The scene where Mary Magdalene was weeping, filled with sorrow, looking for Jesus, has never failed to amaze me. After seeing His ‘gruesome’ Passion and Death, her grief for Jesus whom she loved dearly, must have been indescribable. What a delightful surprise she must have felt upon seeing it is the Lord and not a gardener she was speaking to as she said, “Rabboni!” (John 20:13-18). Her joy, upon seeing the Risen Lord must have been that kind that the Lord has promised to the apostles which cannot be taken away (John 16:22).
The same goes for the apostles when Jesus appeared to them saying, “Peace be with you.” Of course, they had mixed emotions. They were troubled and Jesus knew as He showed them his hands and feet. They could not believe their eyes and “wondered for joy” (Luke 24:41).
People, at least, at one point in their lives, naturally fear death. Death is unknown to us in the sense that it is not something we can go through twice and say, “I have been there and have done that.” It is not something you can hear from a family member or a friend who dies and comes back to tell you all about it to give you tips. It is an individual journey. We have heard of some near-death experiences and I believe God allows that at times to warn us and remind us. Most of us though, are not given such chances to take a peek, so to speak. Though as Christians we believe in the afterlife, we do not have full knowledge and experience of it. Thank God we have saints to whom He gives visions to warn us. And not only this; the act of dying itself, the possible cause and pain is something that we fear. That was the fear of the apostles at that time, of being captured like Jesus, of having to suffer and be crucified like Him. That was something that made them stop on their tracks when it was right before their eyes. Prior to that, did Peter not say that he would die for the Lord (Luke 22:33)? And though the apostles hid, they knew what happened. After all, Peter was there; he saw and denied Jesus for fear of being associated with Him and being captured like He did. Who would not fear? I can very much relate with Peter and the rest of the apostles.
They were filled with both sorrow and dread – and perhaps, even guilt for having left the Lord alone. They must have been confused when Jesus, boxed within their own ideas of a Messianic king and ruler, would not fight back especially with all the miracles they witnessed him do. Wasn’t He supposed to redeem Israel from oppression? He was quite capable of doing so.
But going back to the Lord appearing to them, when He showed His wounds and convinced them that He is not a ghost, what joy and relief they must have felt!. Just three days ago, their friend and Master was heavily tortured and crucified and now, very much alive, appearing to them in victory. Their sorrow was replaced with joy and peace.
And every time I am troubled, I go back to this passage and relive the joy of the Resurrection. It brings comfort to the soul and I cannot help but be filled with peace, joy and hope myself. I am reminded that we are all in exile and that every suffering on earth is temporary. What is there to fear if Jesus Himself, our Lord and Savior, who has suffered tremendously and bitterly from the sins of men, has already conquered death? We are no longer bound by the chains of death and the fear of it. The doors of heaven have been opened to us. We all become heirs of God’s Kingdom. If we freely, humbly and fully cooperate with the Will of God for love of Him, then eternal life is ours.
This Easter week, we celebrate once more this joy brought by the Lord. But He calls us not to leave Him during time of suffering but to carry our cross manfully, to share in His Passion as Mary our Mother, Mary Magdalene and John had done. And if we fall, which we most likely will, as Peter, the first Pope and the apostles, the first bishops, have experienced, will He not forgive us if we run to Him in haste with a contrite heart? Surely, if we keep rising after we fall, as St Therese of Lisieux implied, He will see our efforts and come down for us to reach us. Jesus did not accuse the apostles when He appeared to them. He could have said,”I thought you were my friends.” Can you imagine the Lord saying that and choosing other apostles instead? But Jesus knew their hearts and imperfections. He knew their willingness and failed efforts brought about by human weaknesses. Though He did not sin, He knew how it was to be human. He knew they needed the help of the Holy Spirit. And these weaknesses, He eventually turned into good, for being witnessed by all, initially, as cowards, these men eventually became bold enough to proclaim about the Risen Lord to the point of immense suffering and death themselves. Who can fathom this? I laugh when Mother Angelica would fondly refer to them as a bunch of scumbags or losers. They indeed were! But everyone witnessed how Christ has turned them, losers as they seemed then, in the eyes of men, to great saints!
And if we continue to patiently share in His Passion, through our day-to-day sufferings, for love of God, we, unworthy scumbags and losers as we are, will also gladly share in His Glory of Resurrection.
Mary, our Mother, pray for us.
Holy Apostles, pray for us.
To God be the Glory!