We can understand the frantic running back and forth of Mary Magdalene, Peter and "the other disciple" (as the Gospel excerpt puts it) in the early morning darkness that day of the Resurrection. The tortured body of Jesus they had placed securely in the tomb had vanished.
Fretting, Mary Magdalene made a guess as to what happened: "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb." Happily, news of a comforting sort better than Mary could possibly have imagined, came her way. She says "I have seen the Lord" – words enough to lead to a serene Easter reflection.
But at that exact moment, my doorbell sounded; the line of thought turned sharply. I opened to a familiar 35-year-old face, not that of a confidant but that of James, a person known to me and one in whom I have developed a certain trust.
He comes often. Now and then he offers to do a chore around the property, but always he comes in the hope of "a few dollars" – a hope almost always realized. This time something seemed amiss.
"Anything wrong?" I asked from the half-open doorway.
CNS PHOTO | COURTESY OF ALINARI ART RESOURCE
'They have taken my Lord out of the tomb.'
"Yeah! I jus' spent the night in jail. Cop picked me up for trespassin' at that big store on the north side." He tightened his ponytail.
"But I didn't do nothing. Some guy used my name. Purty sure I know him. Some store guy phoned the cops. Cop grabbed me off the street – put me in jail overnight. Somebody must look like me."
Taken aback by this account, I said, "Of course you told the policeman it wasn't you?"
"Yeah! He didn't believe me. He had my name right. Just like the store guy said. Into jail in the police station over night. This mornin' cop drove me over to the courthouse and stuck me in the cell there till I went before the judge. Didn't get no breakfast."
In a strong voice he imitated his call from the jail cell, "Hey! Where's my breakfast?! Anyway, I didn't get none." He guffawed at the memory of his boldness.
"What happened when you went before the judge?"
"He asked my name, read off the cop's report of the trespassin' charge. Then he said 'Guilty or not guilty?'"
"This is a terrible story, James. What did you say?"
"I said 'Guilty!' The judge gave me a $300 fine. I got till sometime in July to pay it off. Have to get some kind of a job."
"Why on earth did you say guilty?"
"Lawyer told me to. Easier that way. I figgered I'd be goin' back to jail if I said not guilty. Can you help me out? Got any juice?" And then quietly, as if to himself "Jesus!"
Did he breathe a prayer or mutter an oath? I cannot say.
But I thought of Easter and the Resurrection and of how blinded systems entangle the innocent like Jesus . . . and James.
(Ralph Himsl: firstname.lastname@example.org)