Of grace and grief

Near where I live there is a graveyard ‘in which no one has yet been buried’.  Someone had the idea of investing in the dead and bought a large piece of land and crisscrossed it with pristine roads that would be the joy of our suburbs.

That was all some time ago but up to now, as I walk its perimeters, there is no sign of death or burial. I ask a man, who seems like a caretaker, when they would start to bury people. ‘There will soon be a pilot project’, he said. A pilot project?  I continue on my way, baffled, as the images of the mass burials in New York come to mind.

Death is such an enemy! For Paul, reflecting ever deeper on the mystery of God’s death, it is the visible sign of Sin. And Sin, like Death, touches all of us. No one can say they are ‘without sin’ even though we are quick to cast stones. For Paul, the whole world was under the power of Sin and Death, two enemies of human nature personified in Satan or the devil. These days we are remembering that death on Calvary, and what happened afterwards.

Up till then death was the end.  People erected tomb stones to ease their pain and then walked away. But this death changed everything. No human being could overcome the awful virus of Sin and Death that had entered the world.  Only someone from outside humanity could do that and God entered humanity precisely for that purpose. He ‘carried our offences’ and the ‘burden of our guilt was laid on him’. What we celebrate these days is the victory over Sin and Death. They no longer have power over us.

But we need the grace, the life-giving power, of God to make this truth our own.  Otherwise it will pass us by.  We cannot grieve ‘for ourselves or for our children’ unless we have the grace to grieve. Sorrow is a grace, a gift.  We know it can set us on a new track – in our relationships, the way we work and so forth. But we cannot force sorrow.  We have to wait for it.  A therapist has to wait for her patient to understand, to ‘come to their senses’. Sorrow and grief are life-giving. We have only to look at the woman who covered Jesus’ feet with her tears.  She was a new person.  The prodigal son was a far better man after his tears than he was before.

And so we come back to Calvary and the empty tomb. They are not two events but one.  Jesus is the one who ‘passed through (our human misery) … and entered the sanctuary once and for all’ (Hebrews 9:11-12).  It is a decisive moment of universal and eternal meaning. No wonder we will spend the next forty days rejoicing.

19 April 2020              Easter 2 A

Acts 2:42-47                1 Peter 1:3-9                John 20:19-31

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