This time last year, many of us were at the start of the Movement Control Order (MCO) and like me, wondered when this will come to an end. We were at the start of a pandemic, locked safely in our homes away from the crowds feeling fearful to go out and even if we had to, the fear of caution accompanied us. There was no going to the office, college or school, no going to Church, and not even visiting our loved ones. There was a sense of gloom that we were enveloped in and words like ‘unprecedented’, ‘work from home’, ‘new normal’ and many other words were on the lips of almost everyone. However, in November 2020 when news agencies all over the world broke the news that a vaccine is just around the corner, it was as if someone rolled the stone at the end of the tunnel away and let in a flicker of hope. That prolonged mood of gloom now gradually being laced with joyful expectation. Even medical professionals were not too sure how this could happen so soon but in each of us, there is now something to cling on and to look forward to.
The Easter story too was a movement from the reality of gloom at the death of Jesus to the flicker of hope born at the empty tomb. While the disciples were still grieving at the death of their “Lord and Master”, Mary of Magdala went to the tomb of Jesus. Perhaps she wanted to be close to the “body” of Jesus as her way of dealing with grief. When she saw that the body of Jesus was no longer where they laid Him, her grief now possibly turned into anger because someone had taken Jesus away – her only connection to Jesus was no longer there. She came back running to Simon Peter and not just telling him what she had seen, but maybe hoped that he would do something to get the body of Jesus back. This is where the whole narrative changes and faith steps in. The Gospel ends with these words, “Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.”
For the disciples to understand this profound moment, one important thing needed to happen and that is, the stone had to be “moved away from the tomb”. The expression “moving the stone” is synonymous with all the resurrection narratives in the Gospel. Symbolically, it was when the stone had been moved away that their eyes were opened from being teary eyed to being filled with a glimmer of hope that He might be risen, as He told them numerous times in a cryptic way.
As disciples, if we want to feel and experience the new life offered to us at Easter, each of us must have what I would call the “rolled away stone” experience. What does this mean? In each of us there are these stones that tend to become obstacles that obscure our faith and perhaps even dim the courage to proclaiming Jesus to others. The rolling away of the stone was not only for Jesus but also for the disciples – they had to roll away the stone of sadness, disillusionment, and fear to now tell others of what had taken place.
The whole Easter liturgy is centred on renewal – the new fire that purifies, the baptism vows that call for recommitment, and the water that regenerates and gives new birth. The stone was rolled away for the benefit of the disciples who came to the tomb on the first Easter morning and for our benefit — so that not only the disciples but we too could look inside the empty tomb and see what is possible when we open ourselves to new life. When we roll away the “stones” of hypocrisy, unforgiveness, pride, prejudices, and the many other attitudes that prevent us from experiencing the new life offered to us through His resurrection, we then begin to live His life – the Easter life. That is what the season of Lent was all about – a 40-day journey to help us put away the former, sinful ways and replace them with new, authentic ones. When this happens, even in the slightest of ways, our God reigns.
Easter offers us a non-deceptive hope that if we surrender ourselves to the Lord, He will roll the stones of sin away from our lives. Even though His persecutors killed Him by hanging Him on a tree, God not only raised Him to life but allowed the stone to be rolled away so that our faith in Him may not waiver and our hope in Him not fade away. Let this Easter be our “rolled away stone” experience. Easter is the time to experience the purifying fire and the regenerating waters.
May we always believe in the Risen Lord who is never far away to help us to roll the stones away. May that glimmer of radiating Light be with us always as we walk out into the light again — from the darkness of death and sin to new and eternal life of bliss. Our God reigns, blessed Easter everyone.
Easter Sunday (4 April 2021)