“Speak, Mary, declaring, what you saw, wayfaring. ‘The tomb of Christ, who is living, the glory of Jesus’ resurrection; bright angels attesting, the shroud and napkin resting. Yes, Christ my hope is arisen…’ ”

The powerful first stanza of the Easter Sequence is sung as we raise our eyes and hearts to God with renewed hope and trust. Despite the extreme Lenten path trodden, today we sing from our homes, domestic monasteries of a sort, and place our hope which rests in the risen Christ. Jesus is seated at the right hand of the father. Jesus destroyed death and restored life. Jesus intercedes for us. Jesus showers us with divine mercy. Jesus loves us most. In Jesus we proclaim a witness of our hope. Because of Christmas, we have Easter. Because of Easter, we have Christmas. New life in the hope of what is to come and renewed hope for what was and ever shall be. 

A messenger of death to life 

Life_Giving Faith.pdf

Mary of Magdala stood by the cross of Jesus on that Good Friday. She witnessed Jesus’ final words, the final beat of his heart, his last breath and death after hours of profound torture. Mary helped others wrap Jesus’ body in burial cloth anointed with 100 pounds of myrrh and aloes. She accompanied others as they placed Jesus’ body in the tomb. She witnessed the placement of a large stone which sealed the tomb.  

She was one of the first to see Jesus’ heart stop, Jesus die and buried. This perhaps was the moment for her when time stood still.  

She believed in the hope of salvation in Christ Jesus. She believed in God’s promise of life in creation, “In the beginning, God created … let there be light …” (Gn 1:1-22); the covenant with Abraham, “I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore …” (Gn 22:1-18); the freedom from slavery through Moses, “Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD: I will sing to the LORD, for he is gloriously triumphant; horse and chariot he has cast into the sea …” (Ex 14:15 – 15:1); the prophecies of Isaiah, “Though the mountains leave their place and the hills be shaken, my love shall never leave you nor my covenant of peace be shaken, says the LORD, who has mercy on you …” (Is 54:5-14); and Baruch, “Hear, O Israel, the commandments of life: listen, and know prudence…” (Bar 3:9-15); as well as Ezekiel, “I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts …” (Ez 36: 16-28).  

Mary of Magdala believed in the promises of hope and thus placed her hope in Jesus, Lord and Messiah. So blessed was she to have been an eyewitness to his death and the first eyewitness of his resurrection, according to the Gospel of St. Matthew (28:1-10). Can you imagine her reaction when she recognized Jesus and that he was alive? Place this in your deepest prayer. What would it have been like for me?  

Hope in the resurrection 

What does this mean for us? Pope Francis tells us, “Now that, like the two women, we have visited the tomb, I ask you to go back with them to the city. Let us retrace our steps and change the look on our faces. Let us go back to tell them the good news. In all the places where the grave seems to have the final word … let us go back to proclaim, to share, to reveal that it is true: The Lord is alive! He is living and he wants to rise again in all those faces that have buried hope … Let us allow ourselves to be surprised by this new dawn and by the newness that only Christ can give. May we allow the beating of his heart to quicken our faintness of heart” (Easter Vigil on the Holy Night of Easter, Homily by Pope Francis, April 15, 2017). 

Hope in the mercy of God 

As I write this article (several days before publication) I hear the bells from my local parish church ring the noon hour. Despite the fact it is 1.3 miles up the road, the wind is such the sound travels through the air and into my open back patio door on this precious spring day. A sense of comfort pours into my heart, as I am reminded that the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament remains in the tabernacle of the church building, as the Holy Spirit dwells in the tabernacle of our bodies. This is truly a moment of hope in God’s mercy. 

We celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday on the Second Sunday of Easter. During the Easter Season, the first readings are from the Acts of the Apostles. We hear the growth of the church, the people of God as they celebrate the beginning of our worship today. They taught the message of Jesus, while praying and sharing Eucharist in community. Their witness of love, devotion and service to God and one another was inspiring, so much so that many came to believe and were saved. 

The Gospel of St. John 20:1-9, tells the account of the appearance of Jesus in the upper room. All of the apostles were present except for Thomas. Jesus, showing the wounds of his crucifixion, said, “Peace be with you.” I hear the Lord telling us these same words, as we are also in the upper room. His blessing of peace invites us to trust in his fatherly care.

Before the second appearance, Thomas struggles to believe that Jesus is risen. He wants proof because what they said is a contradiction to what one understands about death. Death is final. This is unreal and not ordinary. But what about Jesus is ever ordinary in the minds of those who have followed him for three years and witnessed miracle after miracle after miracle after miracle? Remember, Jesus has just raised Lazarus from the dead. Why did Thomas desire proof? Why do we desire proof? Jesus, we just really want to see you!

We do see him. God is present everywhere. Open your eyes, what do you see: LIFE. LIFE. Even in the throes of a pandemic, we see life renewed, restored, healed and whole. Many have gone on to eternal life. Many have been healed. We see people who have gone beyond the call of ordinary duty and into a place of chaos where God comes in the whisper and makes all things new through the cross from where the marks of death stream forth eternal mercy!  

We see him in our prayers because he prays. We see him in our sacrifice because he sacrifices. We see him in the suffering because he suffered. We see him in our tears because he shed tears. We see him in our hope because he gives us hope. We see him in each other, because we are part of his mystical body. We see him in the real presence, the Eucharist, the body, blood, soul and divinity. We see him in our life, because he gave his life which gives us life! Therefore, we say AMEN!!  

Christians, to the Paschal Victim offer your thankful praises! A Lamb the sheep redeems; Christ, who only is sinless, reconciles sinners to the father. Death and life have contended in that combat stupendous: the Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal. Speak, Mary, declaring what you saw, wayfaring. “The tomb of Christ, who is living, the glory of Jesus’ resurrection; bright angels attesting, the shroud and napkin resting. Yes, Christ my hope is arisen; to Galilee he goes before you.” Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining. Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning! Amen. Alleluia. Happy Easter. 

Dow is the director of the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis for the Diocese of Baton Rouge.