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Easter Sunday (Ages 9-12): Things Seen and Unseen


(Begin by reading the Gospel. Sometimes it is good to have someone read it to you. The Word is meant to be heard.)

For many of us, this is a favourite Gospel passage. However, the closer we look at it, the more confusing it becomes. Everyone seems to see and yet not see.

The reading begins,

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark...

Already we know that without light, seeing is difficult.

Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran...

We do not know if she sees the stone. We only know that she sees that it has been removed—we could say that Mary Magdalene sees what is missing. She sees that the entrance to the tomb is not blocked.

If we saw that the tomb was open, what would we do? Would we not take a look inside? Or would we be afraid to see? Mary Magdalene simply runs.

So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’

Okay, so she must have looked inside, right? Again, she sees what is missing. His body is not there. Although, we have to wonder how much she could have seen without going right inside. It is not yet light out and the tomb is dark...

Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in

So, from the entrance to the tomb the other disciple can only see the linen wrappings.

Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.

Entering the tomb—the "empty" tomb—allows Peter to see the head cloth which must be rolled up further inside the tomb. He does not see Jesus' body because it is not there. But is that all that Peter does not see?

Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.

Once the other disciple goes into the tomb, he can see both the wrappings and the head cloth. As well, he can see what is missing—Jesus' body—and he believes. But the Word of God tells us that they did not yet understand. So, the other disciple believes, but he does not understand. Understanding is a kind of seeing, too. People say, "I see what you mean," when they understand our meaning. So how much does the other disciple see?

Then the disciples returned to their homes. But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb.

This gives us another example of "not seeing." The two men return to their homes leaving Mary Magdalene behind by herself, upset.

As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’

Hang on, where did those angels come from? When did they get there? The two disciples were just inside the tomb a moment ago and they did not see angels! Why could they not see the angels? Did something keep them from seeing? Or did the angels appear just so that Mary Magdalene could see?

But does Mary Magdalene see them? Notice, she does not react to them at all. Their sudden appearance does not surprise her. They do not have to caution her, "Be not afraid." She simply answers their question when they ask her why she is weeping.

Now for the most confusing example of seeing but not seeing:

When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’

Jesus is the one she loves! Jesus is the one she has come to the tomb to be near! Although she never answers his question, "For whom are you looking?", we presume she looks for Jesus. But when Jesus stands right there in front of her, even though it says she turns around and sees him—she does not know that it is him. She does not really see.

Is it still too dark? Has the sun still not come up? Or does her grief and lack of understanding prevent her from seeing?

Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher).

Finally! Jesus calls her by name and she turns. Earlier it says that she turned around to see him standing there, and yet the Word of God tells us that again she turns. So, this must be some other kind of turning. Although she faces him, she cannot see that it is him. So what turns?

Perhaps, it is her heart.

Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”’

Finally, she sees. Finally, there is sight and everything is clear.

Mary Magdalene lets us see the importance of showing up at the tomb. She shows up at the tomb when all seems lost and she cannot see. She shows up because she wants Jesus.

Like her, each one of us will have times in our lives when everything seems lost and we cannot see how to go on.

Like her, each one of us will have times when we see but do not understand God's plan.

And then, like her, each one of us will have times when everything becomes clear.

We show up at the tombs in our lives—the place of death and disaster—because we want Jesus.

We show up at the tombs in our lives because this is the place where new life—God's life—is possible.

My God and your God, Jesus says.

My Father and your Father.

We are with him—his brothers and sisters—and our Father is God.

In Jesus, the Light of the World, we see our family.

And so does Mary Magdalene:

Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, I have seen the Lord; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Sisters and brothers, Happy Easter! God bless you!

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