Homilies,  Year B

2nd Sunday of Easter 2021

Having not been married very long, some young friends of mine Karl and Cindy had been trying to have a family but without success.  After extensive testing, they discovered that they had issues with fertility, and that it was unlikely that they were going to be able to have children.  Naturally, they were bitterly disappointed.  The future for which they had longed suddenly seemed changed forever, and the future presented as an enormous unresolved question. Questions about themselves as individuals, questions about their relationship, questions about the meaning of their life together inevitably swamped them, and it has been a very difficult period for them both personally and in their partnership.

However, the story took an extraordinary twist when Cindy discovered some time later that she was pregnant.  It defied all the medical advice they had been given.  Suddenly, what had seemed impossibility was now a possibility, what had been presented as a dead end was filled with a new beginning.

The story has kept unfolding though. Cindy, sadly, miscarried.  From despair, Cindy had moved to hope, only to once again be left with feelings of confusion and loss.  A miscarriage is always, of course, an experience of great sadness and loss.  However, in this situation, sadness was filled with the paradox of hope, given that Cindy and Karl had been of the belief that conception would never be a possibility.  Though they were dealing with the sadness of Cindy’s miscarriage, nonetheless there was now the unmistakable hope that the family for which they long might be a real possibility. And indeed, they went on to have three children.

I couldn’t but help think of Karl and Cindy’s story as one that participates in the Easter story that is given us today.  The Gospel of John gives us this extraordinary story of an encounter with the Risen Christ. It is exceptional for a number of aspects.  The disciples are locked away in fear.  They are entombed within their own insecurities, their own anxiety, their own sense of hopelessness.  They are at a dead end.  The future presents without promise.  All they have is the darkness of their situation.

The life of the Risen Christ comes to them there in that very room.  They do not leave that space in which they are enclosed to find him.  He finds them there in their fears, their insecurities, their questions.  Further, in that room the disciples are not met by a Christ resplendent in glory.  Rather they are met by the Risen One who remains the Crucified One.  The Gospel of John makes the wounded character of the Risen Christ graphically clear.  This is altogether wondrous:  the Resurrection had not removed the wounds of the Crucifixion.  The woundedness of Jesus has not been eradicated. Rather it has been transformed. The Resurrection has enabled the Christ to bear his woundedness in such a way that those wounds now become a place of life and possibility.

In this lies the great Easter mystery for each of us.  Living in the light of the Resurrection of Jesus, living the life of the Resurrection, does not take away our own vulnerability, our own fragility, our own deep seated woundedness.  Curiously, as this Resurrection account is seeking to invite us to consider, Resurrected Life helps us enter and bear our vulnerability, our fragility, in a new kind of way.  Yes, each of us, like Christ hanging on the Cross, is pierced through with a lance – the lance of fear, the lance of anger, the lance of anxiety, the lance of despair.  A wound opens up within us.  This wound can become the place of a great infection in us.  Or it can become a place where both blood and water flow – as the crucifixion account depicts it.  In other words, it can become the place where the spring of new life flows.  When life flows from what was first a wound in us, then, as today’s gospel invites us to consider, we are actually being caught up in the life of the Resurrection of Jesus.

The Gospel confronts us with the remarkable paradox that there is no other way to experience what Resurrection means unless we are first prepared to be honest about our wounds.  We are angry, and our anger turns to a new openness.  We are embittered, and our resentment turns to a new receptivity. We are closed off, and we experience a new sense of companionship.  As one writer puts it, it is only in the valley of many, very dry bones that the Spirit of God is known.  “It is here in what first appears as dead, that hope rises against hopelessness . . . This is the new spirit and new heart that God promised. This is the new creation, the rescuing of life from death, the raising of the dead from their graves in order once again to cultivate the promised land. . .  A new body. A new spirit. A new Eden. A new creation altogether . . . The spirit accomplishes its most lavish task of re-creation, it would seem in a grotesque valley of death.”[1]

And how do we know that this Easter transformation is stirring within us. As the gospel today details there is only one way of knowing:  the experience of peace.  Whenever a gospel story repeats something three times there is no mistaking. Three times Jesus says, “Peace be with you.”  When we enter our own wounds, and discover there the unexpected mystery of peace born from stillness, then the miracle of the Resurrection has begun to stir within us.

For my young married friends, Karl and Cindy, a wound in their own life and relationship and the tragedy of a death, bore a possibility in the stillness of the aftermath of Cindy’s miscarriage.  A great disappointment is nonetheless infused with a renewed hope.  This is a parable of Easter life.  It is the parable that waits to be lived out in each of our lives.

[1] John R. Levison, Filled with the Spirit, (Grand Rapids, MI/Cambridge, UK:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009), 105.

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