This is the reflection I gave to my Lay Dominican group on Holy Saturday morning.
I felt a bit of irony as I tried to prepare for this reflection. Easter weekend, what could be better? But as I looked at the readings and pondered over various thoughts from many great Christians, I also saw how vast this subject is. This is no surprise, of course. We are talking about the very real and historic events that literally opened heaven to us! We could talk endlessly about these profound mysteries of our faith.
Since we are the Mary Magdalene Chapter of the St Albert the Great Province, I wanted to look at her role in what we know about the Resurrection of Jesus. The four Gospel writers all give us accounts of Easter morning that are slightly varied, but they all include Mary Magdalene. She went to the tomb after the Sabbath and discovered Jesus was not there.
In the brief passage we will hear tomorrow morning, (John 20:1-9) we read that Mary ran to Peter to exclaim, “They have taken our Lord from the tomb and we do not know where they put him.” Peter and “the other disciple” (John) ran to see this for themselves. The passage says they “saw and believed” but, as yet, they did not fully understand that Jesus must rise from the dead. The verse after Sunday’s passage says, “Then the disciples returned to their homes.” Perhaps they were confused or worried; we do not know.
They truly didn’t get it yet. But who would? John’s gospel continues (and I wish this was included in the reading for Mass,) telling us Mary Magdalene herself remained at the tomb, and sees two angels who ask why she is weeping. Again, she says, “They have taken our Lord from the tomb and we do not know where they put him.” When she turns around, Jesus is right there, but she does not recognize him (she thinks He’s a gardener) until he calls her by name, “Mary.”
What an incredible moment this is! Jesus reveals Himself as the Resurrected Lord to Mary of Magdala! Not to Peter and the other apostles, but to this woman! For many Christians, this underscores the validity of the Resurrection. The Early Church would not have come up with this bizarre detail if was not real. Women were not seen as credible witnesses in any regard. It also demonstrates the wonderful friendship Jesus and Mary Magdalene had, which is a model for all of us, male and female.
Jesus then tells Mary to go tell His brothers that He will be ascending to the Father. Mary rushes off and tells them “I have seen the Lord!” This passage is one reason she is known as “The Apostle to the Apostles.” She gave witness to all that she saw! What JOY she must have been feeling!
Just before the Gospel passage, the Church gives us a beautiful Easter Sequence, a special prayer for the Octave of Easter. Even this prayer mentions Mary. A few stanzas in English say,
“Tell us, Mary, what did you see upon the way?”
“I saw the sepulchre of the living Christ; I saw the glory of the Risen One.”
We who live 2000 plus years later know the story of the Resurrection, but do we take time to ponder how mind-blowing this event is? Jesus did not just have the audacity to claim He is God, to claim He would rise from the dead…claims that got Him killed. He IS God and He did Rise! He is the fulfillment of every promise God has made with His people. EVERYTHING changed with the Resurrection of Jesus. We should feel that change in ourselves as we move from Lent to Easter. We should all feel Easter joy, as choirs proclaim “Alleluias” again. We MUST rejoice as Jesus’ triumph over sin and death! Without Jesus’ victory, our pitiful broken lives would remain lost. Instead, we now have the promise of ETERNAL LIFE. The magnitude of this cannot be adequately expressed. Unfortunately, over the last year, many people have grown comfortable or complacent. As Dominicans, it is our calling to reach out to them with the mind-blowing truth of what Easter really means. Let the reality of Jesus’ saving grace permeate every thought every interaction with others this weekend.
We were all stuck at home last year, watching Mass online and hungering for the Bread of Life. This year, many of us will be back in the Church, thanks be to God! As we hear the Word proclaimed, tell yourself “I hear the Lord!” And as you watch the consecration, say “I see the Lord!” When you take and eat the Body of Christ, remind yourself “I have received the Lord.”
Ours is a personal, incarnational faith. Our senses matter and they allow us to perceive Christ all around us. May our patroness St. Mary Magdalene, be our model to always seek the Lord, and to always share with the world that we, too, have seen the Lord!