Easter Sunday Preaching by Patricia Harvat, OP April 12, 2020 Acts 10:34a, 37-43 Colossians 3:1-4 John 20:1-9 It was Easter 2023 – three years had passed since the devasting coronavirus ravaged this world leaving behind children with no parents, friends without friends, spouses and significant others, alone on this planet. Such was the case of Tanya, an aunt to Elizabeth, 7 years old, Charlie, 8 years old and Ruby, 10 years old. Their mother had been a nurse at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, NY, and worked 12-hour shifts with the coronavirus patients when she herself contracted the virus and died. She was a single mom and her sister Tanya had taken in the three children to raise them in the post coronavirus era. Though they were not infected they remained afflicted by the virus. This was their third Easter together and as usual Tanya gathered Elizabeth, Charlie and Ruby on the couch to tell them the Resurrection story. The children so liked hearing it as their mother would read the story from the Bible. But Tanya would make the narrative a real story reading it through the eyes of Mary of Magdala. And so Tanya began….. It was some 20 years since Mary of Magdala went to the tomb to discover the stone was removed from where her Beloved was laid to rest after a brutal crucifixion. Each year as the spring flowers would begin to nudge their colorful crown heads from the darkened earth, Mary would gather the women in her village to tell them the story of how their God/Jesus was risen from the dead. “I can still see the rough yet sweet touch of a blood-stained sweaty face, leaving its imprint on my heart,” she says. Those distant memories of people, places and life lessons learned in the years I walked, laughed and cried with Jesus and the disciples. As I arrived at the tomb early in the morning, I said to myself, “Maybe death is not the end. Maybe love goes on and on. Maybe that’s what Jesus meant when he said he would rise on the third day. However, it was just a fleeting thought.” I arrived at the tomb weeping, feeling something deep inside of me was shattered. Longing to hear his voice and experience what once was in my life. To experience his love again. But the emptiness inside of me matched the emptiness of the tomb. The huge stone was rolled away. Someone took my Beloved’s body. I traveled the hidden and secret passageways of my heart, climbed the rocks and cliffs of my memory. I stood before the dark and empty cave of my own life. That’s when I realized that in looking for my Beloved, my Beloved found me…. Found me in the place I was least likely to look – within myself. It was the realization of being human, of being alive and being loved. The tomb that once smelled of death and destruction now was a witness to the surprising restoration life, of sweetness, of hope. This was the way the women of the village remembered to remember. And is this not what we do now? Just like Tanya and the children, who needed to remember what it was like when their mother read them the Easter story. We today gather to tell the story to one another. It doesn’t take away the pain or vulnerability we experience in this life. It doesn’t take away the loss of a young mother. But it does let us say I love you while still walking through the vale of tears and valley of death. Because we believe. We believe in a God who tells us, “We need to love bigger and care bigger,” as the one of the caretakers said as she took a break between her shifts as the hospital. We believe in a God who, as Martin Sheen, the actor, once said, “God dwells where we would least likely look, within the depths of our own being, our own shallowness, our own darkness, our own humanity.” The shadows of terror in this life will break forth into beauty. The awful beauty of so many stories…stories like that of Laura whose mother died on one floor of the hospital and her father died on the floor above her mother within hours of each other. “I want to remember their love story,” she said. Today, we need to remember our love story with our resurrected God and with one another. Because we do believe and we place all our hope each day that the burial cloths are laid aside knowing that love does go on and on.