In his first letter to the Christian people of Corinth Paul writes to them of a matter of first importance; Christ died for our sins and was buried and that he was raised from the dead on the third day. We could say all the rest is commentary, Christ’s teachings and miracles, but this is the heart of the matter.
This feast of Easter is the foundational celebration of our Christian faith. St. Paul tells us that if Christ was not raised from the dead then we of all people are the most to be pitied. The shame and suffering of Good Friday were all for nothing. We are still estranged from God – there was no reconciliation. But we believe that the Father has raised the Lord Jesus from the dead and we too have been raised in him to live a new life for God. Christ’s resurrection is a pledge and promise of our resurrection. Death has no power over us anymore.
And who was the person, the apostle, the proclaimer of the resurrection of Jesus? Mary Madeline, a woman. His choice was revolutionary. Think about the position of women at the time of Jesus. It is pretty close to the way women are seen in many of the countries of the Middle East even today. A woman could never leave her home unless a male member of the family was with. She could never be seen taking with a man in public. Girls were never educated as boys were. Their marriages were arranged by their fathers. They were never allowed to be a witness is a court case. They could not inherit property. There was an old Jewish prayer that went; I thank God I was not born an ignorant man, a Gentile nor a woman. Women were none persons.
Jesus went out of his way to break many of these social taboos. Many of his friends were woman who travelled with him. He encouraged Mary to stay in the room with men and listen to his teachings – he praised her for choosing the better part. He spoke publically with the woman at the well. He cured the woman with the flow of blood; he raised a young girl from the dead. Dying on the cross he was comforted by the presence of his mother and other women. His male friends were nowhere to be seen.
Jesus wanted to share the glorious reality of his resurrection from the dead first of all with a woman, Mary Magdalene. Mary came early in the morning to finish the hurried anointing of Jesus body that took place on Friday only to find the tomb empty. A man she thought was a gardener called her by name and she knew he was Jesus. She lost him once; she would not lose him again. She clung to his feet but he had something important for her to do. ‘Go and tell, go and tell my disciples, go and tell the world I am risen, I am alive.’ Mary Magdalene brought this good news to all of us – He is risen.
In our time – skepticism has thickened with the advance of science and reason, there is little time for things spiritual or supernatural. Reports of miracles and divine intervention still draw faith and curiosity, but they run against the grain. Skeptics regard them, of course, as wishful thinking and attention getting events.
People who reject the astounding claim that Jesus is risen from the dead may believe the news has been faked, there must be alternative facts. But for the cluster of women who first reported it, including Mary Magdalene, there isn’t the slightest hint that they conjured or concocted it in order to manipulate the apostles for a predetermined end. No, they just blurted it out as stupendous, unanticipated truth.
Celebrating this great act of God St. Paul tells us we are to seek the things that are above, seek and live a way of life, away of relating to other people that mirrors the teaching and example Jesus gave us through his live and his dying. We are to love others as we are loved, accept others as we have been accepted, and forgive others as we have been forgiven. This is an authentic celebration of this feast.
And may we all be blessed with a joyful Easter and testify by the way we live our lives Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.