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The Resurrection of the Lord: Joy and Fear - Doubt and Wonder

The Appearance of Christ to Mary Magdalene, Alexander Ivanov, c. 1834
by Ed Shea, OFM | April 20, 2011

Scripture Reflection for Easter Sunday (April 24, 2011)

Gospel Readings for the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday
Matthew 28:1-10
John 20:1-18

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Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!
Early that morning at break of day,
The faithful women went their way,
And came to the tomb where Jesus lay

There is a curious line in the Gospel that we read at the Easter Vigil this year. It’s the story of the resurrection from the Gospel of Matthew (28:1-10). After the angel tells the faithful women disciples who went to the tomb that morning that Jesus has been raised from the dead, he commissions them to go and tell the other disciples. And then Matthew tells us that “they hurried away from the tomb fearful yet overjoyed” (28:8). Overjoyed and fearful - what a curious combination of feelings, and how incredibly human! I don’t know about you but I have had that experience more than once in my life, that feeling of confidence mixed with fear, that sense of security that is not completely rid of doubt. Later in this same Chapter 28 of Matthew’s Gospel, the same sentiment repeats itself when the text tells us that the eleven disciples went to the mountain in Galilee to which Jesus had summoned them. And “when they saw him they worshipped him, but they doubted”(28:17). What a great image to ponder as we enter into the 50 days of Easter!

There is a similar dynamic on Easter Sunday morning this year when, as always, we read the story of the resurrection from John 20. Make sure to read all of John 20:1-18, not just the part that we read in Church. The key figure here, of course, is the disciple Mary Magdalene. This is the same Mary Magdalene who appears at the tomb in all four Gospels, but in John there is something different about her. She comes to the tomb while it was still dark, alone and empty-handed, a picture of boldness and daring. She encounters angelic messengers and speaks with them, but the conversation seems to make no impression. Unlike those in the synoptic gospels, these angels do not tell her anything at all helpful. Indeed it is not the message of the angels but Mary Magdalene’s grief that is the focus here. This disciple is neither afraid nor amazed; she only grieves. Again, we can all certainly relate to this character in her grief and pain and confusion. And when she finally does encounter the Risen Lord it takes her some time to figure out what is going on. She is still confused and uncertain, until finally he calls her by name, like the Good Shepherd that he is, and then he sends her to tell the other disciples; and she goes with enthusiasm, crying out “I have seen the Lord!”

It is the human element of the resurrection that is ringing in my ears this year, the part of the story that speaks to our experience of taking two steps forward and one step back, over and over again in life. The mystery of the death and resurrection is something that repeats itself often in our lives, from the moment that we had to leave the womb to the first day of school to the day we left home and on and on. The resurrection comes to us when we least expect it, in sometimes very surprising ways, and the trick for us is to not give up hope. In order to really experience the resurrection, we need to keep walking through the necessary pain and confusion that precedes it, to keep believing in it even if we can’t see or feel it.

It reminds me of the story of the twins in the womb of their mother. They are speaking to each other one day and one says, “I am beginning to wonder if there’s life after birth.” The other one responds and says, “Yeah, I know what you mean; I am beginning to doubt the existence of Mom.”

Aren’t we a little bit like those two at times when it comes to what we believe about resurrection? Thank God for Mary Magdalene and the other faithful disciples in the gospels who were not afraid to show up and show us the way to live through their human experience and find their way to resurrection.

This is the story which we have been told,
Taught to our parents from heroes of old,
May God turn our hearts into fire and a bold,

Paz y Bien,

Father Ed


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Author information Ed Shea, OFM

Fr. Ed is a Franciscan Friar who graduated from CTU back in 1987. He has been back at CTU for a couple of stints as Formation Director in the past 23 years, which is also his current role now with the Friars from three different provinces and (even one from Croatia!).

"I am the third of 8 children from an awesome Irish-Italian Catholic family, and I am crazy about my 19 nephews and nieces," he says. Ed is also an avid Notre Dame fan (class of 1978) and even played trumpet in the ND Band back in the day.

Since his ordination in 1987 he has had a wide variety of experiences and has worked for 15 years as a Pastor in three different Churches. He loves to sing and tell stories, more than anything I simply delight in celebrating the sacraments of the Church.

Ed believes that "as a true follower of St. Francis, it is my mission in life to find reasons to rejoice in the goodness of God’s presence in our world."

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