Easter Sunday – Year B


Craig M. McMahon, O.S.A.
Villanova University
Villanova, Pennsylvania

Acts 10: 34a, 37-43
Ps 118: 1-2, 16-17, 22-23
Col 3: 1-4, or 1 Cor 5: 6b-8
Jn 20: 1-9

Easter is a story about dirt and graves and uncertainty. Even Mary Magdalene mistook Jesus for a gardener.

Nadia Bolz-Weber, a theologian and author, reminds us that the depictions in churches of the risen Christ never show dirt under his nails. Somehow, we needed to ‘clean things up’ for Easter, so no one would be offended by the truth.

For the truth is that new doesn’t always look perfect. Just like the old, new can be messy: New looks like recovering alcoholics, new looks like mourning on the first anniversary of the death of a loved one, new looks like getting a new smartphone or a new job or a new car and still feeling restless and empty.

And this leaves us at the empty tomb. We are an Easter people because it was cloth, and not a body, that was found in the tomb. Even more so, there was a light that radiated from that tomb, for the Light of the World had risen. And that is what we celebrate today: The light that radiates from that empty tomb means we are not alone. Christ the Gardener was, and is, willing to get his hands dirty so that our lives can be transformed in His. God does not demand death for our sin but death of our sin. It is death and resurrection each time it happens. No matter how hard we try, we can’t dig ourselves out of our self-created gardens, we need Christ to set us free.

So sure, it’s a dirty business, and far from the Easter bunny, bonnets and the soon-to-be-filled restaurants on Easter morning, but that is what Easter is truly about. Easter is a story about dirt and graves. It is about the truth that the tomb was empty. The truth that He is Risen. The truth that Christ the Gardener transforms the dirt of the world’s pain into the life and joy of Easter. Perhaps then, in a certain way, Mary Magdalene was not mistaken after all?