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From bleakest of times emerges a treasure

When our children were little, we would gather, with their cousins, at the home of their grandparents on Easter Sunday morning for the traditional egg hunt.

When our children were little, we would gather, with their cousins, at the home of their grandparents on Easter Sunday morning for the traditional egg hunt.

The high point of the hunt was the finding of the treasure, a gold mesh bag of chocolate nuggets. Grandpa would gather the children and read the little poem that held the clue to discovering the treasure.

I remember one Easter in particular. Our daughter, about four years old, stood very quietly, listening attentively. As Grandpa finished reading the poem, the boys dashed off. Our daughter remained still until she had solved the puzzle.

As she was on her way to retrieve the treasure, one of her older cousins, observing her movements, outran her and triumphantly grasped the treasure. Hoisting it, he exclaimed, "I found it!' and ran off, cousins in pursuit, to show the rest of us. Our daughter remained at the spot, crying.

Even though the treasure would eventually be shared out, the hunt created tension. Who would be smart enough, fast enough and wily enough to get to the treasure first?

Our daughter held in tension the elements required to solve the puzzle. She was able to sit with the mystery of the puzzle to unravel its meaning, while enthusiasm powered the boys as they ran helter skelter all over the yard.

Tension characterizes the dawn of the first Easter morning.

In John's Gospel, Mary of Magdala goes to the tomb of the crucified Jesus and finds it empty. Afraid that someone has stolen the body, she runs to find Peter. Mary, Peter and another disciple run back to the tomb. The male disciples enter the empty tomb, notice the discarded burial cloths and run off, leaving Mary alone.

The male disciples, like little boys searching for treasure, are in a hurry. They are unable to be still in the presence of the mystery confounding them. Peter does not fully grasp the mystery before running off to share the news with others.

Mary, however, holds her grief, fears, confusion and hope in tension. She remains weeping at the tomb. She is prepared to wait, to inquire and to discover. And so, Mary is the first to enter deeply into the mystery and presence of the risen Jesus.

There are times when life leaves us weeping at the tomb. Disappointment, humiliation, illness, suffering and loss can take us into the darkness of the tomb. Anger, shame, grief and sorrow are the burial cloths that obscure our vision as we struggle to overcome the confusion and pain of our heart. It seems impossible that we will emerge from our personal crucifixions to re-experience the joy of living.

In the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, we encounter the pattern of human experience, the cycle of little deaths and resurrections that transform us.

The resurrection is not only a future expectation of eternal perfection and bliss. We experience resurrection now. Out of our bleakest experiences we emerge with a treasure, nuggets of wisdom forged in the darkness to illuminate our rising.

In the words of Saint Augustine, we are an Easter people. Alleluia is our cry.

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