“Wonder, Fear, Great Joy”
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Have you ever had a dream so startling that it made your mouth go dry and your stomach drop? Your face flushed and you woke up, soaked in sweat. The dream was so vivid and disturbing that it took you a minute or two to decide whether it was just a dream or whether it had really happened. I imagine that the two Marys must have had something of that feeling, but what was happening to them was really happening. As they went early to view the tomb, a feeling of unreality must have settled over them like a dense fog. In this story, there is no one completely faithful to Jesus. Oh, their sweet piety is touching; in the other gospels, we are told that they are going to anoint Jesus’ body for its permanent burial. But anointed corpses are still corpses; dead is dead is dead. Nothing to see at this tomb but fear and unbelief.
We all know the story. The angel, the empty tomb, the risen Lord, etcetera. Come on, Marys, we want to say. Don’t you remember! As He said. He said it at least three times in Matthew’s Gospel, that He would be handed over, tried, condemned, mocked, beaten, and crucified-and, on the third day, raised again. How could you have forgotten? But surely our own thoughts and feelings are not above reproach. Have we forgotten Him who said “Do this in remembrance of me”? Perhaps the remembrance has become a mere mental recreation of the scene before the cross and the scene before the empty tomb. Maybe we have made the remembering into a psychological parlor trick. Mary the Magdalene and the other Mary may have come to mourn a dead man, but at least their mourning was turned to fear and great joy. Can we muster even half that? How is it that we’ve lost the wonder, the fear, the great joy of this festive day. Why do I, why do you, come here on this day? What does it mean, beyond chocolate and colored eggs, beyond the big dinner and the gathering of family?