A Question for Easter
It is not a trick question, but neither is it as straightforward as it might seem.
To whom did the risen Lord first appear?
It depends, of course, on which Gospel you read!
St Matthew tells us that it was Mary Magdalene and the other Mary.
For St Mark (in the longer ending of his Gospel), it is just Mary Magdalene.
For St Luke, it is the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.
In St John’ Gospel, it is Mary Magdalene.
But not one of these appearances is immediate or direct. They are preceded by an angel or unknown figures in white, and they are surrounded by further uncertainty: ‘supposing him to be the gardener’; ‘their eyes were kept from recognising him’. Only subsequently does recognition occur.
The risen Christ is in our midst, but we do not see Him. We need actively to seek Him, and to persevere in that search. And then we will find Him. Just as at Christmas we recall Mary’s faithful obedience to God’s plan of salvation, so for our Easter Gospel we must be deeply grateful to the women who cared and loved enough, through their dreadful sorrow and grief, to go to the tomb, where their perseverance brought them to the risen Lord. Like them, we must seek Him out, deliberately and faithfully, and then we shall find Him.
My wonderful encounters with the risen Christ this Easter were at the prison, at the Easter Vigil and Confirmation on the Saturday evening, and in the joy-filled celebration of Easter morning. Over these next weeks, we will hear the stories of the subsequent appearances to the disciples, on the way to Emmaus and in Galilee, with the Gospel then returning to Jerusalem to be taken out to the world. For it is truly a Gospel for the World, proclaiming the God who can transform even the darkest place into light and gladness and rejoicing. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.