Easter Dismissal and Jesus Christ is Ris’n Today
We say we are a people of the book, a people of our stories about our God. Too, we are a waiting people: one of our pet theological statements is “already, but not yet.” Jesus came to save the world and through his death that salvation was evinced. The Already. Yet we still live in this imperfect world, we who are saved must still work out our salvation by responding to the Gospel until Jesus comes again. The not yet.
Our tradition narrates an idea that as Jesus’ body rested in the tomb, a great silence filled the universe. Listen to this portion of an ancient homily:
Today there is a great silence over the earth, for the King sleeps. The earth has trembled and fallen still, for the Lord sleeps in his fleshly nature; in the nether world he is arousing those who have slept for ages, God is dead in the flesh, and has shaken sheol to its foundations.
Today, on Easter Sunday morning, our waiting is over. Today we experience once again the ultimate act of God in our history, the raising of Jesus from the dead. In all our other holy days whether it be Christmas, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Pentecost, we only remember the event, we do not relive it. Jesus did not die two days ago; no, we remember poignantly that graced moment when Jesus of Nazareth gave up his life for us. But on Easter Sunday we relive the Resurrection. For each of us the power of God’s action in our history and our lives is renewed with force majeure. As we listen to the story of the empty tomb we must marvel, be astonished, wonder at the power of God and God’s willingness to enter our history.
What do we get from this experience? I believe on this morning we are closer to the nexus of already and not yet. While many other days of the year we may find those two ideas as divergent as the continental divide makes our rivers, today they come as close together as humanly possible. And we know this from the stories we share this morning.
In Acts, an awesome gathering of stories about the first communities of those first believers, we have tales of wonder and amazement. Peter and John and James and Paul and their friends wander the world for many years telling the story to anyone who will listen. Have you ever been in at the beginning of anything? A new club? A new publication? a startup? Some event where a group of people come together and give of themselves without a lot of human sin to an ideal? where folks work together to achieve some goal? The excitement, the fear, the power of the group, the willingness to subdue individual needs and passion for the good of the group effort. What a spirit! What life!
Well, these folks sure had it! They were energized by the experience of the Already and the NOW. Jesus’ life and teaching gave them the push, the spirit to live the Gospel.
In the Gospel we have a ballet scene. Think how easily this story would choreograph. Peter and John rushing forward, the overtaking, John’s stopping, Peter’s arrival and headstrong Peter jumps into the tomb, John’s eventual entry: advance and fall back, a great hesitancy on their parts. The story exemplifies “already but not yet.” Movement forward, movement backwards. Is this not our story, sisters and brothers? Are we not filled with the same hesitancy, the same springiness in our spiritual life, our life which responds to the Gospel? We never seem to be like those first Christian who put Jesus and the telling of the story first and everything else afterwards. NO, we live in a different world where the already and not yet diverge and converge, day in and day out. Sometimes we are really there, like the Beloved Disciple, like Mary, like Peter. Other times we are the Pharisees, the unbelievers, Judases.
But today, after our forty days of preparation, after the remembrances of the Triduum, after our own experience of renewal, we come to the table on Easter morning, with our two strands the already and the not yet almost convergent, at least for this hour together. We come to the Table to feast secure in the knowledge that we have helped the tradition, the already but not yet continue in the witness of our Elect and those seeking confirmation. Our challenge to continue this life, this quest, however, is echoed in Paul’s letter to the Colossians: we have died in baptism with Christ we must be intent on the higher things: the living of the Gospel. Each of us knows by now the things we do which separate us from God and from each other. What we swear to here this morning as we renew our own baptismal promises will draw us closer to those “higher realms” and we will be ultimately much happier. What we need to do, brothers and sisters, is to get excited like those first Christians about what has happened to us over these holy days this year and to live it, to tell our story about how God, the Risen One, is active in our lives. Already but not yet.
Great Easter Joke
A good friend approached Joseph of Arimathea and said:
“Hey Joe, why did you let those friends of that fellow Jesus of Nazareth use your new tomb? You had the best craftsmen hew that tomb in the hillside and it was quite elegant. Seems a waste.”
“Ah, Mike, not at all. See I knew he only needed it for the weekend!!”