Easter • 4/1/18 • Acts 10:34-43; 1 Cor 15:1-11; Jn 20:1-18 • Leora Weitzman
Part of being human is the experience of feeling abandoned… times when everything seems to be falling apart, projects, relationships, health, home, the whole world–maybe even all at once. What used to work doesn’t any more, nor does anything else. Once-reliable methods, routines, institutions, beliefs, even people no longer deliver as they used to. There’s frustration… loss… disorientation.
This is a time of great creative potential, because the old perspectives are losing their grip, ultimately making room for new ways of seeing and doing. But it doesn’t feel creative or full of possibility. It feels empty. All the known possibilities are gone.
That’s Mary on this dark morning. In John’s gospel, the embalming spices have already been taken care of before Jesus’ burial. So it seems likely that Mary goes to the tomb mainly for comfort, to be near the physical remains of the One around whom she had felt such hope.
When she finds the tomb opened and the body gone, even that comfort is denied her. The disciples she brings aren’t reported to offer any words of reassurance, even if one of them does feel a dawning insight. They go home, leaving her there alone. No wonder she weeps.
Turning away from the empty tomb, through her tears she sees someone is there. It’s still very early; who would be in this garden but the gardener? Maybe he had other plans for this tomb and moved the body. He seems kind enough, asking why she’s crying. Maybe he would let her have the body.
Then she hears her name, in the unmistakable Voice. And she turns again in wonder. This is not a turning of the body; the speaker is already in her physical field of vision. It’s an inward turning, a turning away from blinding despair, grief, and perhaps rage, to recognize the presence of the sacred where she least expected it.
Mary turns from a sad and plodding sense of how the world works to a wild new perspective on what is real and possible. She allows her entire worldview, and with it her inner way of being, to be remade. Perhaps this is why, out of the many terms of respect or endearment she might have used to greet the risen Christ, the word she chooses is Teacher.
Of course she reaches for him. Wouldn’t you? And here’s where the last shreds of the old world view have to drop away. She has to learn that being with him, following him, no longer looks like embodied companionship. It looks like embodying what he taught, in this new world that is oriented around the sacred, this new world where Jesus is nowhere and yet everywhere.
How do we hear our name called in the unmistakable Voice? It may not be our humanly given name. It may be the flight or call of cranes that stops our heart for a moment… a passage of music, a flash of beauty, a display of courage or integrity that recalls us to the holy Presence.
When we suddenly find ourselves in the presence of the sacred, we are often in the middle of something, an activity or a mood whose tentacles have reached deep into us. And we may be tempted, after an instant’s acknowledgement, to turn back to our ruminations or our projects.
Instead, let us be guided by Mary’s example. When the Holy calls our name, our soul name, may we also turn and say, Teacher. May we re-orient our lives around the sacred, creative, ever-renewing Source of all that is, and may we listen for the next steps that we will be given.