Here is my monthly column called, “Bridge Work” for the March 2015 issue:
Easter Sunday: Preaching from a liberated voice
I dig deep into my gut in order to preach on Easter morning. I am usually emotionally exhausted from the liturgies of Holy Week and my voice is hoarse from singing and preaching. I struggle to interpret our faith in Christ’s resurrection on Easter morning to many people who have not accompanied us in prayer during the Triduum. I find preaching Christ’s liberation very difficult when people have not touched or ritualized their own suffering. My voice is often raspy from trying to convince people they are loved on Easter morning.
Last year after the first Easter morning Mass, I exited the church and I was stunned to see people lined up along the block to enter for the next Mass. We also added a Mass in the parish center. Both venues were stuffed with people. Even though the church was overflowing with people, the crowd was incredibly subdued. So often Easter morning becomes a performance or a show for people who have not had an opportunity to touch the mystery of suffering and death, for people who have not bent down to wash feet or to carry the Body of Christ out of the church. People want something more than a show or performance on Easter; at least I must cling to that notion.
In order to regain my voice on Easter morning, I usually retell the radical events of the Triduum. I bring people into the mystery we have celebrated in the past few days with emotion and intention. So often Mary Magdalene is the voice that empowers me to offer people a new perspective on Christ’s liberating love. The Disciple to the Disciples is not just a romantic title put on this dynamic and inspired woman.
Mary Magdalene shattered the human, political and cultural barriers in order to proclaim the Risen Christ. So often the Church builds up all those walls again and it is no wonder we lose sight of the Christ that sets us free. Jesus healed her because she was possessed by seven demons. She stood by his passion and suffering when others did not. She waited to anoint his body when others fled. She left everything to proclaim the miracle of Resurrection when others were going back to business as usual.
Mary Magdalene is central in the gospel on Easter so that we all might know and understand that Christ’s liberating love is for all people in every day and age. Her presence at the tomb is a message for all who do not feel part of the Church or part of God’s eternal mercy. Her proclamation of Christ carves a deep place within our sin, cynicism, and despair, within our self-centered perspectives and self-sufficient power.
Mary Magdalene’s presence at the tomb is for we who believe that we will never be healed, that life could not possibly be any different than it is today. Her place at the tomb represents all people whom we would rather not see at the feet of Christ, women, immigrants, people with mental illness, those who struggle with economic poverty, and our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.
On Easter morning, I want to be on her side. I want her to fill my weak voice with zeal and delight for what Christ Jesus can do for the subdued assembly and for me. I want her to continue to be a vessel of proclamation within the assembly who are sitting in front of me so that they know and understand that Christ Jesus sets us free. This liberation cannot be tied down or confined in plastic eggs or hidden among the lilies or diluted among the polite handshakes after Mass. I pray that my proclamation of the gospel and preaching the events of Christ might find the same passionate and inspired voice that came from Mary Magdalene. The white material she found in Jesus’ tomb has become our baptismal garment, a robe of love and great warmth. I want her joy so to spread the word that Jesus lives.
Mary Magdalene’s presence on Easter helps me prepare for the upcoming gospels of the Easter season. With her faith, I can better understand the disciples’ fear behind locked doors and I can imagine the feeling of the Risen Christ offering them peace. I can bear witness that Thomas’ uncertainty is real and that probing the mystery of the wounded Christ will set us all free.
I can walk with the disciples on the seashore and converse with them about the events that have everyone talking. I can feel my feet in the hot sand and my heart in the warm awareness of seeing Jesus in the breaking of the bread.
I can discover the lost sheep and see the tenderness in which Jesus runs after the forgotten. I can resolve to remain on the vine and soak up the rich hope that Jesus has for all people. I know if I stand with Mary Magdalene, the Father will hear us and provide for what we need. With Mary’s example, I too, wait for the Holy Spirit that will offer me full voice and will fill others with the hope that life is holy, good and worthwhile.