Shared Homily Starter
First Reading: Acts 10:34-43
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:19-26
Gospel: John 20:1-18
At an Easter Mass several years ago, the priest gave a homily that omitted speaking on the Gospel reading. After Mass, I asked the priest was this omission due to the fact that Mary Magdalene, a woman, was a key character in the text? His reply was I’m sure you’ll tell them about that. Well now, many years later, I guess this is my chance.
In the opening scene, we are told that “while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb.” So while the men were still asleep, Mary was up preparing the spices and things necessary to prepare Jesus’ body for burial, then goes to the tomb.
When she sees the stone has been taken away, she runs to tell Peter and the disciple that Jesus loved. When they enter the tomb, Peter sees the shroud and the napkin used to wrap around Jesus head lying apart, folded and placed to one side. The tomb is empty but what should have been more significant to followers of Jesus, is that the trappings of death are also empty. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he was still wrapped in the clothing of death and his face still covered. So, another clue that God was at work here, is that the napkin that covered Jesus’ head had been folded and lying to one side, separated from the cloths used to cover his body. John tells us the other disciple saw and believed but then we are told that “for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.” The two disciples have witnessed the action of God. One of them has seen and believed; but God also speaks through the Scripture. But what does all this mean for us? It means that the Gospel writer is telling us that─ at that moment in time, the disciples are in a “not yet” situation that will be overcome by later generations of believers who will read the Scripture and recognize the action of God in the resurrection of Jesus. The disciples did not know the “word of God” about the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, but we do! For John, faith motivated by the Scriptures, matches the faith of the Beloved Disciple. The prelude to the next section has the disciples─ I guess at a loss for what to do ─returning home.
But Mary Magdalene is overwrought and remains at the tomb weeping. Mary remained at the tomb, even when everyone else left. When she looks into the tomb, two angels are sitting where Jesus had been; between them are the empty grave clothes that declare His resurrection. When the angels ask Mary the reason for her tears, her response discloses that her tears are caused by the events of the last few days, and the last straw is not only the loss of Jesus but even the loss of his body. Now she can’t even prepare it for burial.
Her grief has not diminished her good manners or her bravery. Even when she mistakes Jesus for the gardener, she responds to his question with, “Please, if you’re the one who carried Jesus away, tell me where you’ve laid the body and I will take it away”. When Jesus calls her by name, “Mary!” she recognizes Him and understands, “Jesus is risen”. Earlier in John’s Gospel, Jesus says of the Good Shepherd, “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.” And so when Jesus calls Mary by name, He calls her to new life and her grief is turned into joy. Then Jesus tells her “Do not hold on to me,” because I have not yet ascended to our God, but go spread the news and she does. When Jesus tells Mary to spread the news of the resurrection and ascension, she is to tell of the new life with God and one another that is available to everyone.
I said earlier that the disciples did not know the “word of God” about the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, but we do. We know about it because of the witness of Mary Magdalene.
This gospel shows us that Jesus calls each of us by name, especially when we are full of grief and pain. Mary didn’t know where Jesus was, but Jesus knew exactly where Mary was. He came to her and called her by name. As followers of the Risen Christ, we are called as Paul says, “Put on Christ,” that means to be Jesus to all our relatives, that is all people and all of creation.
Today, in our fast-paced world, we may not recognize Jesus speaking to us through another. We may also miss the opportunity to reach out and be the voice of Jesus to another. In our consumer crazy, every-thing-is-a-commodity culture, we must not fail to be the voice and hand of Jesus, speaking out and taking action to protect and comfort all our relatives. Just as Mary Magdalene was told not to hold on to Him but to share the Good News, so too are we. We are resurrection people! Let us rejoice through our words and more importantly, by our deeds. Amen, alleluia!
What are your thoughts?