HOMILY & IDEAS

Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23; 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8; John 20:1-9.

Turning Over Stones

Here are some stones I have overturned to see what ideas are underneath. I hope you can grab hold of something, pull -- and discover that it has some homiletic roots for you.

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb.

With a little imagination, one can feel the finger-tapping, fidgety, eye-rolling restlessness Mary of Magdala was experiencing while waiting for her chance to dash out to the tomb of Jesus in order to find some consolation there; for it was a Jewish belief that the spirit of the deceased person hovered about the body for 3 days -- that is, until the spirit could no longer recognize its body due to its decay and discoloration. Consequently, a visit to the tomb by loved ones within these three days was an important trip; for it was sure to bring some measure of comfort.

With Jesus being crucified on a Friday and buried before sundown -- and before the beginning of the Sabbath and of Passover, Mary would have to wait until after sundown, Saturday, to visit the tomb.

With sleep impossible and with her abandonment of any thought of safe travel during the light of day, Mary sets out on her trek to the tomb early in the morning -- while it was still dark. Her love of Jesus was, indeed, strong and her heart -- as rugged and weathered as it was -- was still feeling the sting of the loss of the man who reclaimed her for God thereby giving her a second chance.

One can only imagine the shock, pain, fear and even anger that Mary felt upon discovering the stone removed from the opening of the tomb: shock because of the unexpectedness sight; pain because of her inability to find the consolation she sought; fear because of the prospect of the stone-rollers still lurking in the dark of night among the tombs; and anger toward anyone who would dare disturb the body of this man whom she loved so much.

So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them -- They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don't know where they put him.

Her overflowing emotions of shock, pain, fear and anger propel her to run to the man who despite his recent failings -- his denial of Jesus -- is still sought out as the leader of the followers and a man of action -- a man who will take charge.

Mary uses the word -- they -- perhaps picturing a group of fiendish grave robbers or conspirators who want to do even further harm to the body of Jesus so as to completely crumble the last splinters of fortitude His followers might possess.

The evangelist does not portray Mary peaking into the tomb to verify the absence of a body. Instead, she immediately concludes the worst -- perhaps the obvious from her point of view.

So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.

Peter who about 24 hours ago denied Jesus is now taking charge of the situation and runs with John (?) to the tomb. Although John does peer inside, either he sees no need to enter the tomb, or he is respectful of the fact that Peter should be the first to take a closer look at the situation.

When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.

What is lost in the translation of the two references to the burial cloths is that they were undisturbed as if the body had been removed without disrupting the folds, wrappings, and creases. In short, picture what the cloths would have looked like with the body of Jesus evaporating into thin air. This is what is meant here.

What can be made of the the detail of the cloth covering the head of Jesus? Perhaps it denotes movement, freedom, the need for the eyes of a resurrected body to once again see.

HOMILY: I think there is a strong theme here of how we belong to the Church of the Second Chance. The meaning is multi-leveled. Two of the three characters mentioned in this gospel have been given, or will be given the most important second chance of their lives. Mary of Magdala was rescued from a sinful life of loose living and raised to a new life of holiness. Her dignity was restored and she experienced divine love and forgiveness. Despite denying Jesus only 24 hours earlier, Peter is bolstered when he is specifically sought out by Mary. Peter realizes that he needs to stand up and act this time and not sheepishly deny Jesus. Later in the Gospel of John, Jesus will ask Peter to take on the responsibility of feeding his lambs. These two examples of how we are the Church of the Second Chance can nicely lead into the great victory over death which Jesus afforded for us through His resurrection. Death entered into the world through sin and everlasting life now destroys the sting of death. Humanity is given a second chance on this glorious day of victory.

We are all like Mary, we are all like Peter, and we shall all die; however, through the love of God and the sacrifice of his only Son, we are made members of the Church of the Second Chance. Hallelujah.

I had the following on file, and I can not remember its source. It might do well with the above homily idea if delivered a la:

We are the Church of the Second Chance; for we have said: It is impossible. But God has replied: All things are possible. (Luke 18:27)

We are the Church of the Second Chance; for we have said: I am too tired. But God has replied: I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28-30)

We are the Church of the Second Chance; for we have said: Nobody really loves me. But God has replied: I love you. (John 3:16 & John 13:34)

We are the Church of the Second Chance; for we have said: I can not go on. But God has replied: My grace is sufficient. (II Corinthians 12:9 & Psalm 91:15)

We are the Church of the Second Chance; for we have said: I can not figure things out. But God has replied: I will direct your steps. Proverbs 3:5-6)

We are the Church of the Second Chance; for we have said: I can not do it. But God has replied: You can do all things. (Philippians 4:13)

We are the Church of the Second Chance; for we have said: I am not able. But God has replied: I am able. (II Corinthians 9:8)

We are the Church of the Second Chance; for we have said: It is not worth it. But God has replied: It will be worth it. (Roman 8:28)

We are the Church of the Second Chance; for we have said: I can not forgive myself. But God has replied: I FORGIVE YOU. (I John 1:9 & Romans 8:1)

We are the Church of the Second Chance; for we have said: I can not manage. But God has replied: I will supply all your needs. Philippians 4:19)

We are the Church of the Second Chance; for we have said: I am afraid. But God has replied: I have not given you a spirit of fear. II Timothy 1:7)

We are the Church of the Second Chance; for we have said: I am always worried and frustrated. But God has replied: Cast all your cares on ME. (I Peter 5:7)

We are the Church of the Second Chance; for we have said: I do not have enough faith. But God has replied: I have given everyone a measure of faith. (Romans 12:3)

We are the Church of the Second Chance; for we have said: I am not smart enough. But God has replied: I give you wisdom. (I Corinthians 1:30)

We are the Church of the Second Chance; for we have said: I feel all alone. But God has replied: I will never leave you or forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5)

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