Somewhere between a tear and a smile the mystery of the resurrection is revealed.
A little over a year ago I traveled home to attend the funeral of my grandmother. She was, and I don’t think this is an idealization, a saint in my family. For us, she was Catholicism. And so as can be expected from her death, there were many tears shed by my family. Yet in the midst of the tears, there came a point where we couldn’t cry anymore. If one more tear was shed we might have passed out from exhaustion, or seemingly disappeared from existence. We had to smile. We had to smile to restore balance to the world that quickly disappeared with her death. So with tears streaming down our faces, we smiled, we laughed, we made contorted pig snorts with noses full of snot, and rejoiced. And in the midst of that chasm between tears and smiles the life of my grandmother was truly revealed.
Mary had reason to weep in today’s Gospel. Her friend: dead. Her savior: gone. Her hope: vanished. And to place insult on her suffering his body had disappeared. Gone with his body were the promises he had made, the miracles he had done, the fulfillment he was supposed to have won. He was dead. The tomb was empty. She had reason to weep.
We have reason to weep, too. Being out in our parishes over Holy Week showed us how much work there is to be done. It showed us the struggles that the people of God face each day. It revealed to us how much we still need to learn ourselves to be ready for service. How weak we are. How we too struggle with faith. How our small Lenten practices could never compare to the great sacrifice that Jesus made for us. Going home may have even solidified inside of us that the seminary just simply isn’t where God is calling us. That it truly is time for us to move on. Whatever it might be, there is a certain element to the mystery of faith, formation, and to life that leaves us still longing inside. Wondering. Groping. So the tears flow down. For we have reason to weep.
But the Gospel story shows us that weeping does not bring about the full mystery of the empty tomb. The tomb is empty. Yes, the tomb is empty!! Jesus appears and shows Mary that the tomb being empty means that tears must be mixed with smiles. The emptiness of the tomb with its tears and weeping gives way to the rabbouni of the resurrection—the smile of faith. So with eyes red, full of tears, cheeks stained with lines of salt, and hair disheveled a smile breaks through. There is a re-turn of joy, rejoicing takes over. Mary has reason to rejoice. He has risen and is ready to return not only to be with his God and Father, but now also our God and our Father. Adoption has taken place. Mary has been adopted. The disciples have been adopted. We have been adopted.
And so in the midst of our tears, in the midst of our empty efforts of faith, our fumbling through formation, the moments of disappointment in ministry we find that his empty tomb is like the womb full of grace, giving birth to faith and newness of life. And so emptiness gives way to fullness. Tears to smiles. Sure, there is much work to do. There is a great journey ahead.
But on this journey we can be assured that somewhere between a tear and a smile the mystery of the resurrection is revealed.