Easter" is about fertility and growth. "Fear" is about playing safe; "Easter" is about taking risks. "Fear" roots us to the world of facts and figures; "Easter" allows us to take flight into the world of mysticism. "Fear" is about wasted potential and missed opportunities; "Easter" is about fulfillment and sense of purpose. "Fear" is a product of the ego; "Easter" is a mindset of the soul. "Fear" is demonic in nature; "Easter" is God's gift to the cosmos....
We live in a world that promotes fear -- fear of the unknown, fear of loss, fear of terrorism, fear of urban violence, fear of poverty, fear of illness, fear of aging, fear of strangers, fear of those different from ourselves, fear of not "having" enough, fear of not "being" enough....
As a people of faith, we profess that God is greater than our fears and that even in the face of inexplicable suffering, God is with us, leading us, guiding us, towards light and joy. On Easter Sunday, terrorists shattered hundreds of lives in Sri Lanka. On a day given to peace, prayer and rejoicing, they splattered blood and mayhem; however, if their intention was to intimidate, they failed. Love surfaced everywhere, manifesting in small acts of kindness and in an outpouring of solidarity for the victims and their families that transcended faith traditions and nationality. Mourners gathered to bury the dead;
strangers provided them with food and water or joined them to pray. Some strung traditional "mourning flags" along the roads; fluttering overhead in the wind, these flags symbolized the love and care of the whole community for those had suffered such terrible loss. In the face of tragedy, may we always remember that Love is stronger than fear; light is more powerful than darkness, and that the God of Life is more powerful than Death.
On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were out of fear, Jesus came and stood in their midst, saying, "Peace be with you."
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus again said to them, "Peace be with you.
As my Father has sent me, so I send you."
When he had said this, he breathed on them, saying,
"Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven, and whose sins you retain are retained."
Cowering behind locked doors, overwhelmed by grief, the disciples in Jn 20:19 hardly represent a jubilant faith community -- in fact, they most likely believe that all their hopes and dreams have been crucified along with Jesus and that they, themselves, are now in danger of being arrested. From the four Resurrection narratives, it would seem that the disciples already know about the empty tomb but are struggling to interpret what it might mean. In Matt 28:10, the Risen Jesus sends Mary of Magdala and two other women to tell the disciples that they will see him in Galilee, but in Lk 24:11 we learn that the apostles dismiss their account as "nonsense" and refuse to believe them; Simon Peter, however, runs to the tomb to see for himself and leaves "amazed" -- a comment that suggests belief may be setting in. In Mk 16:8, the women get the message" but fail to deliver it because they are so terrified, and in John 20:8, the "disciple Jesus loved" enters the tomb, sees the burial cloths and then believes. Out of the eleven disciples-- assuming that "the disciple Jesus loved" is John the Evangelist-- it would seem that there is one definite believer ("the disciple Jesus loved"), one would-be believer (Simon Peter) and nine disbelievers. No doubt their heated, panic-filled conversation focuses on Jesus' execution, the women's vision of angels (Lk 24:22-24) and the mystery of the burial wrappings.
In spite of locked doors, Jesus stands in the midst of his disciples, banishing all tension, anxiety and fear. His presence confirms the women's story while the imprints of his wounds prove that he is not a ghost. This appearance could be described as "Plan B": Jesus' original intention "Plan A," was to meet up with his disciples in Galilee but they are still hiding in Jerusalem, immobilized by fear. If it were not for "Plan B," they might remain in Jerusalem indefinitely!
Like the disciples, we often ignore the Good News that comes to us in so many ways -- through the written word, through others' comments, through chance events and encounters, through communal prayer, through dreams.... God is constantly communicating with us but we are too preoccupied to listen, too rational to believe what we hear, too willful to surrender, too busy to interpret the message or to discern "next steps." Obtuse though we maybe, however, this does not prevent the Holy One from implementing "Plan B." When we are trapped in prisons of our own making, overcome by darkness and incapable of making life-giving decisions, the Risen Lord breaks through our our fears to liberate us.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
- What "Good News" have you experienced this Easter?
- What tends to block you from believing the Good News?
- How can you become more open to God's communications?
- What Good News can you share with others?