Joy and Hope
April 11, 2009
The Risen Lord still does great things for us
The historic, joyous events to which we witness this Easter all began long ago. Even before the agony of Calvary we must go to the small village of Nazareth where the young Virgin Mary was startled by the announcement of the angel.
With her humble yet momentous consent to God’s amazing grace she hurries into the Judean hillsides to bring the glad tidings to Elizabeth. The two women embrace at the threshold. They are filled with wonder and joy by the bounty of God’s goodness and mercy that overtakes their lives, bringing them into the heart of the divine drama of salvation. (Lk. 1.26-56)
The Gospel story on this Easter (Mk. 16.1-7) repeats this humble beginning to salvation history. The women disciples, distraught and overcome by the tragic events of Calvary, are even more confused at finding the empty tomb. The angel reminded them of the Lord’s words. He revived their memories of the Lord’s promise that was rooted in the teachings of the prophets: that the Messiah, the Christ, must suffer and die before he is raised up.
As the words of the angel to Mary brought to her knowledge of the good news and led to her acceptance of God’s spirit, once again the angel renewed the proclamation of good news and filled these disciples with wonder and gladness as the same Spirit that filled the Virgin Mary took hold in their own hearts and minds.
The Virgin Mary is the first disciple whose words of hope and joy in the Magnificat not only acknowledged God’s saving work — the words of the canticle also revealed that she was personally wrapped up in God’s saving work. God had looked upon her lowliness and worked wonders for her and through her: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”
These jubilant words found renewed resilience in the women disciples who, like Mary, are overwhelmed with the greatness of God and placed their restored confidence in the words of Jesus as they left the empty tomb to announce the good news to the disciples.
How important is Christian memory — faith-filled memory that clings to the words and works of Jesus, believing that the Risen Lord still does great things for us and holy is his sacred name.
The angels of the Lord are with us again in this Easter season as we gather around the sacred font of baptism. The ancient rites and words of the church carry with them the memories of all that the Lord Jesus has done for us. They now help us to remember our own baptism as we rejoice with those who join with us now in the profession of faith, choosing to walk with us as we are buried with Christ in the waters of baptism so as to rise with him to new life.
This Easter we should also be mindful of the gloom of war and strife that so afflicts our world and worries many a mother and father whose children’s lives are in peril in distant lands. We cannot ignore the persistent Calvaries that plague our society and afflict so many families with sadness: unemployment, homelessness, the abuse of children and spouses, and the desperation of abortion.
With the joy of Easter we still cannot ignore these dark shadows. They are the tombs of lives broken and lost. Their sorrows and woes give us added reason to approach the light of Christ this Easter asking that he dispel the shadows and gloom with the brilliance of his enduring love.
Saints and angels of the Most High God listen attentively to our plea. Ask the Risen Christ to give us renewed strength and restore our faith-filled memories so that in the face of so much misery we may continue to hold to that bold tradition of hope and joy begun so long ago when the women hurried from the tomb as Gospel heralds.
Lord Jesus, grant the grace of new birth to our brothers and sisters whose initiation in the church this Easter inspires us. Renew in each of us the grace of our own baptism. Together with Mary, mother of the church, may we always rejoice in your saving works and never tire of singing your praises as you continue to do great things for us and through us, for holy is your sacred name, now and forever. Amen.