Have you seen signs on the highway that say, “Men at work here?” Today we are looking for another sign, a sign that says, “God at work here!”
We are in the second week of a spiritual journey, led by the resurrection appearances of Jesus, a journey that can give us formation as the people of God. Last week, the women saw the angel in the empty tomb and we learned about the meaning of baptism from the Baptism of Jesus: his death, burial and resurrection as the people of God.
This week, Mary Magdelene sees and speaks with the Resurrected Jesus. Through this appearance we are instructed to the gift of reconciliation – the reconciliation that leads to unity with each other and to harmony with the purpose of God.
In John’s telling of the resurrection Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb. She finds the body of Jesus – her teacher, her husband – gone. There are two angels there. She turns to a gardener and demands to know what has been done to the body of her Lord. Who has taken it? What have they done to his body? Isn’t it enough that he was tortured and crucified? Can’t they let his body rest in peace? Why have they taken her Lord from her?
The gardener speaks. “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he really was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Then the gardener speaks her name: “Mary”. She turns and recognizes Jesus, the resurrected Jesus.
Mary was not alone in failing to believe in the resurrection. It seems that all of his disciples, in spite of all they had seen in the last few months, the miracles, the teaching, that none of them believed what he had told them, that he would be resurrected after three days.
Yet Mary was standing right next to the Jesus she loved and she did not recognize him. What does this tell us about the resurrection? Do you see because you believe – or must you first believe before you can see?
Why hadn’t she recognized Jesus? In truth, Mary was too filled with hate and anger. She was thinking about HER loss; the death of HER man. She was feeling sorry for herself, for being left alone.
And that preoccupation with herself blinded her to the miracle of the resurrected Jesus.
Mary Magdalene, at least for a moment of anger and grief, did not see the purpose for which Jesus gave his life. All she couldwas her loss – until Jesus called her name and in that moment, it all came back to her. Jesus did not come just for her. He came to save a people from shame and oppression. He came to give them faith, to offer forgiveness and redemption to a people who were lost.
For a moment she had forgotten His purpose – and she forgot the purpose He had left in her hands. Yet Jesus reached out to her with the powerful grace of God and she saw him, the resurrected Jesus. Mary was not only reconciled with Jesus, she was given the spiritual bridge to reconciliation with her people.
We struggle with reconciliation every day. We grow angry with each other. We are suspicious of each other’s motives. We argue and a distance grows between us. It happens in marriages, in families, in churches, in organizations – and it happens in our movement. There are wicked forces that lead us down this road to distrust and division, demons that are unleashed in us. We are human and all too susceptible to these forces. We needwhich Jesus gave to Mary.
This week we attended the now very famous documentary of our struggle against Herbal Life, against the fraud that had taken many people’s life savings. What we realized in watching the film was that the evil of the herbal life scheme was its power to make people become predators against their own friends and community – even their own family members.
You see, Herbal life was a pyramid scheme. You were allowed to buy their products, products that were priced too high, and you were encouraged to recruit other people to become sellers. When they bought products from you, you got a commission. The chain went on and on. You made your money by recruiting other people as sellers to buy from you. Since the products were priced so high and weren’t very good, the person that got stuck with them lost their money. A few people got rich at the expense of millions – who lost everything.
That same wickedness is the process President Trump is trying to implement in this country. He wants to cut taxes for the rich and let them operate in crooked ways. Yet those with not very much money are recruited to support his scheme by being given privileges that others don’t have. Whites are recruited to Trump’s scheme by becoming predators against people of color. Citizens are recruited by becoming predators against the undocumented. Those living in the U.S. are recruited to the scheme by supporting the exploitation of poor countries – and the military empire this nation uses to prop up this exploitation.
A scheme that wickedly makes us predators of each other really only benefits the very rich – just like Herbal Life. To fight it, its victims must reconcile with each other. They must reject the temptation to become predators against their own people; they must resist the
This wickedness gets down to us in painful ways. We see it as young men and boys becomepredators in gangs, killing each other on the street. The predator makers have created the cartels. The predator makers invade the movement, using grants and funding to turn movement organizations into businesses which exploit the people. Theget inside our heads, making husbands into violent predators against their wives. It begins early in life. You can see young children joining together to bully and terrorize another child, to themselves become predators.
When you have been seduced into this predator system you need to find a way out. You need to find reconciliation.
Today, our lesson is about that: the practice – and the reality – of confession, forgiveness and atonement.For Christians, sin means separation from God. When we confess, we ask that those things we have done or said which separate us from God be forgiven, wiped away, so that we can be reconciled with God. Then weour renewed relationship with God by changing our behavior. That is, we atone for what we have done. Together, confession, forgiveness and atonement make up what we call reconciliation. There are saints and there are sinners – but there is nothing more powerful than the sinner who God has turned into a saint!
Reconciliation with God also means reconciliation with the people of God – for Jesus taught us to love God with all our heart and mind and soul but also to love our neighbors as ourselves. And love, after all, is the supreme expression of reconciliation. Jesus also taught us to forgive others that we might also be forgiven by God. Yet reconciliation is not something you earn, it is something that is given, like the rain from heaven, when you choose the right path.
The reconciliation, the transformation, that we begin to experience when we sincerely confess before God - and which deepens as we take steps to atone in the way we live - is a gift, a wonderful gift. Yet reconciliation is a gift that can run sometimes– even a whole nation.
