When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome bought perfumed oils with which they intended to go and anoint Jesus. Very early, just after sunrise, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb. They were saying to one another, ” Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb? When they looked, they found that the stone had been rolled back. (It was a huge stone). (Mark 16: 1-4)
… but when they entered the tomb they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were still at a loss over what to think of this, two men in dazzling garments stood beside them. Terrified, the women bowed to the ground. The men said to them, ” Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has been raised up. Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee…with this reminder, his words came back to them. (Luke: 24: 2-8)
Easter Sunday, 2019
by Rod Minns April 21, 2019
Mary Magdalene, freed from seven demons by Jesus, loved Him intensely, experiencing the joy of embracing him as the Messiah, her all in all. She heard him say in various ways that he would be raised on the third day.
What was in her heart and mind, then, on her way to the tomb? Did she think about what “be raised” meant?
Her love for Jesus compelled her to care for His body according to the custom, but what was she thinking, hoping? She bought oils, and with the other Mary wondered who would roll the stone away as she travelled. We know from Mark’s’ Gospel that when she arrived at the tomb and saw the stone removed she wondered who rolled it away. Seeing an angel didn’t trigger anything. The angel had to jog her memory saying, “Remember what he told you.” In John’s Gospel, we read she was crying, even with the angels asking her why she’s weeping. She was sobbing because she thought someone took his body somewhere. Jesus’ vocabulary, “I am the Resurrection”, was incomprehensible to her. Yet the angels imply by their words, “Why are you weeping?”, “You need not be amazed”, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”, that she should have known, even in a puzzled way, that something marvellous was going on. It took an encounter with the risen Lord to change everything, though. It does for us, too.
Lord, where is my heart 2000 years after the Resurrection? I live in the post Ascension and Pentecost era, Baptized, Confirmed, drinking from the Cup of Immortality, eating your Flesh regularly at the Holy Sacrament of the Altar, hearing the Good News preached by an incredible number of saints from every generation. I belong to you, a member of your Mystical Body. I’ve been touched deeply by your Holy Spirit so many times. You know I love you. But my faith at 66 seems only a mustard seed?
At this moment of my life, gifts you’ve given me have come to an end in accordance with your Holy Order, like my mother’s life at 92 in 2017, a time of great closeness to you and her with six of my seven kids present at her funeral. Teaching came to an end in 2015 along with the closure of St. Mary’s Catholic School in Wilno where I taught for 16 years. The crushing misfortune of my marital failure 20 years ago and the absence of my seven kids all have weighed heavily on me in the last two years, but for some reason acutely during this Triduum at our local Holy Canadian Martyrs Church where we as a family once celebrated Mass. You know how much I wanted to be elsewhere feeling alone without my seven children and wife, even without my mother, my students, and friends at the school. You saw I wanted to be at Madonna House where I lived the Easter Triduum for many of the last twenty years, finding refuge there. Yet, you were asking me to be in my own parish this year.
I watched the blazing fire and mingled with those huddled around it. With candles lit from the Paschal candle, pushing aside the darkness, we gathered inside. The Exultet flooded the congregation :
“…sound aloud our mighty King’s triumph…
knowing an end to gloom and darkness…
let this building shake with joy…
This is the night when Christ
broke the prison-bars of death
and rose victorious from the underworld…
O necessary sin of Adam destroyed completely by the Death of Christ!
O Happy fault that earned so great,
so glorious a Redeemer!…
Therefore, O Lord,
we pray you that this candle…
may persevere undimmed,
to overcome the darkness of this night.
May this flame be found ever burning
by the Morning Star:
the Morning Star that never sets,
Christ your Son…who lives and reigns forever.
Without expecting it, You gradually came to me, as you always do to my broken heart like you do to so many others who cry to you for help. You came to that lonely heart of mine in a place where I did not want to be.
Have mercy on me, O Lord,
for I am in distress.
Tears have wasted my eyes,
my throat and my heart.
Truly you, the risen One, heard my cry and came in an unexpected way, as you always do. Peace, beyond understanding, came with a feeling of belonging, past failures and sins mysteriously gone, and a fresh, gentle touch soothed my fearful, lonely heart. I have no capacity to create this. You created it in me. Rather, You the Prince of peace, the Resurrection and the Life entered my contrite, broken heart.
You also gave me a new heart of love for my brothers and sisters there, all of them, some I’ve known for thirty years, sharing with me the common truth spoken by Isaiah in Chapter 53: “All have gone astray”. I knew that you were entering their hearts, too. Following the Gospel, with all the lights turned off, leaving the Paschal candle burning alone, Fr John called us to fix our eyes on Christ in the harsh reality of suffering, disappointments, tragedies, and failures we all must go through in ways unique to each person. His words drew us to our Saviour whose light shone brightly there for us.
Mary’s experience at the empty tomb was on my mind a lot like no other year. I didn’t want to discover an empty tomb in my heart, empty of hope in Christ, empty of trust in Him, empty of joy in the Truth of His Resurrection. I knew it was not empty! The faith he has given me, that he has strengthened, I wanted, to the end of my days, to grow to an unshakable trust and confidence in Him with roots as deep as those of a white pine I love to find shade under.
In the crushing misfortune of my marital failure, in the daily trials, the loneliness, the losses, the dry desert of daily prayer, in the longing for His love, in the harsh and dreadful awareness of suffering of those I meet and those I know and love, I want to have an unshakable certainty that He is doing what He does best: rescuing the lost, consoling the brokenhearted, comforting the widow, turning the stony heart to a heart of flesh, and drawing us to himself. Especially, I want to trust Him that He will save my children. He has won the victory. Truly He has risen. We have nothing to be afraid when clinging to Him. “ Study the generations of long past and understand; has anyone hoped in the Lord and been disappointed? (Sirach 2: 10)
All day, Easter Sunday with every person I met I saw His victory, His work carried out in all the events each person shared with me. I saw this even after I heard of the attack in Sri Lanka before Easter morning Mass. Praying to Our Lady of Combermere for those who died, for those I met today, and my kids I knew also that we have a gift like no other generation had prior to Mary’s Assumption: She, with her Son, is building the new City of God.
O Lord, all glory and honour and praise to You, the Resurrection and the Life, the Way and the Truth, the Alpha and the Omega, our everlasting God, our all in all.