Jesus said, "The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised." (Luke 9:22)
It was Sunday, the third day, but everyone had forgotten what He said about the third day, or didn't understand it.
Dawn was approaching. Most of the citizens of Jerusalem were sleeping, tired from the celebration of Passover, which had taken place the day before. Many of them had celebrated hard. They wanted to get the image of Jesus and the events of Friday out of their minds. Some had succeeded in forgetting the entire incident, by now. After all, it had happened two days ago. It was like yesterday's newspaper. Much had taken place in their everyday lives, since then. Besides, there were always plenty of self-styled prophets coming down the pike. There would be others.
But there were those who had not forgotten, those who wanted to go to the tomb to give the Master a proper burial. When Jesus was taken down from the Cross, it was too late to prepare His Body for burial, as sundown was quickly approaching. It was Friday, the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath. According to the Law, they would have to wait until after the Sabbath (sundown Saturday). Joseph of Arimathea stepped forward and offered the tomb, he had bought for himself. They placed the Lord's Body in the tomb. But it was a hurried affair.
Now the Sabbath was over. Three women headed for the tomb. They were Mary Magdalene, Mary, mother of James and John, and Salome. They brought perfumed oils to anoint the Body; they would now properly give honor to their Lord Jesus. They wondered about the huge stone which had been placed in front of the tomb. How would they move it? It was too heavy for the three of them. Maybe the soldiers would still be there. Would they help? That was a toss-up. But they would have faith; God would get the stone removed. All they needed was to trust.
At this end of the spectrum, the women were heading towards the tomb; and at the other end, curtains separating Heaven and earth, were splitting open. A fiery Angel was swooping towards earth. He was brilliant. He was powerful. We read in the Gospel of St. Matthew,
"And behold there was a great earthquake. For an Angel of the Lord descending from Heaven, and coming, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. And his countenance was as lightning and his raiment as snow. And for fear of him, the guards were struck with terror, and became as dead men."(Matt 28:2-4)
Our Lady didn't go with the other three to the tomb. She had been with them the whole weekend, but when they wanted to leave early on Sunday morning to head for the tomb, she stayed behind. She had no need to go. She knew her Son was not there. She remembered what everyone else had forgotten, or never understood: Jesus had predicted His Resurrection!
"Taking the twelve aside, He said to them: `We must now go up to Jerusalem so that all that was written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man may be accomplished. He will be delivered up to the Gentiles. He will be mocked and outraged and spat upon. They will scourge Him and put Him to death, and on the third day, He will rise again.' They knew nothing of this. His utterance remained obscure to them, and they did not grasp His meaning." (Luke 18:31-33)
Although the others did not understand, Mary did understand what her Son was telling her, and us. She knew and she believed. She had no reason to doubt. While it's not in Scripture, our Tradition tells us that the first person Our Lord Jesus would have come to was His beloved Mother. It makes sense. She was the closest human being to Him. Why not Mary?
Mother Mary had suffered painfully during the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus. It was as if someone had ripped her heart out of her body. [I remember when our son died, I felt as if my heart was bleeding.] It hadn't mattered that Mother Mary knew that He was the Son of God, and that He would rise from the dead. Her cross, the horror of witnessing what had been done to her Son was more than a Mother should have to bear. That was her Baby they beat and spit at! That was the Boy she had held on her lap. And now, they were hanging Him on a cross. She had stood alone beneath that cross with only St. John and the ladies there to console her.
When they lowered our dear Lord into her arms, St. John and the other women stood a respectable distance. They gave Mary a private moment with her Son, as she said good-by, one last time. They had stood by Mary to the very end. Now, she would set aside her pain and offer them hope and consolation. After Our Lord Jesus was placed in the tomb, Mother Mary left for the Upper Room. She wanted to comfort St. John and the ladies, as they had comforted her in her time of grief.
The Apostle's Creed tells us "He descended into Hell..." We believe by this, Our Lord Jesus went into the Limbo of the Fathers, (Catholic Encyclopedia - James Broderick - That state or reserve in which the souls of the just, such as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, were detained until the complete redemption by Christ through which Heaven was opened to them.)where He freed the early Fathers of the Church. (According to the writings of Venerable Sister Mary Agreda in her book - City of God) He then returned to earth to be resurrected with His Body. He brought with Him all the holy Fathers, actually, everyone whom He had released from Limbo. They all went with Jesus to the tomb, where His beaten and bruised Body lay in wait. They all beheld the price, He had paid for the ransom of their souls, and ours. (City of God - Sr. Mary Agreda)
Then, His soul was united with His Body. There was such a burst of light, such a massive release of energy which united the Body of the Savior with His Soul, that upon impact, a blinding, jarring intensity took place which caused His Image to be projected onto the Shroud in an image (In Hiroshima, in 1945, when the Atomic bomb exploded, images of people on the street were projected onto the side of a building from the sheer light-force of the impact.) not unlike that of a negative. After this great explosion of light, the Glorified Body of Our Lord Jesus rose from the tomb.
