Celebrating Easter in a world turned upside-down

Salt + Light Media invited me to share a reflection for Easter Sunday, based on the Gospel reading. You can read the full version here. 

Noli_me_assisi

“Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb.”

-John 20:1 

Our experience of Lent this year has been intensified by the distress and restrictions caused by the worldwide pandemic, resulting in a situation many of us would not have imagined six months ago. At the same time, since mid-Lent we have been distanced from Mass and the immersive liturgies for Holy Week. How do we celebrate Easter when our world has turned upside down and we know that the global dark days are not over?

Sharing in the sufferings of the world certainly makes this Easter unique for me, but this is not the first Easter where joyful celebrations have felt out of place or even impossible. Several years ago, my Easter was a time of grief and loss: a close friend had just died of a devastating illness and two family members became seriously ill. Something inspired me to take Saint Mary Magdalene as my guide that Easter, and she has accompanied me through my Lents and Easters ever since. Initially, I chose her because of her immense grief at Jesus’ Crucifixion, but the more I prayed with her, the more I was moved by her relationship with Christ.

Saint Mary Magdalene is the perfect guide through Holy Week and Easter because, even before she met Jesus, she knew darkness and grief on a level that most of us can only imagine: Jesus healed her from seven demons. The Gospels don’t provide any details so we don’t know much about it, but it must have been a terrible experience of darkness.

When Jesus healed her, her desperate soul must have seen the first glimmer of hope—a hope that blossomed as she became Jesus’ follower. We don’t know how long Mary accompanied Jesus during his public life—a month? a year? Maybe long enough for that new, fragile hope to begin to take root in her heart. Nonetheless, her overwhelming sorrow at Jesus’ Crucifixion hints that her Lord’s suffering and death crushed her tender, newfound hope. She comes to visit Jesus’ tomb not because she has hope but because she carries immense grief. (Continue reading here.)