Happy Easter! I hope that you are healthy, safe, and managing as best as you possibly can this Easter. It is a strange and unsettling time. I thought that I would share the reflection that I am offering this morning to the residents of the Cranberry Isles, Isle au Haut, Frenchboro, Matinicus and Monhegan. I serve as chaplain to these islands and we’ll be meeting together this morning via Zoom to celebrate Easter.
My reflection is taken from the Gospel of John, chapter 20, verses 1-18.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my God.
Mary Magdalene stood weeping outside the tomb. Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him, “teacher.”
As I have sat with and opened my heart, mind, and spirit to this passage of scripture, this is the piece of the story that has most resonated with me this Easter. Mary Magdalene and the moment she realizes that she is talking to Jesus.
Prior to COVID-19, I thought my Easter message would focus on the resurrection and what it might mean to live as Christians adhering to the hope that we are resurrection people. Over the past few weeks, as I have experienced the impact of COVID-19 and the fear, anxiety, and uncertainty surrounding it, my attention has been pulled from the concept of resurrection to this moment in the story, when Mary realizes that she’s not talking to a gardener, but to Jesus – the very person for whom she is mourning. The person she thought was taken from her.
As ironic as it may sound at Easter, I am finding the thought of resurrection to be too big – too conceptual. In this moment in time, during this pandemic, I am looking for signs of hope that are more tangible. Signs that I can hold in my hands or into which I can sink my metaphoric teeth. It’s this desire for tangible hope that drew my attention to Mary.
It seems to me that Mary could be any of us. Mary’s world was irrevocably changed with Christ’s crucifixion. I imagine that every aspect of her existence was touched by his death, the events that led to it, and the way it happened. I have no point of reference for a tragedy that is the magnitude of a crucifixion. But I have a gut feeling that parallels can be drawn between Mary’s experience and our experience with this pandemic. Like Mary, every aspect of our existence has been touched by this virus. We are frightened, confused, and weeping. We’ve experienced tremendous loss. We cannot envision a way forward and we have no assurance that our future will resemble our familiar past. We are weeping outside of the tomb; not quite knowing what to do.
Despite how it may feel, my intention for Easter Sunday is not to plummet you into the depths of despair. Instead, it’s to remind you that hope is present if we remain present and open ourselves to its possibility. Mary remained present. Unlike Simon Peter and the other disciple, Mary didn’t leave the tomb when she found it empty. She stayed and she was present. She was also present with her feelings – she wept. She didn’t push her emotions away or act as if she wasn’t sad. She didn’t put on a brave face. She wept. She was present.
I would like to imagine that she took a couple of deep cleansing breaths while she was standing there. However, that little insertion is most definitely me projecting my love of breathing into the story.
My point is, she stayed. Hope presented itself and Mary was available to see it. Hope wasn’t completely clear to her at first. The depth of her emotions caused her to mistake Jesus for a gardener, but clarity came because she remained present.
My Easter message to you is quite simple – be like Mary. In the midst of this horrific, frightening, anxiety producing, and uncertain pandemic, find the strength within to be present. You may experience a sense of presence through meditation, prayer, exercise, or art. You may experience it in the shower or when you take a long hot bath. Regardless of the method you choose, I promise you, if you pause and breathe, you can experience presence. And once there, your breathing will slow, your heart rate will decrease, clarity will emerge, and you may realize that hope is standing, right there, beside you.
Remember, especially today – Easter Sunday – that hope is omnipresent. It has been, it is, and it will be with us, always. Sometimes, we’re just too human to see it.
Peace. Happy Easter!!
Director of Island Outreach and Chaplain, Sunbeam V