“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.” (John 20:1)
April 20, 2014
Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
On this Easter day, hear an ancient parable from the Far East:
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“Once upon a time in the heart of a certain kingdom lay a beautiful garden. Of all the dwellers of the garden, the most beautiful and beloved to the master of the garden was a splendid and noble Bamboo. Year after year, Bamboo grew yet more beautiful and gracious. He was conscious of his master's love, yet he was modest and in all things gentle. Often when Wind came to revel in the garden, Bamboo would dance and sway merrily, tossing and leaping and bowing in joyous abandon. He delighted his master's heart.
“One day the master spoke: ‘Bamboo, I would use you.’ Bamboo flung his head to the sky in utter delight. The day in which he would find his completion and destiny had come! His voice came low: ‘Master, I am ready; use me as you want.’
“‘Bamboo,’ the master's voice was grave, ‘I would be obliged to take you and cut you down.’ A trembling of great horror shook Bamboo. ‘Cut me down? Me, whom you, master, have made the most beautiful in all your garden? Cut me down? Ah, not that, not that. Use me for your joy, oh master, but don't cut me down.’
“‘Beloved Bamboo,’ the master's voice grew graver still. ‘If I do not cut you down, I cannot use you.’ Bamboo slowly bent his proud and glorious head. Then came a whisper. ‘Master, if you cannot use me unless you cut me down, then do your will and cut.’
“‘Bamboo, beloved Bamboo, I would cut your leaves and branches from you also.’ ‘Master, master, spare me. Cut me down and lay my beauty in the dust, but would you take from me my leaves and branches also?’
“‘Bamboo, alas! If I do not cut them away, I cannot use you.’ Bamboo shivered in terrible expectancy, whispering low, ‘Master, cut away.’
“‘Bamboo, Bamboo, I would divide you in two and cut out your heart, for if I do not cut so, I cannot use you.’ ‘Master, master, then cut and divide.’
“So the master of the garden took Bamboo and cut him down and hacked off his branches and stripped his leaves and divided him in two and cut out his heart, and lifting him gently, carried him to where there was a spring of fresh, sparkling water in the midst of the master's dry fields. Then putting down one end of broken Bamboo into the spring and the other end into the water channel in the field, the master laid down gently his beloved Bamboo.
“The clear sparkling water raced joyously down the channel of Bamboo's torn body into the waiting fields. Then the rice was planted and the days went by. The shoots grew. The harvest came.
“In that day was Bamboo, once so glorious in his stately beauty, yet more glorious in his brokenness and humility. For in his beauty he was life abundant. But in his brokenness he became a channel of abundant life to his master's world.” (Original source unknown)
And thus is it that the Heavenly Father sacrificed his beloved son, Jesus, that abundance of life might be ours. Enduring agony and death at the will of the Father and as a gift for all humanity, Jesus became the channel of life-giving waters for us.
St. John relates in the gospel passage we hear today, “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.” (John 20:1) Suspecting grave robbers, she rushed away to tell the other disciples the distressing news. They, too, bought the initial story Mary offered. After all, they’d been witness to the exquisite torture Jesus endured prior to his agonizing death. There could be no other explanation for the missing body. Either the Jewish leaders or the Roman soldiers had stolen it away so that the faithful disciples could not then themselves steal it away and claim that Jesus had risen just like he said he would.
But we know the truth: Jesus’ body was not stolen. Not by anybody. No! Rather, Jesus did rise, just as he said he would—to the astonishment of friend and foe alike!
Yes, he who conquered death did it for us—for every single one of us, no exceptions! He robbed death forever of its fierce hold on humanity. No more is death the end of the story; it’s the unending final chapter—wondrous, mysterious, beyond language or artistry to describe or depict.
On this Easter day, this day when, with Jesus, we are so strongly assured of our heavenly future, let us renew our Christian commitment to give ourselves in generous service to others. May we have the strength of faith to endure the sacrifice of self—even the hacking away of leaf and limb, the cutting out of the heart’s fondest desire—that we might, in truth, become more alive than we’ve ever been.
This Easter day, may we commit our lives anew as gift to the world, channels of life-giving water and conduits of healing compassion.