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Even though resurrection Sunday was some weeks ago, the liturgical calendar continues marking that Christians are in the season of Easter (Eastertide). For Christians like me, who were taught to celebrate the resurrection only for one day, this extended time offers the possibility to continue reflecting on this event and its meaning for our personal and communal lives.
Resurrection is certainly tied to our hope for the future (John 11:25-26). I remember singing: “Because he lives, I can face tomorrow.” This hymn’s Spanish translation states: “Because he lives, I will triumph tomorrow.” Although this triumphant tomorrow may mean literally the next day, perhaps due to a spiritualized, heavenly-bound Christian perspective, I often perceived that this powerful resurrection was mainly tied to a long-term future in heaven.
While resurrection traditionally may lead us to reflect on and long for this celestial future, I consider Eastertide an invitation to think about the resurrection not only as an event that has long-term implications for our lives, but also immediate ones.
The fact that the celebration of the resurrection continues beyond a particular Sunday characterized with special music, flowers, attires and food, points to the significance of this event for our common, daily lives. Thus, we must experience it in the tension of the here and now and the yet to come. This means that we truly enjoy the resurrection’s effects in our present lives, wait for more at the final consummation of times, and in between labor to bring closer God’s Reign, as well as to do God’s will on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).
The challenge, then, is to consider what does this mean in practical, concrete actions for the here and now? What are the implications of living presently as people of the resurrection?
For some of us, this idea of living before and within the power of the resurrection may be a scary thought. If we feel this way, we must realize that we are not the first ones to experience this fear. According to the most ancient manuscripts of the book of Mark, this gospel ends with the story of the women who became so afraid after learning about the resurrection.
As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe… he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed, you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth… He has been raised… But go, tell his disciples …’ So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid” (Mark 16:5-8).
After this original conclusion, two extra endings were added to the Gospel of Mark, what are known as the short ending and the long ending.
If the original ending had remained as the only one, I think I would not be bothered by it. Even though it is not the most glorious ending or the most accurate one because the story continued, I would be fine with it because I can identify with these women’s terror and amazement.
In fact, I believe the women had a quite normal reaction. Jesus had been crucified as a criminal. Soldiers were present in his place of death and burial. Of course, these women were afraid as they approached the tomb. And then, on top of that, they found an empty tomb with an angelic man telling them that Jesus had resurrected, and that they needed to share this news with the rest of Jesus’ followers. Can you imagine their shock?
As they learned that Jesus was alive, amazement overcame them, but terror, too. What were they supposed to do? What would happen to them if they shared this news? Would they be silenced by the authorities? Would they be killed, just like Jesus?
This great news demanded action, but given the prospects, they opted to remain silent.
Sometimes I feel that I want to act in the same way. If I acknowledge publicly that I have a new piece of information, that I have witnessed a miracle, or that God is calling me to a new beginning, then I need to do something about it. Once it is disclosed, staying silent and motionless is not an option.
The women were paralyzed by the power of the resurrection, but they did not remain like that. The short and long endings of Mark, as well as the other gospels, attest to that. Eventually they shared the good news, and started to live accordingly.
Eastertide provides an opportunity to reflect and start acting according to the power of the resurrection. What areas of my life is God seeking to transform? What changes is God calling me to make?
This may sound for some as a New Year’s resolution. Changes? Transformations? While I truly like the beginning of the New Year and affirm any resolutions that come with it, in reality I am much fonder of Eastertide. The reason is that it is filled with hope due to the power that is involved in Jesus’ resurrection. Eastertide represents more than good intentions, it involves the empowerment that only Jesus and the Holy Spirit can bring to our lives.
Some years ago my former pastor, Judson Edwards, preached a powerful message during Easter Sunday. He assured the congregation that for every cross in our lives, there is a resurrection. Since at that time I was going through a difficult situation, the sermon gave me a glimpse of hope. I was unsure of how resurrection was going to happen in this situation, but eventually it did.
For the women in Mark’s gospel, the resurrection meant acknowledging God’s powerful deed as well as a decision to overcome their fear, and act accordingly.
What does this mean for you and me? What areas of our existence need new life? Is it the transformation of a personal relationship where healthy boundaries need to be established? Is it a financial decision that calls me to stop sabotaging myself and my future and to start living differently? Is it a new or an old dream that I need to nurture and bring to fruition? Is it a calling to get involved with a social problem in my community and model a new way of life based on the values of God’s Reign?
Eastertide continues for the next three weeks; may God help us to reflect on our crosses/hurts and the possibilities of resurrection. It may be scary to think about them, and even more to act accordingly, however we need to continue remembering that “Because he lives, I can triumph tomorrow.” Amen!