We know that we must practice confession. None of us are perfect. When we confess our own sins we gain humility and we can forgive others as we are forgiven by God. We know that confession must be followed by atonement – we don’t just confess what we have done we then take steps to change. When two people engage together in confession and atonement then forgiveness can take place and they are on the road to reconciliation.
We need reconciliation to keep our families and our church together. We need it so badly to keep our movement together andthe wicked pyramid of hate and greed and racism that Trump is assembling in this nation. There cannot bewithout reconciliation – and there cannot bewithout reconciliation.
What kept Mary from recognizing Jesus? What keeps us from recognizing each other as God’s people? What keeps us from seeing Jesus in each other? When Mary looked at the one she thought was a gardener she blamed him for hiding the body of Jesus. She was suspicious of the gardener. She distrusted him with anger. Yet when she recognized that he was Jesus, she immediately trusted him.
The truth is that all of us have been betrayed by people we trusted. That makes us distrustful and suspicious. Distrust destroys our relationships and our movement. It makes us weak and divided and destroys our resistance. We may want to get over this distrust – but it is not easy. It is hard to forget betrayals of the past. It is hard to forget betrayals that go on every day. Yet Jesus forgave the disciples who had all betrayed him. Remember he told Peter he would betray him three times before the cock crowed? And yet Jesus forgave them and they were reconciled with him and went on to carry on the movement he began.
While forgiveness and trust are necessary, the world does not make them easy. Remember Jesus told his disciples,Because it is difficult, we must grow strong to practice risk reconciliation, to practice confession and atonement and forgiveness, to know when someone is not perfect – who is? – but to discern when they are moving in the right direction.
What gave Jesus the strength to forgive? Was it not the same thing which gave him the strength to give his life for them, for the people of God. Just as Mary was consumed by her own loss, her own suffering, so Jesus was able to give up his own life, knowing that he would live in the Kingdom of God, and in the people of God, forever. How did Jesus achieve this spiritual strength?
Remember that after Jesus was baptized by John he went into the desert for forty days. He confronted Satan who tempted him with wealth and status and even protection against death. He went onto overcome his preoccupation with his self.
You know that the native people, the indigenous, used to also go on spiritual journeys when they or their people faced great challenges. They would go into the sweat lodge and fast for days. Some would take certain herbs. They waited for a vision, their vision, which would show them the way to the center of the universe.
That is a spiritual bridge to reconciliation. The baptism of Jesus showed us the way to die to ourselves and be reborn in the Lord – and in the people of God. From our baptism as infants we continue to go deeper and deeper into this process of baptism, of letting our self, and our selfishness, and our selfish preoccupations die, so that we can be reborn. That is why we celebrate with the same words in first communion, in confirmation, at quinceneras. We grow spiritually in our ability to put ourselves aside and be reborn. When we trust in the Lord we grow in our ability to trust each other, to forgive each other and to be reconciled with each other.
The gifts ofand– of confession, atonement, and forgiveness – are the first two gifts of which Jesus reminded his followers after his crucifixion. He was reminding them of the gifts he had given them to carry on the movement, to restore their spirits after the Romans had crucified him, had shamed and killed Jesus to destroy their spirit. These were gifts he knew they would need when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and dispersed them to other parts of the empire. These were gifts that would allow them to organize strong communities of faith and resistance in the diaspora.
The miracle of our faith is that these gifts are given to us as we struggle today, two thousand years later. We have chosen to base our struggle in our church – and we have chosen to establish churches in other communities: in Waukegan and Humboldt Park and Bensenville and Hermosa. We have been led to this because we recognized that we needed a, a continuing spiritual journey each year, to achieve the reconciliation, to learn to work and live together, to struggle together, in forgiveness and unity.Yet it is thewhich empowers us to disassemble the Pyramid of wickedness that Trump is building in this country.
Each day we continue the struggle, trying to unify our families and our people in love and resistance, trying to overcome the wicked seed which turns us against each other in the same violence and hate and injustice which we must confront as a people. In eight days we will march again on May 1st. That march is only one step in recovering from the shock of Trump’s victory, recovering the spirit and unity it will take to resist – but we are almost there. After these seven weeks of Resurrection we will be ready for the day of Pentecost, the day when the Spirit will make us so strong, so new, that fear and discouragement will be cast out of our lives and our movement. We will not fear even death!
How happy, how at peace was Mary Magdelene when she recognized Jesus! What a source of strength and love she became for the disciples when suspicion and defeat turned to trust and victory! How free she became when she died to her selfishness and preoccupation with self and was reborn in union with her Lord – and with His people!
Jesus reached out to her – and Jesus is reaching out to you today. Feel his touch on your face!
Lord, we thank you for the gifts of baptism and reconciliation. As we commit ourselves to receive these gifts we open our hearts to the other gifts of which we will be reminded in these next weeks of resurrection time. We are coming back. We are being made whole again. We are being made new again. Our trust in the Lord is being restored. Our trust in each other is being renewed. Can’t you see the signs? God is working here!he Holy Scriptures for the Second Week in Resurrection Time
The Holy Scriptures of the 2nd Week in the Time of Resurrection
Isaiah 59 Sin, Confession and Redemption
Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. …. The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm achieved salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him. He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head;… “The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,” declares the Lord. “As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord. “My Spirit, who is on you, will not depart from you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips, on the lips of your children and on the lips of their descendants—from this time on and forever,” says the Lord.
John 20:10-16 Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
John 20:17-18 Jesus Reveals Himself to Mary
Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Teacher”. Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.