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Two Worlds (Easter 2024)

This week, this Holy Week, two worlds collided.  Two ways of life clashed.  Not for the first time.  Not for the last time. But there was a conflict, a collision with profound implications. 


There was the world of Pilate.  The world of Empire, the world of power, the world of the realists.  A way of life based on self-interest and privilege. Us vs them. Doing what it takes. I’ll scratch your back and you scratch mine.  We know this world, with its greed and resentments, its intimidation and retaliation, its competitiveness and conflict.  It’s still around.


But then there’s this other world.  The world of Jesus. The one he calls the kingdom of God.  A world in which the poor, the hungry, those who mourn are blessed.  A world in which the oppressed are set free.  A world of peace, a world in which the hurt and wounded are being healed.  A way of life based on self-giving love, forgiveness and compassion, based on love of God, and love of neighbour.  Even if the neighbour is an enemy.  We know something of this world too.  In fact, we long for this world.  We live in hope.


Mary Magdalene had come to live in Jesus’ world.  He’d changed her life, healing her, setting her free.  Mary became one of Jesus’ followers, and she and the other disciples had been like family, traveling together, living out a communal way of life based on love and forgiveness and compassion, with Jesus at the centre of it all.  Jesus’ world had given Mary hope.  But that hope was put to the test when Jesus’ world and Pilate’s world collided.


You could see it coming on Palm Sunday.  That day there were two parades headed towards Jerusalem for the Passover festival, one coming from the east, and the other from the west.  From the east came Jesus, sitting on a donkey, unarmed, proclaiming peace.  From the west came Pilate, mounted on a war horse, at the head of an Imperial procession which proclaimed its own message: don’t mess with the power of the Empire.  



From the moment these two worlds collided, the power of Pilate’s world was on full display.  The authorities began to confront Jesus and intimidate his followers.  Jesus’ disciples start to fall away, sucked into the fearful vortex of Pilate’s world.  Judas betrays Jesus, handing him over to be arrested. Peter, the one who boasted that he would even die for Jesus, Peter ends up denying him three times before the cock crows.  The political leaders manipulate the crowds. Pilate condemns Jesus to death, and orders soldiers to nail him to a cross.  In the clash of two worlds, it certainly looks like Pilate’s world has won.


Even to Mary Magdalene it looked that way.  She stayed with Jesus, she and the other women, they stayed there right until the end, standing at the foot of the cross.  But now he’s gone, dead and buried, and Mary’s world has crumbled all around her.  In the wake of Good Friday, even Mary is being dragged back into Pilate’s world.  Early on the first day of the week, she goes to the tomb.  It’s dark.  She sees that the stone has been removed and immediately she assumes that the body has been stolen.  After all, isn’t that what happens in Pilate’s world?  She’s afraid, she’s alone, she’s bent over.

She weeps.


“Woman, why are you weeping?”


Because everything I’d hoped for has been taken away from me.


Because just when I’d started to believe there was another way of living, it’s gone.


Because my world has just collapsed.  “They have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have laid him.”


“Woman why are you weeping?”


Because Pilate’s world has won.


Even when Mary sees Jesus standing there, she is still distraught.  Supposing him to be the gardener, she accuses him of stealing the body!  When your hopes and dreams have been stolen, everyone you meet starts to look like a thief.


Mary, like Judas, like Peter, is being sucked into Pilate’s world.


And that’s when Easter happens.




Jesus calls her by name.  “Mary.” Jesus calls her back.  Jesus reaches out and grabs her, he pulls her out of the spinning vortex of Pilate’s world and brings her back into his world, his way, his kingdom.


He calls her by name.  He raises her up, calls her into the life of the resurrection, into new life, into life that will prevail, over fear, even over death itself.


And she turns.  She turns once more to Jesus. In that Easter moment, she is the one who is raised to new life.   In that Easter moment suddenly she knows once more that love is stronger than hate, that life is stronger than death, and that she can dare to hope again.  That despite all appearances to the contrary, Pilate’s ways are not the last word.  The way of Jesus will prevail.  Raised from the dead.


And Mary grabs on.  Her instinctive reaction, and who can blame her, is to grab Jesus, to hold on for dear life, to never let go of the hope she had lost but now has found.  But that’s not Jesus’ way either.  In Jesus’ world, in Jesus’ kingdom, hope is not something that we hold onto for ourselves.  Hope is something that we share, something we give to others, something we shout out from the rooftops.


“Don’t hold onto me.  Go to my brothers and sisters and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and to your God.”


Jesus wants us to have the same relationship with God that he has. He wants us to be God’s children, to be empowered by God’s Spirit, and he wants us to embrace the way of life that he came to show us.  A way of peace.  A way of healing. A way of reconciliation.  A way of justice, especially for the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized.  A way of compassion, of mercy and forgiveness.  A way of generosity. The way of love.


Now the Pilate’s of this world wil hear this and laugh in our face. The Pilate’s of this will tell us that it’s all just wishful thinking.  They'll tell us that we’re just not being realistic in thinking that life can be this way.  They'll tell us that power and self-interest will always win in the end. But they’re wrong.


I know they’re wrong because Jesus Christ is risen and alive, and he is calling us by name to be his brothers and sisters and siblings in this new way of life that he has given us.  Jesus’ world has prevailed and will prevail, all appearances to the contrary.  Love wins.  And so, live in Jesus’ world, live in the way he showed us.  Love God.  Love your neighbour. Do justice, practice forgiveness, show compassion, to all people.  And never, ever lose hope. 


For we are an Easter people.


Alleluia, Christ is risen.

The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!



Homily: Easter, March 31 2024, Trinity

Readings: Acts 10.34-43; Ps 118; 1 Cor 15.1-11; John 20.1-18



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