Chances are the feelings that we associate with Easter this year are not the same as usual – and there’s something unsettling about that. I’ve always been struck by the joy of Easter morning and how it insinuates its way into the hearts of the fervent and not so fervent alike. If it’s different this year, our isolation has much to do with that. In our Gospel this morning, Mary Magdalene upon seeing the empty tomb runs to Peter and John with the news which she could not keep to herself, even if its full meaning was not yet revealed. We see the same with the Blessed Mother’s intuition after the Annunciation to go immediately to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Good news is intended to be shared, we are helpless but want to let others know. Since this morning dawns with the very best news that our faith has to offer, at no moment in time do our empty churches seem quite so strange and so disorienting.
We are also weighed down with fears of different kinds and uncertainty for the future. This may be fear for ourselves, but for so many it has to do with those we love and for whom we have responsibility. Christianity does not offer the consolation of seeking escape into another world. The concrete requirement of earning a living so that others may live without crushing anxiety is not beside the point. It is love in action, and we worry that we will lack the means to do this. If the events that we have brought to mind these last few days mean anything, it’s that our faith does not turn away from pain and sorrow.
But Easter says that pain and sorrow, suffering and death do not have the last word. And is it possible that our present situation may actually help us to see this more clearly? Yes, we miss a public celebration this year, but might not this be a moment to focus attention on a truth that does not depend upon the circumstances in which it is proclaimed? Christ is risen, and we become sharers in his divine life. The new life that we celebrate this morning is not our biological life, shadowed as it is by death. It is eternal life, God’s own life. Christ’s victory over the power of sin and death is intrinsically connected to peace, a peace that this world cannot give. At a time when we could easily give in to fear, the Alleluias that we sing out this morning, if only to ourselves, are incompatible with a life rooted in fear.
We were destined for death, caught in the “hunter’s snare,” to echo the Lenten response. God himself has set us free from the hunter’s snare; locked up inside ourselves, the Author of life, in his great mercy, has come to redirect and reorder our passions. That the “strong one” should have accomplished this through weakness and self-abasement is the startling truth of our faith. So says my favorite hymn of these days….
What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul!
And when I’m free from death, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on
And when I’m free from death, I’ll sing on;
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be,
And through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
And through eternity, I’ll sing on!