Reflecting on Easter: ‘The stone has been rolled away’
“… at daybreak on the first day of the week … they went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away …”
A recent post from a friend on Facebook carried the news that her mother’s leukemia had been proclaimed “in remission.” The Alleluias were ringing throughout the many Facebook comments made in response to this update.
I suspect my friend’s joy at her mother’s improved prognosis is not unlike the joy those first followers of Jesus felt when they arrived at the tomb, were surprised to see the stone rolled away, found the tomb empty and eventually proclaimed Christ Risen.
Is there any greater joy than life overcoming death? Is there any greater longing than to find the stones of our lives rolled away?
It reminded me of my own family’s journey the Eastertime my father was suffering from mesothelioma—a rare lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Though he had not been expected to live past Christmas, here we were coming up on Easter and, happily, he was still with us.
But something changed dramatically on Holy Saturday. We were afraid he was not going to be there on Easter to celebrate when the whole extended family arrived. Our fear was so real that my brother and I took turns keeping vigil through the night. When morning came and my brother awakened me after shaking himself from sleep, he motioned me to come with him.
Here was my father, not only awake but out of bed, sitting in the easy chair in the corner of his bedroom, fully dressed. I will never forget what my brother whispered in my ear, “The stone has been rolled away.”
Though my father never totally recovered and died a week later, his energy that Easter Sunday was nothing short of miraculous. And we were given precious time to celebrate and to say goodbye.
Certainly our Christian belief in Resurrection makes those death-dealing times of our lives endurable and enables us to hold on to hope. Life is changed not ended.
But the gift of Resurrection, the joy of Easter, the reality of the Paschal Mystery is not really about bodily resuscitation or timely remissions — although those are always welcome. For me, it is about trusting that God will always provide — that the stone will be rolled away and I will be able —somehow— to walk out into the light again — from death to new life.
There are lots of assists in that stone-rolling process, ways that God lures others into the act of redemption. My friend’s mother has had the benefits of modern medicine coupled with a supportive family to make sure she received the therapy she needed.
I believe my father’s own determination to celebrate Easter with us, fueled by his deep faith in a God who loves unconditionally, enabled him to move from his bed into his easy chair on Easter morning. How do I know that? When I greeted him that day, the first thing he asked me to do was to get the little hand-held vacuum cleaner to pick up the crumbs around his chair. After all, we were going to have company. Who knew vacuuming crumbs could be so sublime?
Easter is a special time to celebrate this Paschal Mystery. May we look for ways every day to trust it and the God who makes it happen, the God who always provides help to roll the stones away.