Easter Vigil Preaching by Prioress Sister Patricia Siemen, OP April 3, 2021 As we hear the words from Mark’s Gospel, we find ourselves walking along with Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome, as they approach the tomb where Jesus is buried. It is dawn, with the new day’s light breaking around them. They have just spent the Sabbath in darkness and anguish. They were present at the foot of the cross and witnessed the soldiers putting the nails into Jesus’ hands and feet, crucifying him, their loved one. They saw his side sliced open with a sword and witnessed the taking of his body off the cross and being laid in the tomb they were approaching now. They had to wait until the Sabbath was over before they could come to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body with the aromatic spices they carefully carried with them, as was the Jewish custom. We can hear them discussing their concern about how they will get into the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body for they know it was sealed closed by a huge stone set in front of it. With heavy hearts they discuss, “Who will roll the stone away for us?” Their hearts are heavy with grief and powerlessness at not being able to stop the brutal crucifixion of their loved one. No doubt, they worry about what will become of their vulnerable, remnant community without the Teacher being with them. However, they cannot speak of that right now. Instead, they worry about who will roll away the stone for them so they can lovingly anoint the body of their loved one. The question, “Who will roll away the stone for us so we can enter into the space where Jesus is present?” resonates within each of us. Who will roll away the stones that allow us to be reunited with our loved ones in the midst of a year-long pandemic? Who will roll away the stones of grief and isolation at not being able to have been present and at the side of loved ones as they died – and were buried without us and other family and friends to grieve them properly during this past year? Our hearts ache at the stones that continue to block our doors to receiving dear friends, family and favored guests. We anticipate the days when we can once again enter the doorways of our friends and loved ones freely, without any stones blocking our ability to eat together and touch those we love. Mark’s Gospel does not tell us who removed the stone in front of Jesus’ tomb; that is no longer important because the stone is no longer blocking contact with the Beloved. Stunned, the women enter the tomb, and are astonished, as they no longer encounter death. Rather, an angel sitting there tells them that Jesus is no longer in the tomb. In addition, he tells them, “Do not be amazed.” Really? Don’t be amazed at Jesus not being dead and lying in the tomb? One can almost hear the small glimmer of hope awakening in them. The words of the angel are strong and clear: “He has been raised; he is not here. Go and tell his disciples that he is going ahead of you on his way to Galilee.” Dare they believe this? Dare they believe that suffering, rejection, even death are not the last word? Dare they believe in the transformative power of God to raise up new life even out of death? Dare they believe in a new trajectory, a new pathway in the mystery of evolutionary time, that life transforms and continues, even after death? So the women set forth in amazement – and puzzlement – to tell the others that they have just experienced a new awakening, a new surge of hope. Their joy and belief deepens as they tell the other disciples of their experience, “the teacher now lives and goes before us into Galilee. We can catch up with him there." The Risen One goes before us too. We can travel with the Resurrected One as we go into the many Galilees of our daily lives. The Risen One stirs our imaginations and awakens us to the transformative changes lying before us, individually and as a community. In our beautifully resilient, yet fractured and broken world, we are drawn towards becoming women and men awakened to resilient hope, compassionate truth telling and transformative action. Called to join with all our sisters and brothers of good will who are also awakening to a new consciousness, we commit to remove the stones and boulders that block access God’s ways within our church and society. We particularly commit to removing the stones that block the fullness of life for all, especially the stones of racism and white privilege that are deeply buried within our institutions. We go forth filled with hope and joy, and perhaps a little trepidation, as did Mary Magdalene, Mary, and Salome. May Easter joy ignite our creative fires of love and inclusion and burn through any stones that block our joy in the experience of abundant life of divine presence – and spring – rising in our midst!