It all makes sense now.
I love the State Fair. I still go every year.
One of my earliest memories of the State Fair is one of the rides. I think I was 4 years old. It was a classic dark ride. With twists and turns, and all kinds of stuff jumping out you, never knowing what was coming next. At that age, it scared the socks off of me. I didn’t know if I was going to get out of there in one piece.
Even after it was over, I was pretty rattled. It took some explaining, and a walk around the back – “you mean that’s all it is?” – for 4-year old me to understand that it was just a ride.
Today’s Gospel is very different from the Gospels we’ve been hearing at the Sundays after Easter. Up until now, the focus is all been on events that happened immediately after the Resurrection. And seeing people trying to get their heads around it all, responding to the fact that Jesus has risen from the dead.
But today, we’ve got the Good Shepherd gospel. Which is a throwback to Jesus’ public ministry. It’s one of the many parables and illustration that Jesus used to explain who he was and what he was doing, long before Good Friday.
That’s all pre-Easter stuff. Why bring it up now?
Because now it makes sense.
Now we can see it for what it really means. All of the things we just heard, like “a good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” And “I lay down my life in order to take it up again.” All of that stuff makes sense now. In the light of the Resurrection.
It’s like we’re having a collective “Oh, now I get it” moment. Because, seen from the perspective of the Resurrection, now all of that stuff makes sense. Now, we see what Jesus is really talking about.
This perspective, by the way, is the key to understanding all of the readings. Not just from today, but every reading you will ever hear in church. And the entire Bible.
This is the key to understanding all of it.
Every sacrifice in the Old Testament. Every time that David pours his heart out in the Psalms. Every time that God reaches out to his people, even after they have gone astray. Every time that God provides.
This is the key to understanding all of it.
Because all of it is leading up to – or in service of – this, the central event of human history: Christ’s death and resurrection.
Okay, great. So that’s how to read and understand the Bible. Thanks. I’ll try to remember that the next time I read the Bible.
Ummm, no. If that’s where we stop with this, then we’re missing something pretty crucial.
Christ’s death and resurrection is the central event of human history. To truly understand human history, we have to see it from that perspective, from the perspective of Christ’s death and resurrection.
Including the most personal part of human history, our own lives. If we want to understand what’s really going on in our lives, we have to see it from this perspective. We have to see it in the light of the Resurrection.
Oh, okay. So this applies to us too. We know where our lives are headed. We received the sacraments. We go to Mass. We know where we’ll be in eternity. Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, we have a living hope.
And someday, it will all make sense.
That’s true. But keeping the Resurrection boxed up, and taking it out only for the sweet by-and-by, misses the point of today’s Gospel. And in the Gospels from the other Sundays after Easter.
All of that stuff about Jesus meeting the Apostles. Jesus showing them that He’s not a ghost by eating food. Jesus telling Thomas to touch His wounds. The point is that the Resurrection perspective doesn’t just apply to the sweet by-and-by. It applies to the here and now.
But even with Jesus right in front of them, only Mary Magdalene gets it right. Why is that?
Because her response to Jesus after the Resurrection is to grab him and hold on.
That Resurrection perspective doesn’t just apply to Bible times, to the moment between the Resurrection and the Ascension.
That Resurrection perspective applies to our lives, to our here and now. Right now.
Without it, we’re just grown-up versions of 4-year old me. Stuck in a dark ride. With twists and turns, all kinds of stuff jumping out us, never knowing what’s coming next. Not knowing if we’re going to get through it in one piece.
With that Resurrection perspective in lives, in our here and now, it’s like taking a walk around the back. And seeing things for what they really are.
We’ll still have our twists and turns. And all kinds of stuff will still jump out at us. It may still surprise us, but it won’t leave us rattled.
We’ll be able to deal with whatever jumps out at us, if we have that Resurrection perspective. We’ll even have the grace to reach out to others, in the middle of life’s worst. Because we won’t be dealing with it alone.
If we’re wise enough to grab Jesus and hold on.
May God grant us the wisdom of Mary Magdalene.