Easter is the Celebration of Light and Mercy
By: Bernadette Gibson
We weren’t there on that first Easter morning with Mary Magdalene, Peter and John, peering into the empty tomb and seeing signs of resurrection. But we are here now as beneficiaries of the life and love that emerges from Christ’s death. John begins the Easter story with the words, “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark . . .” It was still dark, John says, but light enough for Mary Magdalene to see that the stone had been removed from the tomb. Immediately, Mary seems to assume that the tomb is empty. She runs to tell Peter and John, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Peter and the Beloved Disciple take off at a gallop, apparently with Mary right behind them. But it is interesting what happened then. The Gospel says the two disciples – returned back to their homes. It was almost as if they thought well, we’ve checked this out and we can’t do anything about it. So back home they went still in the dark, heavy and with no thought of the darkness lifting. Mary on the other hand bravely endures what St. John of the Cross describes as “the dark night of the soul.” Mary stayed there, grief-stricken wondering what on earth could have happened to the body of her friend Jesus. Mary stayed by the tomb, and there she encountered the Lord, and her life was changed by encountering her fear. The darkness lifted. In John’s gospel Mary was the first witness to the Resurrection. Truth be known, until we have spent our share of time in the dark place, where hope is hard to come by, we are not quite ready to encounter Easter. When Mary was first addressed by Jesus it was a case of mistaken identity. She wasn’t expecting Jesus and mistook him for a gardener, so she asked if he had taken away the body. The Gospel tells us that darkness will last until someone believes in the risen Jesus. Love enables us to see things that have been there all the time, but which we could never see until the light shines. That is exactly what John means. God, also, does that. God reveals Love. God, through Christ, opens up the eyes of the heart and life comes into focus and Mary could see and hear clearly that she was encountering Jesus. This Easter morning, the risen Lord is seeking us out, calling us by name, and addressing us personally. The God of Easter is not distant, aloof or remote. Rather the God of Easter is a personal God who comes to us, entering into our very presence. The story is a challenge to have our eyes opened wide enough, and our minds sufficiently opened to allow ourselves to be encountered by the Lord. That challenge stares us in the face as we hear the Easter morning story of Jesus and Mary. Like Mary we will find Jesus: wherever stones have been rolled back and barriers torn down; where those who thought life had ended for them, and are given hope. We will be Jesus’ living witnesses whenever we feed the hungry, raise up the disheartened, nurse the injured, or become the voice of the voiceless. Jesus is living within us when we turn from what was destructive in our lives, when we have the courage to forgive one another, and when we gather the strength to begin anew. Jesus is not found among the dead, but among the living. Mercy is the name of our God. Mercy is the best and most beautiful news that can be told to us and that we should bring to the world. As our Easter God by His mercy always gives us a new chance, a new future, our mercy gives future to the other, and to a world that needs it so much. In the new light of Easter we can hear the voice of the risen Christ saying to us “Peace be with you” even when we are afraid of all we do not know or understand. Easter is the celebration of Christ passing over the darkness into the light of life. Easter is the celebration of winter passing over to spring. Jesus is the Great Light, shining upon our darkened lives, breaking through and teaching us how to become the kind of persons Jesus intended us to be, responding to the light like plants seeking the sun, opening, unfolding, and bearing the fruit of mercy for one another. We come here this Easter day in faith because, like Mary and the disciples, we too have seen the light, and we are grateful today for Christ is Risen! Alleluia!