"It is an ancient Tradition of the Church that Jesus appeared first to His Mother in solitude. It could not have been otherwise, because she is the first and principal co-redeemer of the human race, in perfect union with her Son." (Conversations with God: Book 2 - Francis Fernandez
We believe that Our Lord went to His Mother first. At the moment of Resurrection, Our Lady felt the overpowering presence of her Son. She always knew when He was in her presence. But it was different this time. Now, He had come back from the dead! She could feel the Divinity of her Son, His radiance, His aura, roaring through her. She turned to see Him standing beside her, looking at her with so much love. Whereas she always believed the words of the Angel, that she was the Mother of God, (Luke 30-32)this may possibly have been the first time she actually experienced Him in His glorified state. She knew she was in the presence of God.
She prostrated herself before the Resurrected Jesus. He lifted her up, and brought her close to Him. There was an infusion of His light and aura which flowed into her. In a sense, they returned to the intimacy they had enjoyed when He was in her womb. Only now, rather than Mary's blood flowing into her unborn Baby, the Power of Heaven, the strength to go on, was flowing through her from her Son, the God-Man, now more God than Man. She experienced an opening of her senses. She received wisdom and knowledge, discernment and joy, unlike anything she had never known. She was given the gift of Heaven on earth.
"The gospels do not tell us of the appearance of the risen Christ to Mary. Nevertheless, since she was specially close to the Cross of her Son, she must also have had a privileged experience of His Resurrection." (John Paul II - Homily, 31 January 1985)
She remained in His presence as long as He was there. She would never have left Him, but she knew that, like when He was on earth, He still had much to do. She spoke to all the early Fathers of the Church, now called Saints of the Church, including her dead husband St. Joseph, and her mother and father. She humbly prostrated herself before them, even though she was of a much higher station. We believe that seeing her Son and loved ones in their heavenly state gave Mother Mary the strength to say yes one more time - only now it would be to the pain of life on earth without her Son. When Jesus left her, she prayed quietly, savoring this special moment in her heart. It would have to last her for close to twenty long years.
When Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and John, and Salome arrived at the tomb, the stone had already been rolled back. There was quiet all around. They peered in. It was empty. Again, we go to the Gospel of St. Matthew.
"And the Angel said to the women: `Fear not, for I know that you seek Jesus, Who was crucified. He is not here, for He is risen, as He said. Come and see the place where the Lord was laid. Go quickly, tell all His disciples that He is risen, and behold, He will go before you into Galilee, there you shall see Him.'" (Matt 28:5)
Mary Magdalene and the other two women ran back to the Upper Room, as quickly as they could. They were completely out of breath, when they arrived. Mary Magdalene spoke first to Peter and John. She recounted to them what the Angel had said. The Apostles and disciples didn't believe any of it. But Peter and John immediately ran to the tomb. It was still very early in the morning. When they arrived, the soldiers were not to be seen anywhere. They went to the tomb, and peered inside. It was as the women had told them, only there was no Angel in attendance. John went inside the tomb. He believed. Peter, on the other hand, went home amazed at what he had seen. (Luke 24:12)
Mary Magdalene returned to the tomb. She looked around, not really knowing what she was trying to find. She saw two Angels sitting inside the tomb. They spoke to her. "Woman, why are you weeping?" She responded, "Because the Lord has been taken away and I do not know where they have put Him." (John 20:13) She sensed the presence of someone behind her. She turned around and saw Jesus, but she did not recognize Him. He repeated the question, the Angels had asked her. "Woman, why are you weeping? Who is it you are looking for?"
She was in a frenzy. She didn't want to engage in conversation. She wanted to find Jesus! She pleaded with the Man, trying to control herself, as she was a little out of sorts, "Sir, if you are the one who carried Him off, tell me where you have Laid Him, and I will take Him away." (John 20:15) It only took one word from Jesus to open the eyes of Mary. He called to her, so tenderly, "Mary". She immediately recognized that it was He, her Master, her God. She reached for Him, crying out "Rabboni", which means Teacher. He cautioned her,
"Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Rather, go to My brothers and tell them, `I am ascending to My Father, and your Father, to My God and your God.'" (John 20:15-17)
Now, she didn't care what anyone said. She had seen the Lord, and that was it. She went back to the disciples, and told them as much. But many of them still could not bring themselves to believe.
