In nomine Jesu!
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed, alleluia!
In the 40 plus years that I have been doing this Easter thing, I've always had on question about the Gospel stories of Christ's resurrection: Why aren't any of these "witnesses" as excited about Jesus' resurrection as I am? I mean, when I say "Christ is risen, alleluia!" and you respond, my adrenaline begins coursing! Yet consider their reaction: Each Gospel reports their astoundingly tepid response, beginning with the male disciples locking themselves away in a borrowed, second floor walkup β "in fear." Mark tells us that the women at Jesus' empty tomb were "terrified." Matthew reports that, while some who saw the risen Lord "worshiped him," others "doubted." John embarrassingly reports Jesus' closest companion, Mary Magdalene, didn't recognize him and that, once she along with Peter, John and the others knew he had been raised, they were so underwhelmed that they promptly left the city and went fishing! Finally Luke, whose report we hear today, tells us that at the empty tomb the women "were perplexed," Peter "was amazed" and later on that day, as we will hear at
the mass this evening, two other disciples, meeting the again unrecognized risen Lord as they rushed out of town, could only "[stand] still, [look] sad" and act "startled and terrified." Today, nearly two millennia removed from the actual "event," we've got you shouting "Christ is risen indeed!" like a pandemonium of parrots; back then at the actual scene β empty tomb, folded grave clothes, dazzling angels, the newly risen Christ in their midst and all β Mary, Peter, John and the rest of these eyewitnesses barely react. Really? What's their problem? What's the deal?
After all these years I think I've finally figured out the reason for their underwhelming lack of enthusiasm.
They were exhausted! Wiped out! As one of our loved ones, herself overwhelmed by the deaths of both her parents and the final closure on the house that was her childhood home just texted: "I don't know what sanity is anymore!" Neither did they. That explains their torpor; their utter and complete lack of joy. When the angels proclaimed, "he is not here, he is risen!" the best response they could manage was "thank you very much."
Which is why the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ had to show up to the women, and then to Cephas and the Twelve, and then to those five hundred additional brothers and sisters and then to Jesus' brother James and then to the one "untimely born," and then and then and then and now to us gathered at the reviving waters of baptism with Margaret Audrey and in the festive but admittedly ordinary meal of bread and wine that we eat and drink regularly and today. The crucified and risen Lord shows up for us not because we're excited; not because we're so "gosh-darn" anxious for God's Good News; not because we're looking for a dollop of courage or even a glimmer of hope. We're just tired!
The crucified and risen Lord shows up among us fearful faithful precisely because we are exhausted, "wearied by the changes and chances of life" as one of our great prayers describes us; exhausted and wearied because we have been going and going and going; dealing with disappoints, dealing with crazies, dealing with crises, dealing with drama, dealing with waiting with no end in sight.
The crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ showed up among them then and shows up among us
now because we need someone with whom we can find rest; someone willing to share our burdens; someone who will help us see that we do not have to do all this on our own.
One more terrorist attack. One more black male shot by a police officer. One more murdered cop. One more out-of-nowhere crisis like Newark and Flint. One more loved one battling cancer. One more loved one struggling with depression. One more time when we're forced to deal with loss. One more stupid, incendiary comment from he-who-must-not-be nominated. One more protest. One more sucker punch. One more anything.
We used to flinch. We used to get mad. We used to get organized. Now we just sigh and shake our heads in disbelief. Just like Mary Magdalene and the other women at the tomb; just like Jesus' Mother Mary; just like Peter and John and James and those five hundred and untimely-born Paul. Wearied by changes and chances. Exhausted into disbelief. Too beat up or maybe too tired even to care.
One of the main reasons Jesus had to die on the cross, one more reason God had to raise Jesus from that borrowed tomb was so that Jesus could
be physically present among God's people of every time and every place in times like these and among people like us, not as a memory but as a tangible presence; present among us as a comforting, supportive, non-anxious presence β not with all the answers, solutions or plans; not even with all the questions β but simply present with and for us as God. Present with us in Word and water and bread and wine and in a welcoming, embracing, challenging and not-always-perfect community; and even more importantly present for us when everything else and everyone else seems so persistently against us or, even more unsettling, seem so thoroughly wrapped up in themselves. Here's the core Easter message, when Jesus shed those grave clothes, he affirmed that God is thoroughly wrapped up in us.
And so, my beloved sisters and brothers, you are exhausted! β So take a deep breath and let God breathe into your nostrils the Breath of Life. Wearied, as we are, by the changes and chances of life, immerse yourself deeply into the soothing, bracing waters of your baptism; exhausted as we are, let the risen Lord fill you to overflowing with the bread of his abundant life.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed, alleluia!
And Christ is here for you.
Amandus J. Derr
Saint Peter's Church
in the City of New York
Acts 10:34-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; 1 Corinthians 15:19-26; Saint Luke 24:1-12