Happy Easter!!! ALLELUIA! Christ is Risen! Death and sin are defeated. God triumphs! Love and Life are ETERNAL. ALLELUIA!
Today we hear the beautiful Gospel of St. Mark. Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices so that they might go and anoint Jesus, and very early on Sunday morning they go to the tomb. They are wondering about how they are going to get in the tomb since there is a huge stone blocking the entrance. But when they get there, just after sunrise, they discover the stone is rolled away! With concern and trepidation they gingerly make their way into the tomb, and there they see something that utterly amazes them. Anybody remember what they saw?
If you answered “An Angel” that is WRONG! They did NOT see an angel. In St. Matthew’s Gospel the women see an angel. In St. Luke’s Gospel the women meet two gentlemen in dazzling apparel who could be angels. And in St. John’s Gospel Mary Magdalene sees no one there at first, but on returning later she meets Jesus Himself.
But our Gospel today is good old Mark, and he does not have an angel. What the women find in the tomb that utterly amazes them is “a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe.” Now let’s see, do we have any young men in white robes with us today? Will the servers please stand? [[point to server]] This is what St. Mark tells us the women saw a young man in a white robe. Let’s give the server a big round of applause…
Mark knew perfectly well the word for angel, and if he had meant an angel he would have written, “an angel”. But instead he wrote “a young man … clothed in a white robe.”
Now ¿who is this guy? What is he doing here? Well, I think we have seen him before. Think back to last Sunday, to Palm Sunday when we heard St Mark’s version of the Passion of our Lord, and the events that lead up to today’s Gospel. Was there any young man in that story? Well, yes there was.
Do you remember in the Garden of Gethsemani, when Jesus was arrested, St. Mark states: "With that, all deserted him and fled." Then St. Mark adds an unusual detail that only he recounts: "There was a young man following him who was covered by nothing but a linen cloth. As they seized him he left the cloth behind and ran off naked." [Hold up white cloth.] ¿Remember him, the streaker? How could you forget? What an image! I mean it is so Austin!
What is this all about? This is a deeply symbolic passage. For the Scriptures nakedness is not erotic. Rather nakedness is a cause for shame. In the Garden of Eden, before they sinned, Adam and Eve are presented as being perfectly comfortable with being naked. But once they sinned, nakedness became a source of shame.
And they hid themselves from God, because they were afraid. Nakedness becomes a source of alienation and separation from God and from each other.
In the Bible nakedness is a symbol of vulnerability, of powerlessness, of poverty, of being without identity and not belonging. In the Bible, nakedness is not a good place to be.
This young man in Mark’s Gospel, naked, defenseless, terrified, running for his life, ashamed and scarred, is a symbol for all of us when we are without God’s grace. We run scarred through a terrifying and indifferent universe, with no meaning, no belonging, no identity.
But, something has dramatically changed! Because the young man wearing the white robe in the tomb is the same guy who was running naked from the Garden of Gethsemani.
On Thursday he was naked; on Easter he is clothed in a white garment.
On Thursday he was running for his life; on Easter he is seated calmly.
On Thursday he was terrified, frightened, scarred; on Easter he is calm, assured, and at peace.
Before Jesus’ death and resurrection, this young man flees naked from the Garden, just like Adam and Eve fled from the Garden when they discovered they were naked and hid from God.
After Jesus’ death and resurrection, this same young man is now dressed in a white robe and boldly proclaims the resurrection: "He has been raised up; he is not here!"
Something really important changed. The sign of that interior change is signified by going from being naked to being dressed in a white robe, which is the Baptismal robe, the sign of Baptism, just like the six people Baptized here last night received and were dressed in a white robe.