Fr Vincent Sherlock
It must have been a strange day. Early morning finds women on their way to the tomb. The Friday rush did not allow time for the decencies around burial to be observed and, in haste, Jesus was laid to rest. The stone was rolled into place and people moved away. For some, it was the end of another Friday but, for these women, for Mary and for those remaining of the eleven, it was the tragic and unexpected end of an amazing journey.
What a journey it had been! Mary had been part of it from the outset but, most of the others joined during his last three years. Miles travelled, miracles, wonders, healings and fish caught in abundance. Dreams were being fulfilled and a fresh hope took root in the hearts of his travelling companions. It all came crashing down.
The fall of Pilate’s gavel, Judas’ moment of blindness, Peter’s denials, the mockery and scourging endured by Jesus and the three falls on the Calvary way painted a harrowing picture for the ones who had come to love and believe in him – to the point where they saw a new future. All ended, apparently, in the rolling of a stone and the closing of a tomb. The rolling stone might not gather moss but for them it spelt total loss.
Yet somehow these women are walking towards the location where they seemed to have lost everything. What was in them? From where came their determination? What was their driving force? Surely the answer is found in faith, in hope and in love.
Yes, their faith was shaken to its core but somehow the hope and love endured to a degree where faith could be re-claimed, sought out, deepened and developed.
On arrival, they found the stone rolled back and the tomb emptied. Confusion abounded but bit by bit the story began to take a new shape and hope had its moment. Angels, gardener and one not at first recognised responded to the love that was so real for these women. “He is not here. He is risen. Look where they laid him”. “Do not cling to me – go to the brothers and say to them”… “Mary”…
Like Judas’ coins dropping to the floor, the penny began to drop and the journey re-commenced. “Some women from our group have astounded us, they speak of a vision of angels, who declared he was alive.”
Others went on foot of this and found the tomb empty and everything as the women had reported “but of him they saw nothing”…until that moment they had failed to understand the meaning of the Scriptures that say he must “rise from the dead”.
Sadly and truthfully we can identify with much of this story. Our Church is in a darkened corner now. The stone, for many, has been rolled into place and the burial is complete. Many have walked away from the tomb – some heartbroken and others maybe less so. There remains however the spirit of those Easter Morning women and men with shaken faith but also the abiding hope and love that this cannot be the end.
Is there a message here for us on Easter Sunday morning? I honestly believe there is. It is a message rooted in uncertainty, confusion, hurt, failure and disappointment but also and more crucially a message that finds love through hope. Through that love and hope combined, we are lead again to a place of faith – a place where we must go and “tell the brothers and the sisters, he is risen”.
Trócaire’s slogan comes to mind …“until love conquers fear”.
roll the stone away
as they wandered
to the empty tomb.
like so many other rooms;
the Bethlehem stable
the Upper Room
Martha and Mary’s kitchen
where great things happened
food prepared and shared
lessons in listening
borrowed yes, but always
willing to repay
every act of kindness
every word of encouragement
every step taken
every difference made
the tomb was made by man
He was made of God.
The stone was rolled away.
He is risen.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!