March 27, 2005 - Year A - Easter
John 20:1-18 or Matthew 28:1-10
John 20 • 1 Now, on the first day after the Sabbath, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark and she saw that the stone blocking the tomb had been moved away. 2 She ran to Peter and the other disciple whom Jesus loved. And she said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have laid him.”
3 Peter then set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. 4 They ran together but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down and saw the linen cloths lying flat, but he did not enter.
6 Then Simon Peter came following him and entered the tomb; he, too, saw the linen cloths lying flat. 7 The napkin, which had been around his head was not lying flat like the other linen cloths but lay rolled up in its place. 8 Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and believed. 9 Scripture clearly said that he must rise from the dead, but they had not yet understood that.
10 The disciples then went home again.
• 11 Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she bent down to look inside; 12 she saw two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head, and the other at the feet. 13 They said, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She answered, “Because they have taken my Lord and I don’t know where they have put him.”
14 As she said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not recognize him. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and answered him, “Lord, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him, “Rabboni” which means, Master. 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me; you see I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them: I am ascending to my Father, who is your Father, to my God, who is your God.”
18 So Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord, and this is what he said to me.”
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• 20.1 On the second day after the burial it appeared that Jesus was alive and had gone from the tomb. The resurrection took place on the first day of the week, which henceforth would be called the Day of the Lord, that is, Sunday.
In Luke’s Gospel, after Jesus’ resurrection he helps his disciples revive their faith and hope. Here instead we see the believers silently contemplating the risen Lord. Christ appears to Mary, who does not recognize him. When he stands in the midst of his disciples, he has to show his wounds to prove that it is he himself, he who had died. Jesus is among them, but his appearance is that of a stranger, and his spiritually transformed body radiates the victory over sin and death.
Then Peter arrived. Several texts record that Peter was both a witness to the empty tomb and of Jesus risen from the dead (Lk 24:12 and 24:24; 1 Cor 15:5). Our faith is supported primarily by the testimony of the apostles, and especially by the testimony of the head of the apostles.
He saw the linen cloths lying flat. The linens designate the sheet, about 4 meters long, spread under the body from the feet to the head and then, above the body, from the head to the feet; they also refer to the bands that tied the two ends of the sheet. The dead person’s face was wrapped with a separate cloth, the napkin that was tied under the chin and over the head.
The sheet and the bands were lying where the body had been but were flat, for the body inside them had dematerialized. The napkin, which was rolled in the other direction, stayed as it was.
Jesus had not returned to life with his earthly body. This had dematerialized, so when we speak of the risen body of Jesus, we refer to something we have never experienced on earth. Those who have had dreams and visions of Jesus have only seen images of him, but have not actually seen him, except for a few of the most eminent saints.
• 11. Do not cling to me, you see I have not yet ascended to the Father (v. 17). Before his death, Jesus did not disapprove of the passionate feelings and actions of Mary. Now this familiar gesture to take possession of her loved Master is no longer appropriate.
He is now the Risen One, and though he lets himself be seen by his disciples for a few days, he is in the Glory of the Father. His disciples must relinquish the physical presence of Jesus with which they felt so much at ease. From now on the followers or the brothers and lovers of Jesus will embrace him in a secret and marvelous way, when they are given gifts of prayer and faith. It is then that the contemplative spirit, who is represented by Mary, may enjoy the whole of Christ (see Song 3:4)
I have not yet ascended to the Father. Jesus is revealing the great desire that filled his life. He came from God and must return to the Father. This is “the greatest love in the world.” All the love that Jesus has for us is but a manifestation of that other love, because God the Father is the fountain and the goal of all love. See the commentary on Matthew 19:16 in this regard.
It is not by chance that the word Lord is again repeated seven times, the last time by Thomas: “You are my Lord and my God.” This expresses the faith of the Church.
Let us remark that the persons concerned in this event did in fact call Jesus, “the Master.” However, John puts on their lips the word Lord. Why? From the first days of the Church, the believers had to find words to express their faith in Jesus, Son of God. Being the Son, he was not the same person as God, but he was one with him. How to express this divine condition?
In the Bible two names were given to God: God and Yahweh. At that time the Jews no longer pronounced the name of Yahweh and instead said: “the Lord.” Moreover, in the Greek bible used by the apostles and the Church, Yahweh was also translated as “the Lord.” So the apostles decided very soon to retain the term God when speaking of God the Father, and to call Jesus “the Lord,” by this affirming that he was not inferior to the Father.
