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Arts, Faith and Humanities / Campus Community
April 12, 2020
The homily is below:
“Jesus met them on their way” (Easter 2020)
Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J.
Happy Easter! “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.” I have read this Easter gospel and am giving this homily from the small chapel on the second floor of the Administration Building at Seattle University. The oldest chapel on our campus, built in 1941. Happy Easter to you wherever you are.
Lent took care of itself this year without us having to do anything because of the COVID‑19 pandemic and our need to make sacrifices, to fast from being with friends or going to dinner, to do penance and live in service for the affliction on our land and world infecting our sisters and brother, our loved ones.
Perhaps we arrive at this Easter with the feelings of these two women in the gospel, expecting to find mere emptiness, loss, grief. Note that the women are there at the tomb while the men are locked away in fear in an upper room and the men, who are guards, for fear become as the gospel says, “like dead men." It is the women who, out of love, are there at the tomb of the beloved Jesus. Instead of a closed tomb they are told by an angel: “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here.” Always the first message to them and always to us “Do not be afraid! Do not be afraid!” We really need to hear these words today and in these days of fear.
Then the women are sent as the first witnesses to go and announce the resurrection to the disciples. They are to announce that the crucified Jesus is not among the dead but has been raised to life. This is the heart of the Christian proclamation on this Sunday, on this Easter, and on every Sunday: “The crucified Jesus has been raised; the crucified Jesus has been raised.” Astonishing good news, if we were not so familiar with it; a good news to be proclaimed in the midst of our pandemic, “The crucified Jesus has been raised; do not be afraid.”
The best part of this account of these women, as the first witnesses of the resurrection and the first sent to proclaim the good news, is still to come. “Fearful yet overjoyed” they ran to carry out what they were sent to do, when “Jesus met them on their way and greeted them. Do not be afraid!” The risen Jesus himself “met them on their way.” That’s how the risen Jesus meets us, he meets us on our way, not in some special place, not in some place other than where we are, but where we are living, going, on our way. If where we are in these days is on our way in living this epidemic, that is where the risen Jesus meets us. Actually, he can’t meet us anywhere else than where we are, only where we are on our way. For these two women this moment of Jesus meeting them “on their way” is holy, is sacred, is grace-filled: they fall at his feet, embrace him, and do him homage. So too are any and all of the moments along our ways when the risen Jesus meets us where we are going, where we are, however we are. Yes this is Easter, “the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.” Every moment when Jesus meets us on our way is Easter, is grace-filled, is a sacred moment for homage.
Let me conclude my homily from this old chapel at Seattle University on this Easter Sunday with a poem which shows the sacredness of any moment. It is by Ted Kooser, of Nebraska, a poem called “At the Cancer Clinic,” a scene in the waiting room of a cancer clinic.
She is being helped toward the open door that leads to the examining rooms by two young women I take to be her sisters. Each bends to the weight of an arm and steps with the straight, tough bearing of courage. At what must seem to be a great distance, a nurse holds the door, smiling and calling encouragement. How patient she is in the crisp white sails of her clothes. The sick woman peers from under her funny knit cap to watch each foot swing scuffing forward and take its turn under her weight. There is no restlessness or impatience or anger anywhere in sight. Grace fills the clean mold of this moment and all the shuffling magazines grow still.
Even in this scene of suffering “grace fills the clean mold of the moment.” Perhaps Lent—an unusual Lent not of our making—has made us a “clean mold” so that the “grace” of risen Jesus can fill the “moments” when we are on our way, not to the open door at a cancer clinic, but wherever we are going. When the risen Jesus does fill our “clean mold” with his grace, the “shuffling” of the noises of our life will indeed "grow still." Happy Easter!
For additional Holy Week preaching and prayers, check out Campus Ministry’s Scripture Reflection page.
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