The Eye That Never Wept…
Easter Sunday (C) | Fr John O’Connor proclaims the Resurrection of Christ which speaks to every human person amid the tears and laughter of our human condition, and amid the vicissitudes of life.
The English poet, John Donne, wrote in one of his sermons:
“And when God shall come to that last act in the glorifying of man, when he promises “to wipe all tears from his eyes”, what shall God have to do with that eye that never wept?”
Across the globe on Easter morning, sermons are being preached in a multitude of different languages to congregations of various nationalities and backgrounds. Within these congregations are to be found, sitting beside one another, men and women in very different personal circumstances. Some will have hearts full of joy; some will have lives neither especially happy nor especially burdensome; some will be struggling with worries and cares: trying to make ends meet, fighting ill health, struggling with relationships, but all feeling the weight of the world upon their shoulders.
And, yet, despite the diversity of place, background, and personal circumstances, there is the same humanity, the same human condition, and the same message of Easter: Death and sin have been overcome! The Lord is Risen! Alleluia! Alleluia!
This is a message of the most profound blessing: that, as shown in the Resurrection of Christ, the love of God is greater than anything that life might throw at us, that the ultimate victory is assured. But although the ultimate victory is assured, and that no matter what we face we have a sure ground for hope, at least for most of us, the vicissitudes of life do not simply fade away.
The Good News of the Resurrection does not push to one side our vulnerabilities as though they are now of no concern. We continue to laugh, and we continue to cry. And this need not be a bad thing: for to laugh and to cry is for us in our humanity, the very same humanity that Christ possessed, to engage with a world that is both beautiful and difficult, the very same world that Christ came to save. But, now, with the assurance of the ultimate victory of the love of God over anything that life might throw at us, our laughter and our tears take on a new meaning: they become part of the great story of the salvation of the world. That is Donne’s main point. What shall God have to do with that eye that never wept?
In the passage from the Gospel of John chosen for Easter morning, about which the myriad Easter sermons will be preached, the focus is on that brief time when the initial indications of the Resurrection have come into view. Three privileged people have the first encounter with the reality of an event of cosmic significance.
We begin with Mary of Magdala. In a slightly later passage in the Gospel of John we are told that she is weeping beside the tomb. But in the Gospel passage for Easter morning, we are told that before this she arrives and finds the stone rolled away. Rather than look into the tomb and investigate, she runs to Simon Peter and the Beloved Disciple to raise the alarm:
“They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”
She is possessed by sadness and by fear. She has also heard many words of Jesus about his suffering, death, and rising; but she is in a state not yet ready to take on board the enormity of what has taken place. But her tears speak of her love; they have value and meaning. What shall God have to do with that eye that never wept? And possessing a love for the Lord shown by her tears, she will soon come to a deep understanding.
Then we have Simon Peter and the Beloved Disciple. Many have wondered why the Evangelist gives details of who arrived at the tomb first and who entered first. One traditional reading is that the Beloved Disciple, as well as being a person in his own right, stands for love: it is love that arrives first. And with love now in place, Simon Peter, who stands for the Church, can lead and enter the tomb. His focus is on the evidence and figuring out the clues. But it is still the Beloved Disciple, the one we are told whom Jesus loved, who intuits something of the enormity of what has happened and believes.
Three different people, three different responses in the face of the same reality. Today in the language of statistics we might speak of this trio as a small representative sample. But even this small sample mirrors something of the diversity of ways that men and women in very different personal circumstances in the congregations across the globe will respond to the very same message: Death and sin have been overcome! The Lord is Risen! Alleluia! Alleluia!
The laughter remains; and, for most of us at least, the vicissitudes of life remain. The glorious news of the Resurrection does not sweep them away, or short-circuit the human condition. Instead, it speaks to us no matter where we are, no matter what we have to face. And it is reassuring to know that this has always been the case, right back to the earliest witnesses on that that blessed morning two thousand years ago.
The ultimate assurance is now revealed. Nothing can change that. Nothing can change the reality that is so much greater than whatever our individual personal circumstances might be, but which still reaches out to us regardless and gives the challenges we face new meaning. Death and sin have been overcome! The Lord is Risen! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Photograph by Fr Lawrence Lew OP of the chapel of St Albert the Great in Edinburgh, on Easter morning.