Easter Sunday 2023 Preaching by Sister Lorraine Réaume, OP Easter Sunday - April 9, 2023 John 20:1-18 Happy Easter! Some of you may know the response – which is part of our tradition but is more common in the Orthodox Church – on Easter, when one person says "Christ is risen," the response is "Christ is risen indeed!" Let’s try it: "Christ is risen!" "Christ is risen indeed!" Another tradition from the Orthodox Church is that it has always honored Mary Magdalene. You may have noticed our Gospel was a bit longer than the one in your missalettes which ends with the disciples not quite understanding what’s going on. The Canadian lectionary adds the passage about Mary Magdalene’s beautiful encounter with the Risen Christ. Being Canadian, I took the liberty of going with that version. But there are more important reasons for including this passage on such an important day. Mary Magdalene is Patroness of the Order of Preachers. She is a key figure for us. Also, such an important woman present at the death and resurrection of Christ, and in all four Gospels, certainly warrants a prominent place on Easter Sunday, and should not be relegated to Easter Tuesday morning. The people of God need to know her story. Even more significantly, she best models a faithful disciple’s response: she stays, she pays attention, and she is open to transformation and to being sent forth. After encountering the empty tomb and seeing the linens and cloths laid to the side, Peter and James returned to their homes. The ideal response of a disciple, especially at such a momentous event, is generally not to go home. What did Mary Magdalene do? She stayed! She remained! She was outside the tomb weeping. That’s not a comfortable place to be. She was confused. She didn’t know what was going on. But she did not walk away. She remained faithful, hoping still to offer an act of love for her beloved. Staying is not easy – being faithful to what is actually happening within and around us can be very challenging. But the only way to the other side of suffering – physical, emotional, or spiritual – is through. To drink the cup, whatever it may be. To stay present to myself as I grieve loss of health and experience more limitations. To stay faithful to religious life even though we don’t know what it will look like in the near future. To stay engaged in our world, even as we see time-honored institutions in crisis and collapse. To stay committed to caring for Earth even as we are aware of the magnitude of its fragility. Stay, remain, abide. And then pay attention – something is happening – there are unexpected voices, calling our name, calling each of us individually and as a Congregation and beyond. At first, we might not notice or understand those voices. For Mary Magdalene, a seemingly random gardener appears. She notices him and engages. She may not yet understand but she’s on her way. She has turned away from the tomb. She is seeking to serve, to love. In this interaction, everything changes when she hears her name spoken by her beloved! In a book on grief, CS Lewis wrote, "Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear." At some point in our staying and our weeping, we stop and listen so we can hear that voice, the voice of the Risen Christ, however each of us experiences that. A voice that honors our mourning and calls us from it when we are ready, a voice that engages us and helps us understand, a voice that sends us out to proclaim good news wherever we are. Mary initially wants to encounter this Risen Christ as her Rabbouni, her teacher as he was while on earth. But he’s not the same and she needs to learn to relate to him in a new way. She can’t hold on to what was. For us to pay attention, we need to realize that we may be called to new ways of understanding, that our image of Christ or God may change, that our understanding of our role or purpose might need updating, that how we perceive and care for the world and Earth may need expanding. The Risen Christ invites us to listen with new ears and see with new eyes so we can see the signs and hear God’s call to life at this moment. Along with remaining and attending, Mary Magdalene is open to transformation. She lets her new awareness open her to a new way of being. She moves from weeping to turning to announcing that Christ is risen – there is hope and life! The text says she turns again. Now Mary is not turning in circles. This is an inner turning, a true transformation. It reminds me of the old Shaker hymn, "To turn, turn will be our delight/ Till by turning, turning we come round right." Resurrection is something new we never could have imagined or thought possible. It won’t look like the past. It won’t look like what we thought it might. There will be something remarkable and unexpected. As disciples we stay faithfully, waiting for the new life and understanding even in our confusion, or sadness or grief. We are attentive to signs around us – even when we aren’t sure what they mean. We engage them to discover more. We listen for the Divine calling our name. And we let the God of surprises, of life, of new hope, of resurrection, transform us to fullness of life and hope even now – to be people who have the courage to proclaim Christ is risen and to witness that resurrection can be real in our world! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed!