Contemplating our path


We are Easter People, and Alleluia is our Song

Angelico, Noli MeTangere
Noli MeTangere    Fra Angelico   (c 1442)

In these Easter days we are invited to sit with Mary and her women companions at the tomb. In Mark’s gospel we are told that Mary of Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, were at the tomb early in the morning, and discovered it empty, except for the ‘messenger’. Matthew tells us that Mary Magdalene and the ‘other Mary’ were at the tomb where, in ‘fear and great joy’, they received the news that the tomb was empty. In Luke’s gospel we read that it was the ‘women who had come with Jesus from Galilee’ and saw where he was buried, who returned to complete the burial rites, and together discovered that the tomb was opened and empty. And in John’s gospel we are offered that very moving scene with which we are so familiar – Mary Magdalene, discovering the empty tomb, calls Peter and John, who come, look, and finding no body, return home. Mary, however, absorbed in grief and confusion, remains near the tomb, where Jesus reveals himself to her in an intimate encounter.

In each of the four gospels, it is the women who are commissioned to take the message of Resurrection to the other disciples. It is the women who are entrusted with the astounding news that Jesus is not dead, but alive and present with them, although that life, that presence, has a different form from what they had known previously.

After Peter and John found the tomb empty except for the burial cloths, they returned home. We can imagine that the pain they carried from witnessing Jesus’ humiliation and death was now deepened by this other loss. Perhaps because what they were expecting was a dead body they were not attuned to what the folded burial cloths were telling them … not only ‘he is not here’, but also ‘he is risen’! Although there is a suggestion that ‘the disciple Jesus loved’ had a glimmer of faith and insight, it seems that the two men carried their questions with them, because their minds could not hold the possibility of a risen, transformed Jesus. Mary however, stays near the tomb, weeping. Something prompts her to look inside, one more time.

We can only imagine Mary’s amazement when, as he spoke her name, she recognized Jesus. Of course, she wanted to hold on to that moment. However Mary has to learn to let go yet again. Her relationship with Jesus will not be as she knew it in the past.  She is not to ‘cling to’ Jesus. It is as if Jesus says to her ‘do not expect to hold me for yourself’. She has to learn that everything will now be different, transformed. She is asked to go beyond her previous experience, and to take the message to the remainder of the community. She is asked to be not only a messenger of love, but also of hope and of life and of possibility.

During these days, perhaps together we can sit with Mary Magdalene and these other women, as we, too, grapple with the mystery and the joy of Resurrection. Mary hoped that Jesus would be alive; she discovered that he was in fact Risen, and that made all the difference! What difference will it make to us, as an Ursuline global community?

Each of us has empty tombs in our lives, both personally and as community. They may be places of loss, experiences of unresolved grief, times of confusion and uncertainty, of doubt and fear. They are the places where we continue to look for life where it is no longer to be found, where we ‘look for the living among the dead’.

As we sit near the empty tombs of our lives, often with heavy hearts, what are we seeing? Are we regretting that life is not what it used to be? Are we able to look at what was with a readiness for surprise? Are we prepared to be astonished by the possibility that Jesus will present himself to us in new and different and more life-giving ways? Is it possible for us to see these empty tombs as places from which new and unexpected life might emerge, life which has unanticipated shape and form and energy? And how might we give expression to that energy as we take the message of Resurrection to our world today? How do we give a new colour to the Good News in 2021?  Mary has much to teach us as we sit with her near the empty tomb. 

Mary Magdalene Encounters the Risen Lord Like Mary, our hopes are often limited by what we have previously experienced. Resurrection hope is limitless, boundless, allows for life beyond our imaginings. 

Let’s not forget that Easter hope is accompanied by Easter joy. The joy of Easter assures us that, no matter how much we may at times we feel overwhelmed by the reality of pain, loss, confusion or doubt, in the soft light of dawn we will hear the one who loves us whisper our name, perhaps with a new tone, but always with a recognizable accent. We rejoice together that Easter is proof that life will always overcome death, that the light will always penetrate the darkness, that goodness always prevails. And for this reason, we sing Alleluia!

Sr Susan Flood osu – Prioress General