’m sure you’ve all heard the saying, ’first things first’. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians reminds the early Christian of what was handed on to them that is of first importance, ‘that Christ died for our sins and that he was buried and that he was raised on the third day. This reality is of first importance for those of us who claim to be Christian. If Christ has not be raised then his passion and death was for nothing. We are still in our sins.
But Christ is raised and we too will be raised in him. We will all die but we know that death is not the end of life, it is the beginning of a new and endless life. In a time known only to God and in a way known only to God our bodies too will be restored to life.
Paul tells the Corinthians that Jesus appeared first to Peter and then to the twelve and then to many others. Paul was not a member of Christ’s followers at the time of the resurrection. Paul came to Christ, or rather Christ came to Paul a few years later so in Paul’s telling of the resurrection of Jesus there is no mention of Mary Magdalene. But the truth is that it was to a woman, Mary Magdalene, the Risen Christ made himself known. Mary was given the task of bringing that awesome news to Peter and the others and finally to the world. Mary, a woman, a second class citizen, was the first person to say ‘I have seen the Lord.’ Mary was made the apostle of the resurrection of the crucified Jesus.
This is a real shock if we consider the social position of women at the time of Christ. It was pretty like it is for women in many Moslem countries in the Middle East. Women lived very restricted lives. Woman never left the house unless they were accompanied by a male member of the family. They were never to be seen talking to a man in public. They were forbidden to be a witness in a court case because everyone knew women were unstable. Jesus turned his world upside down, he broke the mold when he made a woman, Mary Magdalene, the witness to his resurrection; ‘go tell my disciples I live.
Jesus delighted in upsetting the normal way of doing things. At the last upper he shocked the Apostles when he, their teacher and lord became their servant, washing their feet and challenging them to imitate his servanthood. ‘I have given you an example’.He upset the religious authorities and they complained,’ he eats and drinks with sinners, the unwashed.’
Can we imagine that in choosing Mary Magdalene to tell the world he lives, he was challenging all of us to take a deeper look at how we see people different from ourselves, how we see the others in our lives. Is Jesus calling us out of our own tombs of bigotry or narrow mindedness to see life and other people in new ways? We all have our own prejudices, hang ups about men and women who come from different countries, racial backgrounds, faiths and life styles. There can be times when we find it difficult to understand or accept the validity of their lives and customs. Our politicians want us to see other Canadians as threats, as disrespectful of Canadian ways. They come here they live and think and act as we do, or else.
When we let our lives be lived with such restrictions and stereotypes we bind and cramp our possibilities of living full and Christ like lives. Jesus Christ died for each one of us, he died for the very ones who nailed him to the cross, he died for the men and women who teased him to come down from his cross.
If we are to be true followers of Jesus the crucified then we try as best we can to accept and respect men and women whose culture, faith or life styles we don’t understand, for we are all sons and daughters of God and Christ died for each one of us. Today the risen Christ calls each one of us to try, try and try again to ‘love one another as I have loved you.
I can’t imagine the number of bishops and parish priest Pope Francis has really upset by washing the feet of women on Holy Thursday in the prison he visited. His action breaks all the liturgical rules, it is just not allowed. Jesus washed the feet of the disciples – men. That’s it. I think Pope Francis is saying, ‘get over it’ think outside the box, be with the people.
On this day of the risen Christ we pray for ourselves and for each other that we hear the call of Christ to each of us to come out of our tombs of narrow mindedness and bigotry – come out to life come out to love.