Mark 16: 1-; 1 Corinthians 5: 6-8
There was a movie that came out a few years ago entitled, Finding Neverland. It’s somewhat of a biographical story of JM Barie, the writer of Peter Pan and how this whole idea of the “neverland” came about. He speaks of his experience growing up and losing his brother and the trauma that it placed on him, but even more so on his mother, who, in many ways, became incapacitated to even take care of him because of the pain and loss that she had experienced. So “neverland” came about as an escape, and eventually becomes the story of Peter Pan. Neverland was a place where he could escape the pain and suffering, a place that was perfect and untouchable, a place where he didn’t have to grow up and wouldn’t have to confront any of the darkness that had plagued his life.
I believe, in my own life, but many other lives I have encountered as a priest, that we want “neverland” more than we want resurrection. I honestly believe that! None of us want suffering, and so we often create these neverlands for ourselves to avoid it, but at a price of never growing up in our faith and not living this paschal mystery of death to life.
In many ways it follows the story of the disciples, in particular in Mark’s Gospel who we hear from today on this Easter Sunday. When they first encounter Jesus everything is all honky-dory and things are going great and they love what they are doing for and with him, and then the cross comes; and what happens? They scatter. They avoid it and run…they want neverland rather than resurrection because it is only through death that we experience resurrection! Today it’s the women’s time in Mark’s Gospel. They have been the faithful one’s throughout the gospel. They were the ones who were even there at the crucifixion and so rightfully so, they are the first to head to the tomb and given the gift of experiencing the resurrection. However, what we don’t hear today is their response. The next verse, and final verse of Mark’s gospel, speaks of how they left trembling and bewildered; full of fear and never go to report what they had seen to the other disciples out of fear. Ah, they are just like the others and Mark leaves his community provoked to respond…NO, I will not be like them; I will have the courage to go out; I will have the courage to face the suffering, trusting that God will transform it. I will have the courage to journey to Jerusalem, rather than to neverland.
Mark tells us the way to do it is to go back; they are to go back to Galilee where it all began. For us, as people of faith, we can go back to our baptism and begin to see that through the lens of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Even more, we can go back to the beginning in the Garden of Eden and see Adam and Eve now through the lens of the cross and resurrection. We are so quick to give up on God, on the Church, because as I said, we often desire “Neverland”. And that’s the whole idea; this isn’t neverland and it never has been. We are about resurrection!! At some point in our lives we have to grow up beyond neverland and face the sufferings of our lives, now knowing through this lens, that resurrection will happen. It won’t be a perfect ride getting there and it certainly won’t be easy and without suffering, but it is the way to resurrection and it is the way to discipleship.
Paul tried to convey the same message to Corinth. He tells them in today’s second reading that they have to give up their old self and take on “Christ crucified” for that is who we are! We can begin to look at our lives, in hindsight often, through this lens. That’s why the disciples are told to go back to Galilee and not Jerusalem. Things were too fresh in Jerusalem. The leaders were just glad it’s was over. When we are lost in our sufferings, as that city was, it is often hard to see the resurrected one because we are desiring neverland. Yet, if we go back to the beginning, we can begin to see that God has always been present, even in these most difficult of moments, and we can gradually begin to give up that wanting of neverland and seek resurrection.
My friends, as we begin this great season of our faith, we are invited to “Find Resurrection” rather than “Finding Neverland”. At some point we have to give up neverland and confront the pain and suffering that may come. We have to in order to grow up in our faith, because that is who we are, a resurrection people, not a neverland people, a people of the great Alleluia!!