Believe it or not this is the eighth time I have had to commit to print a reflection for the celebration of The Baptism of the Lord ... and the...
“They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”
We are told, in the five preceding verses, that two men (Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus) had taken the body of Jesus from the cross and buried him “in a new tomb not yet used for burial.” It is also recorded that the tomb was in a garden, close to the place of crucifixion and that Joseph was a “secret disciple for fear of the Jews.” [TODAY’S GOSPEL – JOHN 20 – 1 – 9]
Now Mary of Magdala was certainly not a secret disciple. The men disappeared and it was Mary who
“while it was still dark came to the tomb” and raised the alarm. Yet, Mary was not alone – “WE do not know where they have laid him.” The two men had done a good deed and gone their different ways. However, it was a known disciple who came to see whether all was well. Joseph was a secret, fearful, disciple – while Nicodemus was the learned man “who had visited Jesus by night.”
If we use our imaginations and take a little time for reflection on these simple facts, some interesting challenges could emerge. I may be quite comfortable, even eager, to ‘do’ a few good deeds (like burying the dead) but in reality am I only a secret disciple who visits Jesus under cover of darkness? Am I reluctant to ‘go public’ in faith and witness?
Yet Mary was puzzled and concerned. The reality of all that Jesus had said about himself initially escaped her. However, it does not take too long for her to make the leap of faith. Note carefully that even Mary
“while it was still dark came to the tomb.” The verses (10 – 18) immediately following our Gospel extract tell us that some hours later, when darkness had given way to light, she recognised Jesus and was empowered to go to the disciples and proclaim – “I have seen the Lord.” Do not forget that in these following verses “the disciples went home again; but Mary stayed at the tomb outside.” She was watching and waiting. Did she want something to happen? Do I want ‘something’ to happen to, for and in me this Easter?Am I prepared, in a positive and pro-active way, to watch and wait patiently for the Risen Lord to call me by name? As TODAY’S PSALM [118 or 119] tells us – “the Lord’s right hand has done mighty deeds, I shall not die, I shall live.” Easter must remind us – no matter how old, tired and disappointed we may be – that we should not take cover in darkness or camouflage. There is no need for us to be either fearful or a secret disciple. The tomb is empty. I must know where the Risen Lord is!
Take a look at
TODAY’S ENTRANCE ANTIPHON …. “I have risen, and I am with you still. ….. You have laid your hand upon me.” I HAVE BEEN NAMED! We are “chosen by God as witnesses.” [see TODAY’S FIRST READING – ACTS 10: 34a. 37 – 43]. Not only did Mary go the disciples and tell them that she had seen the Lord but she also “gave them his message.” Perhaps it is worthwhile for us to, firstly, give his message to ourselves? The alternative Entrance Antiphon has this message – “The Lord is truly risen.”
If I am to give this message in an authentic manner then I have to adjust the priorities of my living, sharpen my Gospel focus, and raise the expectations I have of myself as a disciple of the
RISEN Lord who has “laid his hand upon me.” Is the crossbar of my Christian-Catholic loyalty and faithfulness set too low (or, for the matter, too high)? In this context we could apply the teaching of Saint Paul in either of TODAY’S SECOND READINGS [COLOSSIANS 3: 1 – 4 or 1 CORINTHIANS 5: 6b – 8].
In the Corinthian extract we read –
“cleanse out the old leaven that you may be new dough … with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” In the extract from Colossians the Apostle asks us to “set our minds on things that are above.” Here we do not ignore “the things that are on earth” but the Christian is challenged to prioritise.
The Risen Christ must be the leaven of our dough