The Upper Room
As evening began to close that day, the Apostles (all except Thomas) and many of the disciples, were gathered at the Upper Room. They were frightened; they felt lost; they had no place to go. They locked and barred the doors securely. There had been rumors that Jesus' followers had stolen the Body from the tomb, and were claiming that He had risen from the dead. The Apostles and the disciples stood huddled in fear that the Jews would be looking for them, to blame them. Now Jesus' followers had also heard that Jesus had risen, but most of them didn't believe it; they discounted it as idle gossip. It was so hard for the Lord's own people to believe in Him. How difficult would it be to get the whole world to believe? What would it take? We go to Holy Scripture:
"Abraham said to him (the rich man), `If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if one should rise from the dead.'" (Luke 16:31)
Jesus knew they were a hard lot to convince, even His own Apostles and disciples did not have the faith to believe. He would do whatever it took. So that evening, as they were all sitting together, cringing, bemoaning their situation, Jesus came through locked and bolted doors and sat among them. He convinced them He was not merely a Spirit, but Body and Spirit; He asked for food, and ate it in their presence. They were all excited once more.
He blessed them. He said to them, "Peace be with you." Then He commissioned the eleven to be Apostles. He said to them, "As the Father has sent Me, so I send you." (John 20:21) The meaning of Apostle is "those sent". By this statement of Jesus, he was commissioning them and us through them, to go out and spread the Good News.
And then, knowing that man cannot receive the Good News, no less be healed physically, with crippling sin on his soul, Jesus gave them the mandate to forgive sins. Our Lord gave us here, through the Apostles, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or Penance, the forgiveness of sins. He breathed on them and said,
"Receive the Holy Spirit.
If you forgive men's sins,
they are forgiven them;
if you hold them bound,
they are held bound." (John 20:23)
Monumental events took place at this first meeting, after His Resurrection, between Jesus and His Apostles. He breathed the Holy Spirit on them. By this, he was breathing new life into them. It was a foreshadowing of the Descent of the Holy Spirit, which would take place on Pentecost Sunday. But it was at this very first meeting, after His Resurrection, that He also gave them His mandate to go out and evangelize under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Holy Scripture is very clear on this point. And then, Jesus gave The Apostles, and those who would follow, the power to forgive sins. (This was confirmed by the Council of Trent)
The Road to Emmaus
If that was not enough, He gave us another powerful sign, when He appeared to the disciples on the Road to Emmaus; (Luke 24:13-32) He affirmed the Holy Eucharist.
To paraphrase the Gospel, two disciples were on the Road to Emmaus. They were completely distraught. It was all over, they thought. With the death of Jesus, all the hope of the new covenant was lost. They were sharing their distress when a stranger began to walk with them. He seemed to be unaware of all that had happened. The disciples said to him, "You must be the only citizen in Jerusalem who doesn't know about the events of this past week-end." Then they proceeded to share how they believed Jesus to be the Messiah, the Anointed one, and how the chief priests and elders killed Him, crucifying Him like a common criminal.
The Stranger spoke to them. "O foolish and slow of heart to believe in all things which the prophets have spoken. Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things, and so to enter into His Glory?" (Luke 24:25-26) He went from scripture passage to scripture passage, affirming everything that had happened, how the Son of Man had to undergo the Passion and die that Scripture would be fulfilled. The disciples found themselves coming out of their depression. As He spoke, understanding and hope cut through the cloud of darkness they had felt. Their hearts were pounding with the Spirit as they listened, spellbound, to the Stranger.
When they got to Emmaus, the Stranger continued on, as if He were going farther. The disciples stopped Him. "Don't leave us!" they said. "It's getting late. Stay with us."
[Can you imagine being in the presence of the Lord and Him speaking to you? Do you spend quiet time before the Blessed Sacrament? He's there and if you will only be silent, He will talk to your heart.]
The Stranger stayed with them. They all sat at table. He took bread, blessed it, broke it, gave it to them, and their eyes were opened. They saw that it was Jesus. With that, He disappeared from their sight. They rushed back to Jerusalem to tell the Apostles and disciples what had happened. On their way, they marveled to each other, "Didn't our hearts burn as he spoke to us on the road and explained Scripture to us?" Their hearts burned with the Word, but they recognized Him in the breaking of the bread.