The risen Jesus’ apparitions to his disciples, besides fostering their hope and making them qualified witnesses of his resurrection, were necessary for their spiritual formation. The disciples had to learn to recognize Jesus no longer through their senses but through faith. Likewise, we have to learn to recognize and follow Jesus in the dim light of faith, in desolation as well as in consolation, thus we too will be among those whom Jesus blesses: Happy are those who believe without seeing me (v. 29).
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Matthew 28 • 1 After the Sabbath, at the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to visit the tomb. 2 Suddenly there was a violent earthquake: an angel of the Lord descending from heaven, came to the stone, rolled it from the entrance of the tomb, and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning and his garment white as snow. 4 The guards trembled in fear and became like dead men when they saw the angel.
5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he is risen as he said. Come, see the place where they laid him; 7 then go at once and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead and is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. This is my message for you.”
8 They left the tomb at once in holy fear, yet with great joy, and they ran to tell the news to the disciples.
9 Suddenly, Jesus met them on the way and said, “Peace.” The women approached him, embraced his feet and worshiped him. 10 But Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to set out for Galilee; there they will see me.”
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• 28.1 THE RISEN CHURCH
On the apparitions of the risen Jesus, see the commentary on Lk 24:1.
This first paragraph is still in apocalyptic style, with its resplendent angel and another earthquake. The Gospel refuses to describe a triumphal departure of Jesus, as his readers would have preferred. The risen Jesus is only seen by those who believe: the women who look for him will see him, the soldiers and rulers who do not seek him will not understand.
The evangelist mentions the names of Mary of Magdala and the other Mary, the mother of James and of Joseph (Mt 27:55), two of the “brothers of Jesus” (Mt 13:55), his closest cousins. (She is a relative of Mary, the mother of Jesus, Jn 19:25).
Suddenly, Jesus met them on the way (v. 9). It is obvious that Matthew is combining two different events; one, the discovery of the empty tomb, and the other, which happened later on, the apparition of Jesus to Mary Magdalene alone as related in John 20:11-18.
Set out for Galilee (v. 10). Why did Jesus say this date if he was going to appear later that same day in Jerusalem? (Lk 24:13-42). It is not clear. Probably the evangelists combined several apparitions to simplify their narration. Anyway, time was needed for the apostles to believe in the Resurrection and understand something about it. After the two apparitions in Jerusalem, in which Jesus tried to convince them that he was not a phantom or a spirit, they would have to return to their provinces and environments, far away from the city that had caused them such trauma, in order to ponder what they had experienced. In Galilee, Jesus will manifest himself differently, making them understand that he is already glorified, that his existence is earthly no more.
A woman, Mary Magdalene, conveys the message, in order to indicate that, in the Church, not everything will come from the authorities. God communicates with whomever he wishes, giving prophetic messages to simple people and to women.
The resurrection of Christ is the pivotal point of the Gospel; yet Matthew reports it briefly. Why? Because when Matthew wrote his Gospel, the Resurrection was considered too great an event to put into writing: rather, it should be proclaimed and witnessed to by the Spirit at work in the Christian communities.
Are we in a different situation? The Church that talks of the Risen Christ should never be a powerful Church but a Risen Church. If the Church finds itself in a situation where there is no apparent hope of salvation, yet it is revived by the power of God; if in each generation the Church seems doomed to die because of its ancient structures, its worldly ways or the persecution it undergoes, yet it is nevertheless given new energies and new apostles by the Lord, then the Church is a witness that the Lord has risen and has given her the power to rise.
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1. One Mary, two Marys, three Marys, four. How many Mary's came to the tomb? Does it make a difference. One Mary is quick to run from nothing. Two Marys hie themselves hence after an angelic pronouncement. If there had been three Marys there would they have split the tasks differently. Is there strength in Marys? Does your personality and experience lead to you travel independently or in concert?
2. Two Marys receive angelic announcement. One Mary receives direction from Jesus. Either way, they are to go and tell the rest of the disciples. Again the last become first - the second-class women lead the titled disciples. The two tell of going to Galilee the one only of an "ascension". Jesus waits for Galilee in one version and in another can't wait and so shows up in Jerusalem. The further into the story we go the wider the differences between Matthew and John.
3. About the only common element is that of clinging or fearing (whether that be from the fear side of "fight or flight" or the fear side of "awe and worship"). To what have you and your congregation been clinging or fearing that has kept you paralyzed? To what have you and your congregation been clinging or fearing that has pushed you ahead to go and tell about the power of release?
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