A parishioner was teaching Sunday school class & the topic was Easter and the resurrection of Jesus. “What did Jesus do on Easter?” she asked. There was no response, so she gave her students a hint: “It starts with the letter R.” One boy blurted, “Recycle!”
Close enough! Jesus rose from the dead. He was resurrected. Recycled? Well the Webster dictionary says… “to pass again through a series of changes; to recover.” Indeed Jesus has done just that…and there waiting for him were the women disciples who did not flee. They held fast. They persisted.
Easter is about Persistence.
The disciples had fled and abandoned Jesus on the cross. Many women were there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him. Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
So Joseph took the body of Jesus and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.
God was not done. The cross would not stand in the way. Nor the tomb… for after the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb and Jesus was not there… And their persistence is rewarded…
So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
We too are called to such persistence in our faith. To live into that faith knowing that death is never the end; our God is a God of the living. Jesus’ resurrection invites us to live into his new life.
In Anthony Doerr's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel All the Light We Cannot See, the heroine is 16-year-old Marie-Laure, the blind daughter of the widowed master locksmith at the Museum of Natural History in Paris. Marie-Laure loses her sight at the age of six due to congenital cataracts. Her father is determined that his beloved daughter will not live a life of self-pity, so he teaches her Braille and designs intricate puzzle boxes for her to solve. Under his guidance, Marie-Laure learns to negotiate her way with her cane, one centimeter at a time, from their apartment to the museum and then home again. Despite her natural shyness, Marie-Laure develops a sharp, inquisitive intelligence and a steely resilience as World War II begins.
When Paris falls to the Nazis, Marie-Laure and her father flee to the town of Saint-Malo in Brittany where they take refuge with relatives. Her father constructs a detailed model of the town. By touching each door, each tree, each streetlight in the model, Marie-Laure memorizes every street and landmark until she can confidently negotiate her way around the coastal town. She counts the steps and manhole covers; she learns the sounds and smells unique to every street and place; she follows railings and cables and hedges.
The shy blind girl grows into a courageous and resourceful young woman. Her ability to make her way through Saint-Malo during the occupation enables her to become an effective operative for the Resistance that leads to Saint-Malo's liberation and eventually all of France. Marie-Laure's intelligence, resourcefulness and courage enable her to perceive the light that the seeing world around her cannot see. She embraces the simple wisdom of the housekeeper in Saint-Malo who takes Marie-Laure under her wing: "If God wants us to see something, we'll see it."
She & her father were persistent. Jesus’s resurrection calls on us to have such persistence in our faithful lives and to pay attention to the signs of God's renewed presence in our midst. Like Marie-Laure's persistence in seeing with the eye of her intellect, we have to look with more than just our senses but with our hearts and souls to see our world through the Easter prism of hope and new possibilities, to not be held back by our own doubts and fears, our own tombs, but allow this Easter day and faith to guide us forward. To have…
Persistence with our faith.
According to ancient tradition, Mary of Magdala was a wealthy woman from whom Christ expelled seven "demons." During the three years of Jesus’ ministry, she helped support Him and His other disciples with her money. When almost everyone else fled, she stayed with Him at the cross. On Easter morning she was the first to bear witness to His resurrection. She is often called “Apostle to the Apostles.”
After the Ascension, Mary Magdalene journeyed to Rome where she was admitted to Tiberias Caesar's court because of her high social standing. After describing how poorly Pilate had administered justice at Jesus’ trial, she told Caesar that “Christ is risen!” (from the dead). To help explain the resurrection, she picked up an egg from the dinner table. Caesar responded that a human being could no more rise from the dead than the egg in her hand turn red. The egg turned red immediately, which is why red eggs have been exchanged at Easter for centuries in the Byzantine East.
Mary spent the rest of her life in the Mediterranean proclaiming the good news of Christ & preaching the resurrection.
May we have the persistence of the women at the tomb to hold on to faith & hope through it all, to have persistence like Marie-Loure & her father so we can see what God wants us to see and like Mary Magdalene, to proclaim the Good News of the Risen Jesus by what we say and do. May God on this Easter fill us with that new life so that we may love one another and resolve to do what God calls each of us to do in sharing that love with the whole creation. Amen.