I am the resurrection
“I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live.” (Jn 11:25) This was the promise before Jesus’ passion and death. The appearance of Jesus’ resurrected body confirms that the promise was kept and an invitation is extended. How can we accept this invitation? The accounts of the first encounters with the risen Jesus reveal to us one very human approach to accepting this invitation: through personal grief.
The first persons to encounter the risen Lord all experienced a profound personal sorrow: the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Peter and John, and Mary Magdalene. These disciples confronted the raw emotions of deep sadness and no one entered this dark abyss more acutely than Mary Magdalene. The evangelist wrote that “while it was still dark” (Lk 24:1), Mary went to the tomb. Still dark also is the one companion (Ps 88:19) of this woman’s heart; the darkness of sorrow and distress (Ps 116:3). The extreme grief compelled her to walk towards the cause of these emotions: the death of her beloved. The depth of her sorrow is demonstrated by the physical reaction of her running back to the disciples to report that Jesus’ body had been taken away. Her intense anxiety was so contagious that it moved Peter and John to sprint to the tomb. There, they encountered the first sign of the resurrection: the empty tomb. Just as Easter began in the extreme limits of the dark of night, so too did Mary’s Easter when she walked toward the darkness of her sorrow and pain.
As a Christian people, we cannot deny the obvious correlation of Mary’s sorrow to the sorrow of the Ukrainian people. Our humanity cries out to God for His merciful intervention and our compassion relates their experience of profound personal loss to our own. Innocent people are dying because darkness, violence and evil seem to rule our world. “God, if I die young, bring me in heaven, I’ve already been through hell”, [was] written on the helmet of a Belarusian volunteer fighting for Ukraine. The cousin of a Ukrainian Benedictine sister from Zhytomyr was so burned from a Russian artillery strike that parts of his hands were missing and the flames have so disfigured him that his grandmother was only able to identify him by the rosary around his neck which she had given him as a child. When they identified him, they fainted. Married only seven months ago, the child in his wife’s womb will never see his father. Their suffering cries out to heaven. To these poor souls, to Mary Magdalene and anyone who chooses to share in their enormous grief, Jesus chooses to be among the first to hear his voice: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live.”
* Abbot of St. Martin Abbey
Fr Marion Nguyen osb*