Doing what’s right over Easter

2012-04-07 12:31

When Mary of Magdala went to the tomb of Jesus on the morning after the Passover Sabbath, all she wanted to do for Jesus was what was right.

His death had been brutal and his burial hasty. Jesus had done right for Mary and she ­wanted to finish the proper burial rite as her response.

Getting to the opened tomb must have been horrifying. It was open. In all cultures, respect for the dead is a very powerful taboo, as is respect for the place of burial.

So arriving to find the grave already robbed and defiled must have bought much pain to this woman from whom seven demons had been cast.

She must have felt again as she had felt before – defiled – before her intimacy with Jesus restored her.

Hysterical, she demands of the ­gardener an explanation. And Jesus, the resurrected and unrecognised one, calls her name – and all is well.

For many believers in Jesus, the feast of the Resurrection holds this intimacy. It is not the commemoration of events long past in a distant country or a foreign culture.

It is the recognition that Jesus, the Resurrected one, is present, real, alive and often ­unrecognised.

This is the power of this feast for me – the real life characters of those who loved Jesus, betrayed him and journeyed with him – and their ­real-life selves who live in my life and my time.

Easter draws from believers in Christ a chance to look at how we can do right for Jesus as a simple response to the right he has done for us.

For Catholics, Easter is the ­culmination and beginning of so many things. It’s the culmination of the 40-day fast called Lent.

It is the culmination of Holy Week – the high holy days of our faith. It is also the beginning of 8 days “where every day is an Easter Sunday” and 50-day celebration of the Lord’s presence until the Feast of ­Pentecost.

Holy Week commemorates the Lord’s final days. We begin by crying out “Hosanna” in the hope of liberation and end up crying “crucify him” when we realise we are often our own worst enemies, enemies of what is good and right and true.

On Thursday night, we commemorated the Lord’s last action with his friends, his final instruction given not by word but by action – washing of feet, taking the lowest job, reserved for the youngest child or slave, a messy job of hospitality and service.

I washed feet and kissed them – many different feet that have walked some hard roads.

On Friday, we are silent, remembering the brutality, injustice, the overarching narrative of the powerful and its death dealing. We recognise the ­reality of pain. And wait.

Saturday into Sunday is a time of waiting – not in fear or horror, sometimes in anxiety.

 We wait and retell our many stories of hope, a hope that ­cannot be killed. And we celebrate the triumph not of concept but of person: Jesus and our relationship with him.

» Father Townsend is the information officer of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference and a parish priest in the Archdiocese of Pretoria.

He blogs at

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