Easter Sunday Preaching by Sister Elise D. García, OP April 4, 2021 Scripture Readings: Acts 10: 34a, 37-43 Corinthians 5: 6b-8 John 20: 1-10 Here we are on this glorious Easter morning! And yet the Gospel passage the Church gives us for reflection today is, well, not quite so glorious. It is not one of the scenes of the risen Christ, like the passage that immediately follows where Jesus appears to Mary Magdalen as a gardener whom she recognizes as soon as he calls her by name. Or the passage after that when Jesus appears that evening to the disciples, entering the locked house where they hide in fear, showing them his wounds and breathing the Holy Spirit on them. Or the passage after that when, a week later, Jesus appears to the doubting Thomas and blesses those who have not seen yet come to believe. No, this passage holds no such beloved familiar scenes, no such epiphanies. This passage leaves us suspended – perplexed, in confusion, not knowing. Something significant has happened: The stone on the tomb has been rolled away. The linen cloths that were wrapped around Jesus’ body, with a mixture of myrrh and aloes that weighed about a hundred pounds, are lying in one pile. The cloth that had been wrapped around his head was rolled up in a place by itself. The new unused tomb was once again empty. The body gone. The disciples did not understand and returned home. And we know from the next passage that Mary Magdalene remained standing outside the tomb, weeping. Is this not where we so often find ourselves? Knowing that something significant has happened but not yet able to make sense of it? Not yet knowing what it means or what comes next? Is this not where we are right now with the coronavirus pandemic? It feels like we have reached a threshold moment, with so many of us vaccinated. Yet rising cases with new fast-spreading variants are keeping us suspended, still apart from one another. No fullness of new life just yet. There is still great weeping in the land. As I reflect on this passage, I realize that one of the things it does allow is for us to linger a bit longer in the reality, the crushing reality of the immense suffering that our ancestors in the faith – Mary, Peter, John and other very real women and men – were experiencing on this day, some 2000 years ago. As a people living under the yoke of a terrible oppression, with its daily indignities and constant threat of violence, one of their own was hung from a tree. And this one among them, Jesus, had given them hope for a new order where hatred, deception and fear would give way to a radical freedom and love that he himself preached and lived. This one among them, Jesus, preached a powerful liberating spirituality, as Black mystic Howard Thurman, PhD, wrote in his prophetic book, Jesus and the Disinherited . 1 What do you preach to a people in a world where you are despised – as the occupying Romans despised the Jews, as white segregationists and supremacists despised Black people and other people of color – to this day? In Jesus, Dr. Thurman writes, we discover someone who issues a profound call to each and every one of us to live out of our “inward center” – out of the depths of our heart and soul – as he himself did. This profound liberation of heart and soul leads to an inner freedom, the kind the world witnessed in Nelson Mandela, when he walked out of prison “in graceful triumph” 2 after 27 years of incarceration. As we rightly celebrate the great joy of this day of new life, let us also accept the invitation to linger long enough by the tomb to remember how Jesus lived this new life, during his life , as one among the disinherited. Jesus calls us all to fulfill our own high destiny through a liberating spirituality of dedication and discipline, practiced daily in our current reality, living out of the inward center of our hearts and souls where we are all one in the Spirit. 3 And for the gift of this new life, we give great thanks and sing, alleluia, alleluia! 1 See Howard Thurman, Jesus and the Disinherited (Boston: Beacon Press, 1996). 2 Vincent Harding, Foreword, Jesus and the Disinherited , xvi. 3 Thurman, 99.