In John's Gospel, we learn that Thomas was not with the other Apostles when Jesus appeared to them on Easter Sunday. When they told him all that had transpired, he refused to believe them, making the famous statement: "Unless I see the marks of the nails in His Hands, and put my fingers into the nail marks, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe." (John 20:24-29)
How many of us are, or have been at any given time in our lives, Doubting Thomases, or Doubting Thomasitas?
The following week, Our Lord Jesus appeared to the Apostles, again, in the Upper Room. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus came through the bolted, locked door. He directed Himself immediately to Thomas: "Put your fingers here and see My hands, and bring your hand and put it into My side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe." (John 20:27)
In the form of an apology, and also a proclamation of his belief, Thomas said to Jesus, "My Lord and my God". Now something very important happened here. Jesus would not let Thomas off with his apology. Believing in the Lord was much too important to let it go with a slap on the wrist. The Lord continued, "Have you come to believe because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and believe." (John 20:29)
Do we believe in Him? Or are we Doubting Thomases? Do we have to have it proven to us, like Thomas? Will we believe even then; or are we those, the Lord referred to in the parable of the dead Rich man:
"Once there was a rich man who dressed in purple and linen and feasted splendidly every day. At his gate lay a beggar named Lazarus who was covered with sores. Lazarus longed to eat the scraps that fell from the rich man's table. The dogs even came and licked his sores. Eventually the beggar died. He was carried by the Angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man likewise died and was buried. From the abode of the dead, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus resting in his bosom.
"He called out, `Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water to refresh my tongue, for I am tortured in these flames.' `My child,' replied Abraham, `remember that you were well off in your lifetime, while Lazarus was in misery. Now he has found consolation here, but you have found torment. And that is not all. Between you and us, there is a great abyss, so that those who might wish to cross from here to you cannot do so, nor can anyone cross from your side to us.'
"`Father, I ask you, then,' the rich man said, `send him to my father's house where I have five brothers. Let him be a warning to them so that they may not end in this place of torment.' Abraham answered, `They have Moses and the prophets. Let them hear them.' `No, Father Abraham,' replied the rich man. `But if someone would only go to them from the dead, then they would repent.' Abraham said to him, `If they do not listen to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if one should rise from the dead.'" (Luke 16:19-31)
Jesus is speaking to them and to us, today. Do we believe or are we those of whom Jesus is speaking? "Even if a man returns from the dead, they will not believe." Is Jesus crying out to us, will there be any faith here on earth when He returns? "But when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?" (Luke 18:8)
Jesus knew and knows that in the coming centuries, more people would not see Him than would see Him. They had to believe! How would they believe? We go to John's Gospel: "I pray not only for them, but for those who will believe in Me through their word." (John 17:20) The answer is, through us. We have to do the job. As Mary said to Juan Diego, when she appeared as Our Lady of Guadalupe:
"Listen well my son, and understand. I have many messengers I could send, and any one of them would be accepted immediately. But it has to be you!"
We don't have the luxury of waiting for a personal appearance by Jesus or Mary. We don't have the time to go all over the world researching or authenticating visions or visionaries. There's too much work to be done. We have our churches, and the Blessed Sacrament in each of these churches. This is why Jesus left Himself to us in His Holy Eucharist, in His Holy Church. What does Jesus want of us? We must listen and believe what He tells us, in His Word, taking it in our head, and acting through our heart.
St. Paul asks the question: "And how can they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? As it is written `How beautiful are the feet of those who bring Good News!'" (Romans 10:14-15)
Our dear Lord Jesus loves us so much, He never stops trying to help us. We see, even after His death, how He continues to come back to us to give us strength, to give us courage, to give us power. He gives us His Body, through the Eucharist, His Mother, through the Rosary, His Church through His Vicar, our Pope John Paul II. He believes in us. He has faith in us. He sees something in us that we surely don't see in ourselves. We can't see the beauty He envisioned in us from the beginning of Creation.
Allow Jesus to be resurrected in your heart, in your soul. Allow His Holy Spirit to enter into you, and fill you with such strength and such power, that you will change the world before it's too late. Allow the Mother of God to guide you and direct you in the path Jesus and the Father have laid out for you. Listen to the Angels when they speak to you. They're here to bring you through the narrow gate to your own Resurrection. Praise Jesus.
Article by Bob and Penny Lord Journeys of Faith
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