Jeremy is one of my favorite theologians. He was a young man who had been born into a twisted and failing body. What makes him different than most theologians mentioned in homilies is that he was 12 years of age in was only in Grade 2. His many health issues were also terminal.
One day his teacher Miss Miller was talking about the story of Jesus and Easter. At the end of class she gave each child a plastic Easter egg, and she said to them “I want you to take this home and bring it back tomorrow with something inside that shows new life.”
The next day at the start of class the 19 students all put their eggs in a basket. One by one Miss Miller opened the eggs and had the student explain what the item inside said about new life.
One had a flower in it; another had a butterfly. With each opening, an excited child stood up and exclaimed that was their egg with great pride.
Then Miss Miller came to an egg and when she opened it; she found it was empty. Her heart sank as she realized that this was Jeremy’s egg, and he had failed to understand the assignment.
She put the egg aside and was going on to the next one as quickly as possible to spare Jeremy any embarrassment.
However, Jeremy’s hand shot up, and he said, “Miss are we going to talk about my egg.”
Miss Miller responded by saying, “but Jeremy your egg is empty.”
He looked into her eyes and said softly, “yes, but Jesus’ tomb was empty too!”
Miss Miller asked him, “Do you know why the tomb was empty?”
“Oh yes!” Jeremy exclaimed. “Jesus was killed and put in there. Then his Father raised him up!” The recess bell rang; the kids left and Miss Miller sat there amazed.
Jeremy’s teaching raises two questions to ponder: How did we get to the empty tomb and what have we learned along the way?
Our journey started in a little town called Bethlehem. The King of the universe, the Son of our God came into this world as a helpless child born to an unwed teenager in a stable.
What did we learn in Bethlehem?
We learned that from the moment of his birth, Jesus shared completely in our humanity.
In Nazareth, Jesus grew into adulthood. He did so by honouring his parents. We don’t know much about these times, but we do know that Joseph, the man who had cared for him and his mother died.
What did we learn in Nazareth?
We learned that Jesus fully shares in our experiences of grief because he knows what it means to lose one he loved so deeply.
Then we travel with Jesus as he becomes an itinerant preacher and teacher around the Sea of Galilee. He gathers a strange crew around him made up of fishermen, tax collectors and people that others considered to be unworthy sinners.
He consistently teaches on three themes around the Sea of Galilee:
- To Love God, with all our heart and soul and that our God is a loving father who is always there for us regardless of what we have done;
- To love one another as I have loved you which means to love unconditionally;
- Finally, he taught us about forgiveness. Asking for forgiveness when we need it and granting it to others freely and frequently.
What do we learn from wandering with Jesus around Galilee?
We learn how to free ourselves from hatred and resentment. Jesus shows us that when we free ourselves from guilt and shame, we can experience lives of service and meaning.
From Galilee, we travel to Jerusalem and the triumphant entry of Jesus into the city.
We find our Lord with his disciples in an upper room where they are about to share the Passover meal. Before they eat, Jesus takes off his outer robe, bends down and performs the work of a slave and washes the feet of his apostles.
What do we learn in the Upper Room?
We learn that to be one of his followers, we must not be slow to do the humble work. He leaves us with a clear instruction-to wash each other’s feet.
Then Jesus puts his robe on and gathers his friends around the table. He breaks the bread saying this is my body. He shares the cup saying this is my blood.
What do we learn from sitting at this table?
Jesus gives us the gift of himself in the Eucharist. He shows us that he will be with us to the end of time. He knows we will need this food for our journey.
Then Jesus departs from the upper room to face his passion and death.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus takes the time to pray. He asks for this suffering, this cup as he calls it to be taken from him. He trusts completely in God. It is this trust and faith in his Father that allows him to proceed.
He is betrayed by one of his own. He is abandoned by everyone and denied by his closest friend. He is tortured and humiliated. He is nailed upon a cross and suffers in ways it would be hard for us to imagine.
Through his passion, Jesus enters into our humanity completely.
His first words from the cross are “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” And then just before he dies, he promises a thief his kingdom.
What do we learn from our Lord’s passion and death?
We learn that all of these things, betrayal, abandonment, humiliation, suffering and death are part of life. Our Lord experienced them all.
Then we arrive at this empty tomb. Mary of Magdala has come to the grave site with a broken heart and is in despair. Adding to her grief after everything she experienced on that dreadful Friday is that the body of her friend and teacher seems to have been taken.
After the others have left, Mary is at the tomb alone. She sees a man she thinks is the gardener.
She pleads with him, “Sir if you know where they have taken him tell me, and I will go and get him.”
The man looks at him and says, “Mary.”
When this man says her name, she immediately recognizes that he is Jesus. He has been raised from the dead. Mary now understands what he meant when he taught about life everlasting.
What do we learn from the Resurrection of Jesus?
This brings us back to the story of our young theologian Jeremy. A few months after his presentation in the classroom Jeremy’s body finally failed, and he died.
As people arrived at the funeral home, they were surprised to see 18 empty and open plastic Easter Eggs on his coffin.
It turns out that Jeremy’s classmates understood what he had taught them.
They knew that at that moment, Jeremy was being guided by the Holy Spirit into the open arms of God the Father and into the warm embrace of his brother Jesus.
We can imagine Jesus looking at his young friend and welcoming him home, into his kingdom by simply saying: “Jeremy.”