Thanks to Tony Dugal for providing the picture for this post!
Gospel Story of the Week
Jesus is Raised from the Dead (Matthew 28:1-10)
“Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshipped him.” (Matthew 28:9)
Without warning, the women find themselves standing face-to-face with Jesus. Speechless, they stare at him in open-mouthed disbelief. He is alive! Jesus greets them affectionately, and they collapse at his feet in a heap of jumbled emotions – fear, confusion, amazement, disbelief, joy. Shaking with both excitement and fear, they see the wounds in his feet. Yes, it really is Jesus! They embrace his feet in a gesture of surrender and worship.
Jesus’ words reassure them: “Do not be afraid.” Their eyes are fixed on him, but they are still unable to speak. A torrent of emotion washes over the women as energy and strength flow back into them. Feelings they thought they could never experience again begin to course through their veins. Their broken spirits soar as they encounter a possibility they never imagined.
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary must have been overwhelmed by their face-to-face encounter with the Risen Jesus. They were expecting to anoint a corpse, and instead they found themselves in the presence of the Risen Christ. Although we don’t have the experience of seeing the Risen Christ in his glorified body, the story invites us to explore the times in our lives when glimpses of the Risen Christ have overwhelmed us.
I had a glimpse of the Risen Christ one December morning when I hit a patch of black ice driving 60 mph. My car skidded off the road, hit a cement barrier, went airborne, rolled over several times and came to a stop on its roof. I crawled out of that tomb without a scratch.
As I look back on the accident now, I realize that it demonstrated something of what Easter feels like. In that moment, I experienced Christ’s redeeming presence – bringing life out of the places of death. I was overwhelmed by the experience of being spared. We may get glimpses of the Risen Christ in the wonderful or the tragic. We may sense his presence in those experiences where life and death meet. We may recognize him when life has overpowered us and we are struggling to cope. We may find those experiences difficult to trust, even too personal to talk about. Yet in some hard-to-name way, we are aware of Christ’s presence.
When we experience the Risen Christ, we find ourselves struggling to get our bearings. A flood of emotions washes over us, and we are dumbfounded – sometimes speechless, other times babbling. We shake our heads in disbelief, thinking it’s too good to be true. We experience something like the earthquake that the women at Jesus’ tomb endured, and the ground we’re standing on shakes. The tremors vibrate through the beliefs that sustain us, and we struggle to keep our footing.
Every year I get a glimpse of the Risen Christ when I see the faces of those who emerge from the waters of baptism during the Easter Vigil. These men and women come to the baptismal font robed like monks. They take turns kneeling in the font with the water nearly waste deep. The priest plunges each one face first into the water “In the name of the Father . . . ,“ then a second time, “And of the Son . . . ,” and again a third time “And of the Holy Spirit.” As each newly baptized person emerges from the font dripping from head to toe, the congregation greets its new member with a joyful song and heartwarming applause. Those being baptized are overwhelmed. Their faces express a unique mix of surprise, bewilderment, joy, relief and who knows what other emotions. They beam with an inner radiance as they receive the white robe of new life and the candle that represents the light of Christ.
The overwhelming part of the Easter Vigil is not just what happens to those being baptized; it’s what happens to those of us who witness the event. As I watch those who have been transformed by baptism emerge from the water, I well up with tears of both joy and grief. Even though I have already taken the baptismal plunge, I am deeply aware of the many ways that I still need to be redeemed. The new life and profound joy of the newly baptized reveal to me the ways that I resist the waters of life and cling instead to the darkness and death. In spite of my baptism, the redemptive power of the water has not yet fully permeated my being. There is so much in me that still needs to be signed with the cross and washed with the waters of life. There is so much in me that still needs to die with Christ so that I may rise to new life in him. Although I have experienced glimpses of the Risen Christ, I have not yet fully fallen at his feet, embraced his wounds, and worshipped him.
Questions to Ponder
- When have you experienced glimpses of the Risen Christ?
- What response do those glimpses of the Risen Christ evoke in you?
- In what ways do you still need to be signed with the cross and cleansed by the waters of life?
Invitation to Prayer
Life-giving God of Easter, the women at the tomb were overwhelmed by their unexpected encounter with the Risen Christ. When I am overwhelmed by either the wonderful or the tragic, help me to recognize the presence of the Risen Christ. When life overpowers me and I am struggling to cope, give me a deep sense of your presence. Help me to open my life to you so that Easter takes deep root in my spirit. Let my whole life prepare me for the divine ambush when I will finally meet you face-to-face. Alleluia!