Mumbai Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) | Why do you search for the living among the dead? (Lk 24:5)

Why do you search for the living among the dead? (Lk 24:5)

12th April, 2020
Fr. Michael Dcunha Why do you search for the living among the dead?
When the women went to the tomb of Jesus to anoint his body, St. Luke tells us that two men in dazzling garments uttered these words. But what strikes me is the context that surrounds this verse. This is the first of five episodes that St. Luke gives us on the Resurrection, and a closer reading of this one will enable us not just to focus on the Resurrection of Jesus but how it penetrates and affects our lives in the here and now, thus enabling us to live as an Easter people.
 
Luke 23 ends by telling us that the women prepared the spices and perfumed oils, presumably to anoint the body of Jesus. They were unable to do so that same evening because of the Sabbath and so “they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment” (Lk 23:56). Thus, what comes in between the burial of Jesus and the narrative of the ‘Empty Tomb’ was the Sabbath, a day hallowed and blessed by God (Gen 2:3), a day of rest.
 
Our current scenario of the lockdown seems to be an extended period of rest. I, for one, have been catching up on this chance to rest and rejuvenate, to catch up on reading and revisit many things kept on the back-burner. One way of looking at it is to see it in isolation as a pandemic that the world is being scourged with. But stop to think for a moment... the first Easter was akin to our own situation – Jesus was ‘locked-in’, sealed in a tomb, the whole of Jerusalem was in a ‘lockdown’ due to the Sabbath high-day and the hearts and minds of the disciples and the women disciples in particular are in panic mode, full of fear, akin to a lockown. All they worry about is, “Who will roll away the stone?” - eager to embalm the body of Jesus with spices and ointments.
 
But anointing is for the dead, and the women (and presumably the other disciples too) would be fixated on the embalming which theologically speaking is a way to prolong death. And in the midst of their plans, they are awakened by the reality of the resurrection.  St. Luke specifically describes them as being “puzzling over” the missing body of Jesus in the tomb. And understandably so, for how can a corpse move, much less disappear, from a sealed tomb? Two men in dazzling white come to their rescue asking questions and reminding them of Jesus’ words. St. Luke tells us that at this disclosure the women “remembered his words” (24:9). Why would they forget and what does their forgetfulness lead to? Their forgetfulness is perhaps because they are overcome with grief and this leads them to concentrate on death (embalming) rather than the Saviour’s words that are “Spirit and life”. (Jn 6:63).
 
This group of women included “Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary, the mother of James. Conspicuous by her absence is Mary, the mother of Jesus. How could Jesus’ mother not have been part of this group? Well, she wasn’t part of this group for a reason. Unlike these women, Mary had long before believed in God’s word and she trained herself to treasure God’s Word in her heart. For Mary, even in death, Jesus is alive. Why? Because He said so!
 
Which brings us to our situation – the lockdown! Among the many things we were worried about when the lockdown was announced were our prayer meetings, intercessions, retreats, meetings, etc. While all these are good and necessary, we constantly run the danger of making them ends in themselves. Like the women planning to embalm the ‘body’ of Jesus, could it be that we’re too busy ‘planning’ our meetings, intercessions, etc? The lockdown threw a spanner in our works and made us stop in our tracks and stare reality in the face. Many of us – and I’m just as guilty as anyone else - have merely shifted gears from a temporal world to one that is virtual reality. Our retreats continue online, our intercessions haven’t changed one bit and we continue down the “broad road” rather than see the narrow path alongside – one that can easily go unnoticed and one that can help us introspect and change.  It is a road that is difficult because change is not just difficult, it is also resisted tooth and nail by all and sundry.
 
The Easter story of the Resurrection and the Empty Tomb, then, force us to think differently and from a new perspective. For the disciples, the shock wasn’t so much about the missing body of Jesus. It was more of a question, “What do we do now that Jesus isn’t among us anymore? Why, even his body isn’t with us anymore!” The question wasn’t so much about a missing corpse than about how to stay relevant now that Jesus is no more physically present amongst us. And the lockdown has forced us in some ways to address a similar question. We have been too caught up in a static mode – about how to conduct prayer meetings, how to intercede, etc. And we get easily seduced by new ways of doing the same old thing – case in point being our virtual connect with each other.  The Resurrected Lord challenges us to “Go out into the whole world and proclaim the Good News” (Mk 16:15). But you may ask, “How do we go out and proclaim when we are in lockdown?”
 
There is no need to break the lockdown, rather, may I suggest the example of Mary as an answer? She was the one who believed the word of God. Elizabeth echoed this of her when she exclaimed, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk 1:45). Thanks to the timing of the lockdown that coincided with the season of Lent, many of us have been reading the Word of God.
 
But believing it is quite another matter. It involves pondering it in our heart, allowing it to sprout within us and bear fruit. Psalm 1 speaks of this pondering, calling those who ponder on God’s word as “trees that are planted beside flowing waters that bear their fruit in due season and whose leaves will never fail” These ‘ponderers’ “prosper in all that they do”.
 
Believing also involves bearing fruit. Our Lord explained this concept and what it involves. In Jn 15 where Jesus refers to himself as the Real Vine and us as branches, He speaks about bearing fruit –and not just any fruit- fruit that will last. Mary bore fruit that would last and so wasn’t at the tomb. The other women and the apostles, although pious and God-fearing, were more intent on their sorrow and therefore could not immediately bear this kind of fruit. They would begin to bear such fruit only once they died to themselves. Finally, believing involves allowing yourself to be pruned. Many of us end up being very comfortable – and therefore complacent too - in our ways and techniques. I believe the lockdown is a wake-up call, a pruning as it were, to readjust and to move out of our comfort zones.
 
The Lord invited us to be a part of the Catholic Charismatic RENEWAL. The lockdown has provided us an opportunity to RENEW ourselves for “in all things God works for good”. May we not lose this opportunity that the Lord has given us. Yes, there are hardships but “hardships bring about perseverance and perseverance, proven character, and proven character, hope. And hope does not disappoint.” (Rom 5:3-5)
 
This Easter, may you not look for the living among the dead. The Lord has conquered death forever. Alleluia! Wishing you and your families the joy of the Risen Lord! Happy Easter!