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No final curtain call on Easter

Readings for March 31, Easter Sunday

By Lyn Zahorik | For On Mission

I have heard the four Easter Gospels many times in my life. Yet, every Easter when I hear a particular Gospel, I like to contemplate on “the rest of the story.”

Think about that moment when Jesus’ Spirit took back his mortal body, awakening it from a three-day death sleep. 

Did he wake up, feeling as if he had been in a dream? How did he feel in the darkness of a tomb with the early morning sun streaming in? Even though he now had a glorified body, did he look at the wounds that were still evident and have memories of all that he had gone through?

St. John’s Gospel, which we will hear this Easter, includes a symbol easily overlooked. The face cloth of Jesus was folded separately from the rest of his burial clothes. 

As a young boy, Jesus had been trained in the skills of a carpenter. Carpenters had a cloth they would use in their work to clean up sawdust or wipe sweat from their face. However, when they had finished their work, they would always leave the cloth behind, neatly folded, to say, “The work I came here to do, is finished.” What a powerful symbol for Jesus to leave behind in that tomb.

Consider Mary Magdalene, so desperate to honor the remains of her Teacher that she chose to go to the tomb, knowing, even after three days, that if she was able to access the tomb, surely there would be a stench. Yet, she determinedly went forth, only to feel the heartbreak and fear of seeing an empty tomb. 

Imagine the thoughts going through her as she ran back to Jerusalem to tell the others, not yet sure if she should shout out, “He is Risen” or “They have taken his body.” How did the apostles react? Did they feel Mary was being hysterical or was a glimmer of hope ignited in their hearts, that all Jesus promised had come true?

What about the soldiers explaining to Pilate, “Yes, we did keep the night watch but then these angels appeared and rolled back the stone” (Matt 28:2). 

It could have been taken as a humorous drunken story, except for the fact that the body of Jesus was gone. This, of course, caused great consternation in the Sanhedrin. They thought that Jesus’ death by a crucifixion, and his corpse securely entombed, had brought the final curtain down on the past three years of Messiah drama.

The message of Easter is that there is no final curtain call. For three days, there was an intermission. 

Jesus then spent the next 40 days appearing to disciples and continuing to teach them. He empowered them to continue to tell the story. They were given the mission to share what Jesus had done in their lives. In coming to know the ways and teachings of Jesus, each person would have the opportunity to discover the grace and peace of Jesus in their life as well.

For us, on this Easter Sunday, that remains Jesus’ challenge. “My followers, remember it was only an intermission, the story must continue. Places, please.”

Zahorik is director for spiritual engagement at St. Mary Parish, Omro, and St. Mary Parish, Winneconne.

The readings for Sunday, March 17, can be found at Easter Sunday The Resurrection of the Lord | USCCB.

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