Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mercy Me

There's an old Greek myth by Sophocles that I'd like to borrow from and reshape for my own purposes. Two lovers are separated by a war, and the woman hears that her beloved has been killed, forever sundered from her heart. An urn with his ashes in it is brought to her and she clings to it night and day, weeping bitterly that love has been taken from her. But one bright day her lover returns! It was another who fell in battle, and here he is, full of joy to be reunited to his heart.
But she does not recognize him... She cannot believe him, and she wanders off in darkness, clutching at the urn.
Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, "Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times." He went out and began to weep bitterly.
But Thomas said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."
But Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken my Lord, and I don't know where they laid him."
"...the others who accompanied them also told this to the apostles, but their story seemed like nonsense and they did not believe them."
I often miss the incredible emotion of these Easter days, just because the stories are so familiar. I've been hearing them for over 30 years! But what did it really feel like to experience the pain and the loss of Jesus? What did it feel like to have him returned in glory only days later? What a roller-coaster ride those first disciples were on. And the gospels recount that emotional roller-coaster with pristine accuracy, crisp detail, and the words still seem as fresh as that first Morning that remade the world.
"Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken my Lord, and I don't know where they laid him." When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?"
What tenderness he has for her, for us, when we are in sorrow. And what a stream of deep joy must have been surging up in his Sacred Heart knowing that in seconds, if she would lift up her head from that sorrow, she would see him!
She thought it was the gardener and said to him, "Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him."
This scene to me is one of the funniest in all of the Bible (for the others, we'll need a fresh post). The Son of God returns from the dead... the DEAD mind you... reuniting body to soul and healing that cosmic scar that has plagued us and continues to haunt us today, recapitulating all of creation in Himself, defeating sin and the curse of mortality once and for all, and he comes now shining into the lives of those he spent years training and teaching, and she thinks he's the guy who trims the hedges at the cemetery.
Jesus said to her, "Mary!"
I can see the subtlest smile on his Sacred Face. Why didn't you believe me? All shall be well.... in all things all shall be well. And to those who doubted and denied, those who ran, those who hid themselves for fear in an upper room that was locked to all, he comes. To those who would still cling to the past, to what seemed lost, to those bitter souls, those angry and resentful hearts, he comes. Not to judge, not to scold, not to lay on a guilt trip.... but only to speak our names.... Mary! Thomas! Peter! Behold it is I! And my name is Mercy!
And this Divine Mercy we celebrate today.
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