There is something about today's Gospel that I love. In the first section, we hear that Mary & Mary meet Jesus on the road and he charges them with a task: tell the other disciples to go to Galilee where they will see him. The second section of the passage paints a strikingly different picture: some of the guards report back about the strange events that had happened and, in return for their agreeing to tell another version of the story, they are paid a sum of money.
The hinge of the story, so to speak, is the very axis around which the Christian life rotates: the Resurrection. Both the chief priests and the two women recognize the story and each must respond somehow. Neither can afford a stance of indifference. The women bear the the message to the disciples whereas the guards sell out the truth they have witnessed for a sum of money. In today's Gospel, we witness the dilemma of discipleship: will we tell the story of the Risen Christ or will we let our silence be purchased by those who would rather quash the message of hope it brings?
Reaching deep into my memory, I cannot ever remember a time when I was not thinking about God. Don't misunderstand me: I thought about plenty of other things and my own track record of sinfulness puts me out of the running for canonization! Yet, I always had a deep and abiding sense that there was, that there is, a God and that this God is loving.
Perhaps it is because I was blest to have experienced great love as a child, but I never had a notion of a wrathful or punitive God. I still remember the way, as a six-year old, how I'd fall asleep at night on the top level of the bunk bed I shared with my brother: clutching the blanket my Grandma Duns gave me, I would imagine myself as being held in the ridge of God's fingerprint. I knew myself to be very small (literally and figuratively - I had not a need for Weight Watchers at this point) and I felt that I could commend myself to some space in the whorl or loop of God's fingertip.
Over a quarter-century later, my own struggles with faith have often forced the question my childhood sanity: was I, or am I, totally insane?
It's embarrassing to share this story, really, because my temptation is to be a mature adult and not many adults disclose their childhood bedtime prayer habits! Yet this is part of my narrative and I would be a sell-out it I hid it, concealed it, in order to buy some respect or status. From my earliest days, I have known a kind and loving God. It has not always been easy to reconcile my experience with the atrocities committed in God's name and the horrors so-called believers have committed, and have allowed to happen.
Many struggle with the question of belief. I wish I could offer some bloodless, dispassionate proof for God's existence. Alas, I cannot. What I can do is tell my story and to share with you how my own heart has been touched and enflamed. I am sure the disciples, in the wake of Jesus' death, were incredulous at the Marys' words. Yet having come to know them, and to trust them, perhaps they slowly allowed the women's words to penetrate their hearts as they began to believe. Surely, these breathless women must have done whatever they could - gestures, intonations, shouting and pulling - to communicate the message of the Resurrection. I doubt they used syllogisms or mathematical logic.
For the Marys, the events of that early morning shook up their lives and the course of history. The same road could have been traveled by the guards, although they preferred the paid-off comfort of a familiar story. How many of us want the comfort of the Gospel without the life-changing path it pushes us upon! How many of us would rather not testify through our whole selves to the Resurrection, lest it make us look foolish? How many of us would feel the Truth we long for if only we would live it out?
As the Easter grass gets cut out of the vacuum and the black jelly beans accumulate at the bottom of the baskets, it may be wise to reflect for a moment on today's Gospel: are we to be seized by the Risen Christ and impelled on the road, or will we retire to the comfort of old haunts, a little wealthier, but living a bought silence that keeps us comfortable but that neither feeds nor nourishes our souls?