Have you ever had an "aha!" experience? Probably you have, although you might not have called it that. I can remember one of mine. Back in my early 20s, I was taking voice lessons. My teacher tried for weeks – well, probably months – to get me to learn a physical thing related to singing. That involved lifting the "soft pallet" in the back of my mouth in order to make more room for sound to come out. The problem with it is that there is nothing else that you can compare that physical movement to in order to have it make sense. So I tried everything I knew to do for a long time to make it happen. And time and time again, he would repeat the same instruction to me so that I'd get it. And time and time again, I'd go home frustrated that I just did not understand.
Then one day in class, something just "clicked" and I sang the exercise we were working on. At that point my teacher said, "that's it!!!!" And I remember how it felt … my throat was much more open and the sound was better and more on pitch. Things just worked … they sounded way better than ever. That "aha!" moment forever changed the way I sang.
You've probably had an "aha!" moment too. Maybe it was getting the answer to a math problem, or mastering the technique of a pitch in baseball, or coming up with just the right combination of ingredients cooking a sauce, or getting a particularly delicate plant to grow in your garden, or getting your second wind in a long distance run. Whatever it was, you probably remember the time when it just worked and it forever changed the way you did that particular thing. That's an "aha!" moment.
Today's Gospel reading shows us the disciples still looking for that "aha!" moment in their faith. It tells us "For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead." Here we see these eleven men, who had followed Jesus faithfully for three years and who never really grasped what it was Jesus was trying to tell them. These same eleven men were frightened and disappointed and mourning over the death of their friend. And now they've come to the tomb, only to find it empty, the cloths all rolled up and in disarray. We're told that "the other disciple" – whoever that was – "saw and believed." But one sentence later, we see that "they" – presumably including that same "other disciple" – did not yet understand.
And I think we can all understand why they didn't get it. If we look at the Gospel reading for today, it's pretty confusing. I mean, the disciples didn't get a guidebook or a list of instructions or things to look for. They weren't told what would happen when. So all they know is that the tomb is empty, and Mary Magdalene's reaction isn't hard to understand: "They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don't know where they put him." They were all confused; they did not yet have that "aha!" moment.
Even we who have the benefit of the 20/20 hindsight of history, if we're really pressed, we'd probably end up with much the same reaction as the disciples. If I went up and down the aisle here and asked a bunch of people, I'm sure not one could give me a good, step-by-step explanation of what happened on that first Easter morning. And you know what? If I were sitting there and was asked myself, I wouldn't be able to explain it either. The Resurrection, brothers and sisters in Christ, requires an act of faith, an act of faith that we must make today and every day as followers of the Lord.
The disciples couldn't make that act of faith just yet. They couldn't understand what was going on because they did not yet have an experience of meeting the Risen Lord. In the weeks to come, they'll have those experiences, and finally on Pentecost, they will be filled with the Holy Spirit in the ultimate "aha!" moment. Then everything will become crystal clear for them and they can proclaim the Gospel to every corner of the earth.
We, too, must have those experiences of the Risen Lord in our lives. Otherwise we can't possibly be expected to understand any of this. Those experiences of the Risen Lord are what lead us to our own "aha!" moments of faith and enable us to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
The great thing is that we can have an experience of the Risen Lord every single Sunday of our lives, by coming to this sacred place. It is here that we hear the Word proclaimed, here that we partake of the very Body and Blood of our Lord. An occasional experience of this mystery simply will not do; we must nurture our faith with many experiences of the Risen Lord – today, and every Sunday of our lives – so that we can have the "aha!" moments that make our faith grow.
And on those days when those "aha!" moments of our faith bring everything into focus, when we come to better clarity of who we are and who our Lord is, we can proclaim with the psalmist: "This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad!"