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Reflections on the Sunday lectionary readings

Slow Dawning

Isaiah 65:17-25  •  Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24  •  1 Corinthians 15:19-26 or Acts 10:34-43  •  Luke 24:1-12

 

The women in today's reading face a series of unfortunate events. The death of a loved one occurred right before the Sabbath, so that they had spent the day of rest thinking of him and his horrible death, which they had just witnessed. Additionally, the rules of the Sabbath required them to postpone attending to his body an entire 24-hour period: a long time for a decomposing body which would begin to smell soon. Although grieving and sleep-deprived, they were already at the tomb early the following morning with their oils and spices, before the heat of the day.

 

    As soon as they get there, they are confused. The stone in front of the tomb is rolled back. Gathering up their courage – is a robber inside? – they go in. But no one is inside, dead or alive. Jesus' body is not there. While chattering to each other and trying to figure out what is going on, two men in shining clothes appear and (apologies to the angels) mansplain to them what has happened. They return home, telling the disciples about it, and are dismissed outright as foolish women. Peter gets curious, though, and going out to take a look, returns perplexed and wondering about what has happened.

 

    The story reminds me of an inverse optical illusion, where a picture can be seen as one thing, but also as its opposite, if one can train one's eyes to look at it differently. It's hard to do – what the eye is expecting, apparently, is what the eye sees. Only with time and refocusing can one see what is really there.

 

    Easter is an invitation to see life differently, instead of continuing to operate from automatic responses. One may first need to put oneself in the position of being challenged. One might first have to lose something held as important, before finding that it has been found and brought back ten-fold, in a way one had not even imagined.

 

    While Easter is indeed an invitation to see life differently, to refuse to continue to operate out of anxiety and thoughtlessness, it is not an invitation to be glib. There is suffering, pain, and death. Jesus did not avoid it; neither can we. What we can avoid is the temptation to blame life for suffering. Somehow, evolution was the chosen mechanism through which we and all living things are created. Within that understanding, life is a package deal, containing both pain and joy, particularly in exactly those creatures which have evolved with a capacity for self-awareness. Increased self-awareness, when tied to responsibility for self, promotes growth and maturity. As with the women on Easter morning, Easter is about finding a way out of automatic fears and confusion into an increasing recognition of a much larger reality of life.

 

    This week's reflection:

    Psalm 118:24 This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

    Morning: How do I see the day ahead? What is a different way of looking at it?

    Evening: When did I keep a larger perspective? When did I lose it?

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