Do you like surprises? Be careful. There are at least three types of surprises.
There are “bad surprises”:
- you were sure you were getting that job you applied for... it did not happen;
- you went to the doctor and unexpectedly he / she gave you bad news;
- you did not pass the exam as well as you thought you would
There are “good surprises” too
- you thought you had failed the exam but in fact you passed;
- you found money you forgot you had hidden somewhere;
- you got a gift unexpectedly, nothing big but so meaningful...!
There are also some surprises that are just overwhelming:
- I still remember the day I got a call from Pretoria (I was living in Rome at that time) when I was told Pope Benedict had appointed me bishop of Ingwavuma. It just did not make any sense. I lost two kg in one week!
- Today is exactly this type of surprise! The Resurrection is just overwhelming and it is not just one surprise... it is full of surprises.
Think about it.
First surprise. The Gospel says: “After the sabbath, and towards dawn on the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala and the other Mary went to visit the sepulchre.” Do you remember them? Do you remember Mary of Magdala and the other Mary? They are two key people. They are the ones we read about on Sunday that saw where the body had been placed. None of the apostles could tell the place. They were not there.
These two women go the sepulchre. The Gospel does not tell us why. The Gospel of Mark says they went to finish the anointing because they could not do it before the beginning of the Sabbath. They do not have a clue of what is awaiting them.
There is no dead body. He is no longer there. He is risen! Death has been destroyed. Death had no power over him.
Second surprise. Jesus had chosen 12 apostles but who are the new apostles of His resurrection: two women. No men. They are first sent by the angel and later by Jesus himself. Same words. Go and tell them... If I am not wrong women could not be credible witnesses in court at that time and Jesus chooses them to be His witnesses. I wonder if we understand how powerful this is.
Third surprise. The words of the Angel and the ones of Jesus are very similar. I would just like to help you see one difference which is very deep. The angel tells the women: “go and tell his disciples...”. Jesus instead says: “go and tell my brothers”. Jesus the Lord, calls the apostles “brothers”. He calls brothers all those who abandon him at the moment of suffering. Very similar to the Gospel of John where the first word of the Risen Christ is: Peace!
Fourth surprise. Therefore there is no reason for fear. Both the Angel and the Risen Lord start by saying: “do not be afraid”. There is no reason to be afraid and particularly to be afraid of God.
It is just overwhelming. This is not just one thing... these are life changing moments. It is an earthquake as the Gospel says and I (this is me) picture the Angel sitting on the rock laughing out loud.
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Believing in the resurrection is about what starts today and continues for eternity.
Easter is God coming to remove the stone that is blocking us from receiving the good news of life and life to the full that Jesus brought us.
Life where death has no longer power over us. True, we think of our final death which is the final barrier to eternal life but think also of all the other deaths you might be experiencing in your life... feeling hopeless... feeling we are not good enough... believing as I said yesterday that: such is life... Death has been destroyed, the stone is removed. Think of that "death" that people carry in their lives and they want to throw to you: lies, anger, violence, power, jealousy... The angel is laughing at those who choose to live by those standards.
Life where men and women share the same dignity. We justify on faith, culture and personal ideas all sorts of things to make sure it does not happen. From creation though we read that God created male and female in his own image. A stone had fallen on our eyes and hearts to separate them, to make us believe it is not so. Jesus makes them apostles, the stone is removed. Don't we call them "apostles of the apostles"?
Life where we are filled of God's mercy. You can no longer put any limits to God's mercy. Let me repeat it: Please, I beg you, do not put limits and do not allow anyone to put limits to God's mercy.
Peter was very much aware he could deny the Lord and indeed happened. Not just once... but three times. Still, Jesus told him he had prayed for him so that when he recovered he could confirm his brothers.
We are all aware of our sins. We are sinners. We constantly acknowledge that at every Mass and – as Pope Francis says – God never gets tired of forgiving us. Whoever tells you it is not so, is only trying to keep the stone blocking the resurrection.
* * * * *
The question is... now what?
I don't need to tell you. You have heard it. You can tell me. What are you supposed to do? What am I supposed to do? “They must leave for Galilee; they will see me there.”
Cannot say if Jesus was asking the apostles to physically travel back to Galilee but certainly he is not asking us to buy a ticket and go to the Holy Land. As we would hear Peter tomorrow in the first reading from the book of the Acts of the Apostoles... ‘You must have heard about the recent happenings in Judaea; about Jesus of Nazareth and how he began in Galilee, after John had been preaching baptism.'
Everything started in Galilee. It is there that they became disciples. With the joy of the resurrection we are called to become disciples going back to His words and actions aware that it is the only way that gives us life and life to the full.
Click below for photos taken on
Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil