Easter: the Festival of the Resurrection of Our Lord
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Delivered By
Pr. Lovett
Delivered On
April 8, 2012
Central Passage
Mark 16:1-8
Description

 

The Festival of the Resurrection of Our Lord
April 8, 2012
+ Mark 16:1-8 +
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

 

I know what you’re thinking: what’s with ending the Gospel Reading for the chief Festival of the Church Year – Easter, the Festival of the Resurrection of our Lord – what’s with ending the Gospel Reading for this most holy and wondrous day with the women fleeing the tomb in fear and trembling?  Shouldn’t they have gone off rejoicing that Jesus is risen from the dead?  Shouldn’t they be shouting, “Jesus is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Halleluiah!” Where is the joy of the resurrection?  Where is the hilarity of the occasion?
 
Well, I’m glad that’s what you’re thinking.  Because that means you are wrestling with Scripture.  You are contemplating the divine.  You’re engaging the text.  And this is good and right and salutary.  Ending the Gospel Reading this way forces us to pay attention.  It is jarring because it seems out of place.  You’re left wanting more.  It seems anti-climactic.  Today is the highest festival in the Church, if such a thing can be said; it is a day of marked celebration, exuberance, and delight in the things of God.  It is a day far from fear or foreboding.  We just came through the days of fear and foreboding, the 40 days of Lent and the rites of Holy Week and the Sacred Triduum, when we suffered hunger and temptation from fasting, suffering fatigue from prayers and additional gatherings, and when we focus on the bloody cross and the passion of Christ.  But today is Easter; the Sabbath rest.  Today all things are made new.

So I’m glad you’re thinking about the oddity of the reading.  But here’s another mind-bender, another twist, another thing to ponder.  This Gospel Reading we’ve just heard, the reading for Easter Sunday, the highest festival of the Church, if such a thing can be said; a day of marked celebration, exuberance, and delight in the things of God, the Gospel Reading on this most holy and magnificent day of the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, is the only Gospel Reading throughout the entire year wherein Jesus Himself is wholly missing and says nothing to anyone.
 
But that’s as it should be, isn’t it?  Jesus in not there and the women are afraid.  They are not yet witnesses to the resurrection because they have not seen the Lord.  They run off in fear and trembling precisely because Jesus is not with them and they don’t know where He is.  Even if they thought or assumed that He was risen from the dead, He wasn’t with them so they didn’t know what His rising meant.  Did He rise in terror to seek vengeance on those who betrayed, abandoned, and murdered Him?  Or would He now abandon them and leave them to their deaths?
 
Jesus is not there and the women are afraid.  But He’s given them a promise, spoken again by the angels.  Do not be afraid. He will go before them to Galilee where He will meet His disciples.  There they will see Him as He had told them.  There they would be witnesses of His resurrection.
 
That’s what the women do.  They run off – in fear and trembling – to remind the disciples of the promise of the Lord that they will see Him at Galilee where He told them to go.  And when the disciples went to the mountain in Galilee where Jesus had directed them, they saw Him and worshiped Him.  That’s what St. Matthew writes.  They went to the mountain in Galilee and saw Him and worshiped Him.
And so have you, O Christian.  You have been told that Jesus of Nazareth is not in the grave. He is risen from the dead.  And those sent to you have given you a message: Do not be afraid, but go to the place where He told you to go, there you will see Him and there you will worship Him.
 
And here you are.
 
Here you are witnesses of the resurrection of the Lord. Gathered with the Body of Christ where Christ Himself is present and where His Spirit enlightens, sanctifies, and keeps you; where you proclaim the Lord’s death, resurrection, ascension, and coming again by eating of His flesh and drinking His blood.   Here you see the Lord who makes Himself known to you.  Here you worship Him by hearing His Word and saying “Amen” to His promise: This is my body, given for you; this is my blood, shed for you. Peace be with you.”
 
The task of those faithful women is fulfilled.  You, the disciples of Jesus have been told to go to where He has directed you and that here you shall see Him as He promised.  Here you witnesses of the resurrection of Christ.
 
The Gospel Reading is cut short, left in limbo, so to speak, because we’re not just reading the Bible here at this holy assembly, we’re not a bunch of Bible scholars getting together to talk about what the Bible means to us or what it might mean to others.  We are the community of Jesus who is risen from the dead.  Here the Scriptures are fulfilled because Jesus is the fulfillment of the Scriptures.  Here the Bible finds its proper place because here the words of sacred writ come to life – literally.  Here is the living Lord among His people, showing Himself to them as He has promised.
 
St. Mark begins his gospel account with these words: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”  If you take the reading for today as the end of Mark’s gospel account, which it is in the most ancient manuscripts, then you are left in fear and trembling with the women at the tomb.  Where shall you go?  Back to the beginning.
 
The beginning of the gospel - the good news – of Jesus begins now, at His resurrection.  The baptism of repentance and the forgiveness of sins of John the Baptist is fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus so that it becomes a baptism to life and salvation.  The preaching of John the Baptist to prepare the way of the Lord is made complete in the resurrection because Jesus is the Way to the Father.  Now Jesus proclaims the gospel of God, the good news of the kingdom, which is at hand. 
 
By this divine service, the Church has access to the unique, unrepeatable mystery of Christ; day after day, week after week and year after year, we are caught up in the transforming glory of the Paschal Mystery. Through the sacred liturgy, the Paschal Mystery cleanses and transforms all of human life because all human life has been cleansed and transformed by Jesus who is risen from the dead.  Through the sacred liturgy wherein the risen Lord makes Himself known, the Lord is healing us and drawing us, already here and now, into the communion of the risen and ascended Christ with the Father in the Holy Spirit.
 
Here you see the Lord and He says to you, “Peace be with you; do not be afraid. Behold, I have made all things new.”
 
In Nomine Iesu
+ Amen +