Wednesday, April 8, 2020

From worrying, weeping & waiting to wondering & witnessing: Celebrating hope in the Risen Lord in the context of COVID

Reflecting on John 20: 1-18

On the third day after Jesus’ death, in the early hours of Sunday, when Mary Magdalene arrived first at the tomb where Jesus was buried, she was worried to see the tomb wide open and the body of Jesus being stolen. She then informed her friends Peter and John and they too came to find that the body of Jesus was stolen. These men disciples did not understand the Scriptures (9v), and went home giving up their search for Jesus (10v), as they were living in fear. Mary, on the other hand did not give up her search for Jesus, stood there at the tomb waiting and weeping. She encounters two angels who enquire the reason for her weeping. Later the risen Jesus encounters Mary, but she in her worry and weeping mistook Jesus to be a gardener and enquires about the stolen body of Jesus. Only when the risen Jesus calls her by name and on listening that voice of the risen One, she recognises in wonder the risen Jesus, was filled with hope and travels to the men disciples to witness by announcing, “I have seen the Lord.” The story of Jesus’ resurrection is a story of hope, for Mary as a first testimony of resurrection was transformed from being worried to becoming a witness of hope to the rest of the world.

At a time, when Coronavirus has taken over the entire world, with the death toll scaling up every day, with fear and anxiety among people on the high, with a total lockdown of life on several fronts affecting the mental and social well-being of people, and with the business as usual coming to a standstill, the message of Easter is a message of hope, a message of a promise of new life, for God in Jesus has come victorious over death. Reading this text in such a context of ours, the voice of the risen Jesus comes crystal clear to us, breathing a sign of hope today, for Jesus is asking Mary, “Woman why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” The encounter of the risen Jesus to Mary has transformed her worrying, weeping and waiting to wondering and witnessing, for she returns as an ambassador of hope to the rest of frightened disciples. This is the second time in this text Mary is hearing such a question, first time from the two angels (13v), and now from Jesus, “Why are you weeping?” In this question we see risen Jesus’ concern to Mary, for he recognises Mary’s world at this time as a worrying space and as a frightened space, comes forward offering hope and comfort by calling her by name and by allowing her to recognise the risen Lord. In the context of COVID 19, our risen Jesus now recognises that our world today as an infected space, as a frightened space and comes forward to us to offer hope by calling us by name and by allowing us to recognise the risen Lord.

The risen Jesus is today calling us by our name when we are filled with fear and despair, is concerned about our worry and weeping and is asking us “whom are we looking for?” Our search, our gaze and our exploration at this time should be on the risen Jesus, for like Mary we will be filled with hope and joy. The risen Jesus is listening to the cries of the people infected by this virus, is listening to the worries of the vulnerable people, is concerned about all the key workers for their services, is journeying with people who are offering help, kindness and care to their neighbours, and is willing to answer people who are looking for proofs about God’s presence with us today. In our risen Lord there is hope for new life, for he is journeying with us in this infected world to offer healing and hope. This Easter, we are called like Mary to visit the empty tomb, listen to the voice of hope by listening to the voice of risen Jesus and go out into the world with wonder to witness that hope in Jesus with those people who have given up the search for hope like the men disciples, with those frightened disciples who have locked up at their homes, and with the wider world. Praying and sending you all Easter greetings for the risen Lord is offering hope by transforming our worrying, weeping and waiting to wondering and witnessing. The peace of the risen Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

Rev. Dr. Raj Bharat Patta,
Easter 2020   

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