Homily for April 26, Tuesday of Easter Week
As I think most of you know, I was living in a religious community for nineteen years before I came here to the archdiocese of New York. Among the many rules that we had in that community, we were only allowed to watch six movies a year, and we didn’t have much choice as to which ones to watch – they were chosen by a small committee, and we all watched them together in the auditorium. I really enjoy movies, so now that I have left that community, I’m catching up on a lot of films that I missed.
One kind of movie that I really enjoy, is that which has a really surprising plot twist – for example, movies like “The Sixth Sense” or “A Beautiful Mind”. They are movies where there is a moment of revelation when you as a viewer discover something about the characters or the events that fundamentally changes the way you understand everything that has come before. You often realize that everything in the movie has been leading up to this moment somehow. This literary device can be used to give us joy or terror, but if it’s well done, you get a rush of excitement when you understand what is going on, and all the pieces fall into place. Sometimes it makes you want to go back and watch the whole movie all over again to pick up all the clues that were hidden in apparently insignificant details.
Every now and then, we have that same experience in real life. It’s a lot rarer in reality than in the movies, but it’s also much more powerful – and the apostles and friends of Jesus experienced two major plot twists in less than a week. First, after masterfully and effortlessly avoiding capture more than once, Jesus was suddenly arrested and crucified. Even though He had been dropping hints all along – and even predicting it outright – they were not really expecting it to happen. Then, three days later, He rose from the dead and appeared to them, walking through walls, eating and drinking with them, and showing them the marks of the nails and spear in His hands, feet, and side. Two huge plot twists in just three days must have been very hard for them to assimilate.
The Gospel today shows us the moment when Mary Magdalen first sees the risen Lord, before any of the other apostles or friends of Jesus. We see how it takes her a few moments to realize what is going on, and how she is overwhelmed with joy when she recognizes Who it is that she is talking to. That moment must have been like a brilliant light for her that illuminated the Old Testament, the events of the Lord’s life, and the events of her own life. Everything had been leading up to this moment and was given meaning by it. Christ was alive, and all the joys and sorrows of the past were transformed into a path of salvation.
Sometimes we too have unforeseen plot twists in our lives, for better or worse. My being here at St Patrick’s parish is a part of a major on-going plot twist in my own life. But no matter what twists God allows in the plot of our lives, whether they bring us joy our pain (or both), we have to remember that the ultimate plot twist is yet to come. When we find ourselves face to face with God, the light of Christ’s resurrection will shine on our lives too, and we will finally understand where our lives have been leading. And If we do our best to be faithful in this life, then we will be joined to Christ in our own resurrected bodies in the joy of an eternal Easter.