Ecclesiasticus 4:28

"Fight to the death for truth, and the Lord God will war on your side."

Ora pro nobis,

Most Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Francis de Sales, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Dominic. Amen.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The First Glorious Mystery

The Resurrection of Jesus

Hail Mary, Full of Grace, the Lord is with thee,
Blessed art thou amongst women,
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
A Reading from the Holy Gospel According to St. John (20:1-10, 19-23)
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him." Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes....

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ.

I wonder what it would have been like, to have your friend, hero, mentor--Messiah--taken from you, so brutally, and murdered so horrifically. What must have been going through the minds of the Disciples? Of the Galilean women? What utter grief, disillusionment, and despair must they have felt. That first Good Friday surely did not seem so "good".

In their grief, in their confusion, almost everyone had forgotten Jesus' promise, that on the third day, He would rise again. Almost everyone. In a strange irony, the believers in Jesus failed to believe in His promise of Resurrection, but the unbelievers did believe. And so the Jewish leaders broke the Sabbath in order to go and ask Pilate for guards for the tomb! Yet despite a large boulder and a squad of guards, that Sunday Morning, the angel rolled the stone away, and the guards fell to the ground from fear!

The women came to the tomb to mourn for Jesus, and to anoint His body. While seeking closure, they instead found an open tomb, and the angel, who reminded them again of Christ's promise, and sent them to tell His disciples. The women who never left Jesus in His death were the first to bring the Gospel of His resurrection.

The disciples, dejected and disillusioned, hadn't even bothered to visit the tomb. When Mary Magdalen and the other women arrived, though, Peter and John raced to the tomb. John, the younger man, was the faster runner, and beat Peter to the tomb. Yet he waited outside for the chief apostle to enter that holy sepulchre. They found Jesus' shroud and head covering neatly arranged where He had been laid, but still could not comprehend the full reality of what was going on. So they returned to the rest of the Disciples to try to sort it out.

In every episode of the Resurrection narrative, in all four Gospels, the theme of each is unbelief. No one remembered His promise. Even the evidence, even the angel's message, were not comprehended. When Jesus Himself appeared to them, it took much convincing for them to believe. But in all the stories there is one person who is conspicuous in her absence. Jesus' Mother, who faithfully participated in Christ's sufferings at the foot of the Cross, is nowhere mentioned in any of the Resurrection episodes. We do not meet her again until Pentecost, where she is numbered among the believers. This, I believe, is significant--for while each group of Christ's friends are marked by doubt and despair, Mary, the Mother of Faith and Hope, did remember her Son's promise. She never lost sight of the fact that in His suffering, He was going about His Father's business, and she remembered the lesson of long ago, when after three horrible days, she had received Him back to her. She knew who her Son was, and she knew she would see Him again.

Christ's disciples, on the other hand, had holed themselves up in the Upper Room for fear. They hid because they worried they would receive similar treatment as Jesus, because of their association with Him. They hid lest the Sanhedrin accuse them of stealing His body. They hid, because unbelief breeds fear.

And yet, even with the door locked, Jesus entered the room. His resurrection was not like His raising of Lazarus, who eventually would die again. Rather, He was raised to glory, conquering death once and for all! And His new body, still fully human, was nevertheless so much more. "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard..."

To His fearful disciples, He wished "Peace". Showing them His hands and His side, He proved the truth of the angel's message, that yes, in fact, it was Him, and He was alive! To further prove that He was not a ghost, as they absurdly feared, He asked for food, and ate with them. He then stood, and wished them peace again, a peace they would need tremendously, for He then told them, "As the Father has sent Me, so I am sending you." Just as Jesus had come to manifest the Father to the world, He now commissioned His Apostles to manifest Him to the world--to act in persona Christi. Then, He breathed on them.

The Greek phrase for Jesus' breathing on His disciples is used nowhere else in the New Testament, but it is precisely the phrase used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, to describe God's breathing life into Adam. The first time God breathed on Man, it was to impart natural life. The second time God breathed on Man, it was to impart spiritual life, and so Jesus said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit."

With this new spiritual life and the commission to represent Him to the world, Jesus entrusted His Apostles with a particular responsibility: "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." For the ministry of the Apostles in persona Christi, the power to forgive sins was given, to be available to all who would confess them in true repentance. Of this mystery, Archbishop Fulton Sheen writes,
Next He conferred upon them the power of forgiving sins. There was even to be a distinction between sins that the Apostles would forgive and sins they would not forgive. How they would distinguish between the two would evidently depend on hearing them....As the Jewish priest pronounced who were clean and who were unclean among the lepers, so now Christ conferred the power of forgiving and withholding forgiveness on sinners. Only God can forgive sins, but God in the form of man forgave the sins of Magdalen, of the penitent thief, of the dishonest tax collector, and of others. The same law of the Incarnation would now hold; God would continue to forgive sins through man. His appointed ministers were to be the instruments of His forgiveness, as His own human nature was the instrument of His Divinity in purchasing forgiveness. These solemn words of the Risen Savior meant that sins were to be forgiven through a judicial power authorized to examine the state of a soul and to grant or refuse forgiveness as the case demanded. From that day on, the remedy for human sin and guilt was to be a humble confession to one having authority to forgive (Life of Christ, pp. 444-445).
It is fitting that, as Jesus' Death and Resurrection purchased forgiveness and reconciliation for us, that He would give us the Sacrament of that Reconciliation on the very day of His Resurrection. More fitting, since that very sacrament itself resurrects the life of grace killed in us through mortal sin. Hence the reason that the Sacrament of Confession is known as the sacrament of resurrection.

Let us then rejoice in the Grace and Forgiveness won for us through Christ's Death and Resurrection, and live as redeemed and reconciled Children of God. When we fall, let us rise again, availing ourselves of the healing and transforming power of the Sacrament of Confession, so as to truly be an Easter People.


(Category: Catholic Devotions: The Rosary.)

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