Two Reactions to Resurrection
by Fr. Chrysostom Baer, O.Praem., Prior
But the eleven went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.
Rising from the dead is an experience not just of Christ on Easter morning, nor of mankind as a whole on the Last Day, but of everyone who, like the women in the Gospel, departs from the tomb, the place needed on account of sin’s just punishment; departs from the death of sin through the mercy and forgiveness of Christ; departs quickly because we should never delay our conversion or dawdle in our iniquity.
Just as Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James the Less were filled with fear and joy, so in our conversion, fear of the Lord and holy rejoicing consume us: fear of that sin which placed my soul in the tomb to begin with; joy in rising back to the life of grace. The two Marys “ran to announce the news to his disciples,” even as sinners restored through the mercy of God ought to run to proclaim His forgiveness to others and hasten to advance in virtue.
When Jesus meets the women and commissions them to be apostles to the apostles, they approach, embrace His feet, and pay Him homage, to show that in our recovery from sin, we should not receive the grace of God in vain but rather draw close to God and cling to Him alone and find our rest in adoration.
But this beautiful little scene is followed by the dour note of the guards’ reaction, which is clearly placed here to contrast the right way of responding to the rising of Jesus with the perfectly wrong way. Before the Gospel passage started, an angel of blazing countenance had rolled away the stone from the tomb. Seeing this, the guards were struck with terror and became like dead men. So, those who now depart from the tomb, yet still as dead men, are those who do not repent of their sins, but live on in them. They go to the chief priests, who deliberately induce them to lie and seal their complicity with a bribe. Thus do sins of weakness or concupiscence become inveterate through malice.
“But the eleven went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.” This one line punctuates the vignette, confirming the contrast between darkness and light. For the apostles are the chief priests of the New Covenant, who only know to go to the mountain because of the witness of the two Marys.
And so for them to return to Galilee completes the cycle of faith. On the one hand, that one spectacular angel strikes mortal fear into the guards, who report to the wrong chief priests and are satisfied with lies and cash, and so circulate the same worn tales still going on today; and on the other hand, that same spectacular angel inspires joyful fear into the women, who then report to the true chief priests who have neither silver nor gold, and so they cross over to Galilee and hear the great commission from Christ to baptize the whole world. Those who flee Jesus find sin; those who flee sin find Jesus.
As we rejoice ourselves in the divine mercy, may we also bear the good news of His forgiveness to all around us, pointing them all to Galilee, crossing over from sin to grace, from misery to happiness, and from eternal death to everlasting life.
We are all of us here this morning to celebrate the rising of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. This is not a metaphorical event, a wish of believers transposed onto reality, but the real reunion of His human soul returning from Limbo with His human body lying in the Holy Sepulcher. It is into this historical event that we are incorporated, that we partake and claim as our own identity, through holy baptism.
The silence which fills that garden enables us to hear the whisper of a gentle breeze: “I am the Living One and I am with you” (cf. Ex 3:14). The curtain of the temple is torn in two. At last we see our Lord’s face. And we know fully His name: mercy and faithfulness.
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