“This week alone has seen families throughout Ireland, Europe and the wider world plunged into grief because of the tragic deaths of so many men, women and children. Behind these, of course, are the many other, less public griefs, which leave people asking questions like: Who will roll back the stone? The Spirit of Jesus is the one who lets light into the darkness of the tomb.” – Bishop Doran
In ancient Greek mythology there is a story about a man named Sisyphus. During his life he upset the gods and, as a result, he was condemned for all eternity to roll a big rock to the top of a hill. No sooner had he got it there than it would roll back down and he would have to start all over again. I suspect that the worst part of the punishment was not the rolling of the rock, but the futility of it. It was effort without purpose.
When Jesus was laid in the tomb on Good Friday, a rock was rolled across the entrance. It carried the seal of the empire and the place was guarded by soldiers. The rock symbolised the end of all the hope that was represented by the life of Jesus. He who was the light of the world was sealed away in a dark cave. For those who knew him as Teacher and who had left everything to follow him, the rock across the mouth of the tomb must have been the ultimate expression of futility.
The women on the morning of the “first day of the week” asked themselves “who will roll away the stone”? It has always seemed to me that their question was not just about gaining access to the body of Jesus, but about dealing with the emotional weight on their shoulders, the stone where their hearts ought to be.
In all of our parishes there are people, our neighbours and friends, who ask that same question, day after day. “Who will roll away the stone for us?” They experience life as futile because of the death of a family member, the burden of ill health, the loss of a job or some other situation which has taken the light out of their lives. Who will roll back the stone? This week alone has seen families throughout Ireland, Europe and the wider world plunged into grief because of the tragic deaths of so many men, women and children. Behind these, of course, are the many other, less public griefs, which leave people asking questions like: Who will roll back the stone?
The answer, as the women discovered, is that the stone is rolled away by other unseen hands. The Spirit of Jesus is the one who lets light into the darkness of the tomb. The life of Jesus is not futile after all – and neither is ours – because our hope, as Saint Paul wrote, is not for this life only.
We who believe in Jesus are entrusted through our Baptism to be witnesses of that hope. Sometimes that means standing with people by gravesides, or sitting with them over a cup of tea; sharing their experience of futility, so that we can also share with them something of the hope that we carry in our hearts, until eventually the stone is rolled away for them and the light breaks through. This is the meaning of mercy.
I wish you every blessing for this Easter season and I pray that the light of Christ may touch the life of each and every one of you.
- Bishop Kevin Doran is Bishop of Elphin.
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