One of the pleasures of answering the ‘Easter Challenge’ was that it plunged me back into parts of Scripture which I do not usually read this time of the year; that was refreshing, and a reminder that good though it is to follow a lectionary, there is something to be said for reading other parts of Scripture at all times. But there was something else too.
We are so used to reading Scripture with our intellects, that we (maybe I mean just me?) forget that it is testimony to the great event which transformed history – the Risen Lord. Whilst reading the narratives closely to understand the differences and, where necessary, reconcile them, it was impossible not to be struck by the force of what had happened that first Easter Sunday.
It was a point where our language and the Infinite collided, and I had a real sense of the Evangelists trying to capture something they knew in their experience, but which was hard to put into words. Words are things worn smooth with everyday use, and here was something which was not only not usual, it was unique. It was the moment at which the Evangelists began to make sense of what Jesus had said about the Temple being destroyed and rebuild in three days; the point at which what had been obscure began to be clear – but not as clear as it would become at the first Pentecost. There is, about the narratives, an air, still, an air of bafflement, of an incomprehension which is beginning to shift, but hasn’t quite.
Was it significant that it was the women who saw and immediately believed, whilst it was the men who, for all their speed, took more time to comprehend? Mary Magdalene recognised the Risen Lord by His voice, it was not the visual, but the aural memory which prompted her knowing who it was who was speaking to her. We can see from the Gospels her love for Jesus, instinctively she anointed Him, as for death, that first Maundy Thursday, and in her grief her eyes were blind; but her ears heard and responded to His voice; His sheep knew the voice of the Master.
In that there is a lesson for us, too, and that is that for all our study of Scripture, for all our need to give a reason for the hope that is in us, it is the hope itself – the Grace God gives us, which turns us to Him. Much though I love my Bible, it is in prayer, and most of all at the breaking of the bread and the serving of the wine that I encounter Him. I cannot say, with Bosco, that He tells me what to do, but I feel HIm at that moment and know He is in me as the bread and wine are His body and His blood. How this is, I know not, and really don’t need an explanation for that feeling that is in me at that moment and immediately after.
Mary knew Him by His voice, we know Him by His body and His blood – and in the stories of that first easter, we can capture the awe, the wonder, and the rekindled hope that remains with us, now, and until He comes again in Glory.