Sunday, April 20, 2014

"Woman, Why Are You Weeping?" Easter 2014

This is the year of the Matthew Gospel readings, with angels and earthquakes at Jesus' tomb.  But, in a departure from what I normally would do with a reflection, I am reverting to the "other Gospel passage" that is on the docket for Easter Sunday: the account of the resurrection from the Gospel of John.  In that telling of the story, Mary Magdalene has stayed at the empty tomb of Jesus, weeping.  From the Scripture:

As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew,"Rabbou'ni!" (which means Teacher).--John 20: 11b-16

Rather than go into a heady and strictly intellectual  theological reflection on this moment, I'm going to just say that I, too, have been weeping pretty much on and off all day today.  It began this morning when I woke up and slowly let it sink in that today was Easter.  How would this Easter feel in comparison to other Easters?  Would I have that jolt of energy and excitement, the euphoria of feeling at long last freed from whatever has held me back?

No.  What I had were tears.  Sometimes in heavy chest-heaving sighs of distress.  Because what came to mind about Easter was the traditional phone exchange between me and my mother.  She'd call me and say, "He is Risen."  And, good Episcopalian that I am, I would respond, "The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!"  That phone call didn't happen last year because she had just had her stroke.  But this year, the realization that I would never have that call again dissolved me to tears.  The singing of "Jesus Christ is Risen Today" was another toughie.  That had been the recessional hymn for my mother's funeral and I still remember marveling that a room of people, some of different faiths or, perhaps, no faith at all, were belting out that tune in all its joy in February.

And I thought about that question: "Woman, why are you weeping?"

Because my mother is dead, and I miss her, that's why!  Because the woman who raised me, loved me, believed in me, and defended me is gone.

But then again... the question, "Woman, why are you weeping?"  

This question gets asked of the grieving Mary who believes something terrible has happened to Jesus' body.  Was it not enough that he was killed? Do they have to abscond with his remains as well?  Jesus reveals himself to her, but she doesn't recognize him at first.  Once she does, she is overcome with awe and wonder and attempts to take hold of him, something he says she shouldn't do because he hasn't ascended to the Father (I have written on that idea before).  It is when he says her name that Mary has her recognition.  

For me, I feel much the same way I imagine Mary did.  I'm not so much worried that my mother's body has been stolen.  But I recognize that I am missing her in her bodily form and that ability to hear her voice at the other end of phone line saying, "He is Risen!"

But then, isn't that point?  My mother, who has risen herself in glory, has become one with Christ and the communion of saints.  Her spirit can now testify to what that means to be with Christ in glorious resurrection.  If there was ever a time that she could say with confidence, "He is Risen!" I imagine now would be the time.   And so it becomes all the more  important for me to confirm her truth with my own: The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!  I believe my mother has ascended into heaven and is seated at the Southpaw end of the table.  I believe she is at peaceful rest until its time to shake things up.  And I believe that she lives on in some other time and space that is beyond our knowing in this realm, but known only to God.

Woman, why are you weeping?  I'm not now.  God has dried these tears.  He is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed: Alleluia!


Phoebe McFarllin said...

I too wondered if Easter would come this year. And as usual, Saturday was the worst. No crying.. only blackness, going through the day doing what needed to be done. Then listening to "The Bible" on NatGeo.. and their discription of Mary (the Tower) peaked an interest.. Peter.. well just Peter... then looking at fb came across Dolly Parton singing 'He's Alive'.. The Biblical story.. but ending with Peter being totally forgiven and realising Jesus was ALIVE! And it was also my Easter moment!

SCG said...

I'm glad you got there, too, Phoebe+, even if it had to come through a long and winding Saturday.

The Old Lady said...

I feel your pain, Susan; my dear Mother left five years ago and I too miss her voice on the telephone... and her hugs. But knowing where she went, even if only in some vague and inaccurate way, makes it easier to bear. My little brother who thinks he is an atheist has a harder time with it, I think. The loss of one who is the most important person in your life is bittersweet to those of us who have faith; all I can really tell you is that as time passes it becomes more sweet than bitter.