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"My Redeemer Lives"

Easter Morning Devotional: John 20:1-18

Rev. Dr. José R. Irizarry
President and Professor
of Practical Theology

The heavy stone has been placed at the entrance of the tomb bringing the agony of those who have witnessed the suffering, punishment, and death of their beloved Master to an end.  Finally, the macerated body is laid to rest unperturbed, for even the dead deserve their Sabbath.  The stone was a symbol of closure, an invitation to end a chapter in the life of a community fashioned around the person of a Galilean teacher forcing them to reconsider what happens next.  While experiencing real concerns for the stability of the community now under persecution and without a leader, they must find ways for life to continue. 

In John’s gospel, the first disciple to attempt life as usual was Mary Magdalene.  She arrived in the morning to fulfill a traditional role of tending for the body of the departed and of expressing lamentation for the loss of the beloved with cries and woes.    Ritual lamentation can deepen our emotional response to our losses, turning them into meaningful memories that continue to guide our beliefs and actions.  But ritual lamentation can also deplete our emotional reservoir making us feel detached from the genuine meaning of that loss.  In the funeral customs of some cultures, lamentation is mainly performative, offering a public display of rehearsed reactions to communicate the dead will not leave the community of the living without some degree of appreciation, for every personal death is ultimately a social experience.  

As Christians, ritualizing each year the tribulations and anguish of Lent through liturgy and worship invites us to practice lamentation in the fragile border of authenticity and performance.  At the end, the prevailing question should be if we have been transformed enough so that our beliefs and actions continue to move us away from places of death, darkness, and complacency (a more subtle but recurrent form of death). It is the removal of the stone at the entrance of the tomb that reopens the possibility of moving from ritual lamentation to a genuine encounter with enduring forms of life.  Mary Magdalene must reconsider her role before the open tomb.  Where is the one I am here to lament?   What meaning will my acts of lamentation have if there is no ‘body’ to tend to and to remember?    Pondering the reality of an open tomb, Mary Magdalane decides to remain at a distance and to avoid entering the place where death was grieved but at least certain. 

In many ways, as Guatemalan poet Julia Esquivel suggests, we are threatened with resurrection considering what the living Christ might demand from us.  Our lament must cease and cede a space for hope.  Our lament recognizes the fragility of our world and our lives, but hope is a creative opening to possibilities that requires our agency.    There is much to lament as valuable things around us perish, but the entrance to God’s grace is not shut down.  As disciples, we must trust Christ will make himself present in our acts of love, in our cries for justice and in our practices of solidarity and service.  In those opportunities where our faith becomes alive, we stand as resurrected people.   The stone has been certainly removed.  Have we seen the Lord?

Personal Reflection

Listen to the audio above as you reflect on today's Scripture.