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Dear brothers and sisters,
Ave Maria! Happy Easter!
The Easter narrative features the “empty tomb.” It was shocking for Mary Magdalene who came “while it was still dark.” But, as light appeared, what was thought to be an “absence” turned out to be a “presence,” which only faith could comprehend. John “saw and believed.”
While Mary Magdalene was the first among the disciples to learn about this mystery, Mary, the Mother of the Risen Lord, is the “first and silent witness.” We will read Message 539: “Witness of the Resurrection,” taken from the book “To the Priests, Our Lady’s Beloved Sons.”
I. GOSPEL READING (John 20:1-9)
On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.
Points for Reflection
There is no human explanation to the Resurrection. It transcends both the logic of the human mind and the normal process of nature. This is what the “empty tomb” signifies. Mentioned seven times, the “tomb” is a clear evidence of death. Though “empty,” arousing boggling questions as to what happened, it leads to enchantment on an astounding mystery. The burial cloths inside the “empty tomb” immediately dispel the suspicion that Jesus’ body was stolen, because grave robbers only take the cloths and leave behind the corpse. The fact that Jesus’ corpse was gone and the burial cloths were there leaves a spell for a breathtaking mystery.
At that time, the disciples “did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” Jesus himself would reveal it, as we will hear on the succeeding Sundays. The main point of the First Sunday of Easter is to present the Resurrection as a great mystery, which only faith can comprehend, and which John did. He saw and believed.
Proving how real this mystery is, we see Peter and Paul giving witness to this. In the First Reading, Peter preaches about Jesus whom “God raised on the third day.” With boldness, he tells the same Jews who had terrified him: “Everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.” Paul in the Second Reading exhorts us to “think of what is above, not of what is on earth,” because we “died” and “were raised” in Jesus. “Your life is hidden with (Him) in God.”
The mystery of the “empty tomb” reverberates all the way to us. We must live as men and women of faith. In the “empty tomb” that we all have, let us put our trust in Jesus, our risen Lord. Poverty and suffering do not have the last say. Life in the Risen Lord will be victorious in the end. Every Sunday, in the Eucharist, He invites us to celebrate with Him, so that His victory may also triumph in each one of us and in our families. Yes, let us “think of what is above, not of what is on earth.”
March 30, 1997
Capoliveri, Livorno, Italy
Points for Reflection
Our Lady is the “first witness” of the Resurrection “because Jesus has willed to share above all with his Mother the first fruits of this Easter joy” (593 c). While the gospels are quiet about it, local traditions of the Church support this. One ancient practice handed down to us is the “salubong” (“encounter”), which re-enacts the meeting of the Risen Christ and the Blessed Mother. In the Philippines, it is done at dawn of Easter Sunday before the first Easter Mass. It has become an indispensable part of the Easter liturgy, which expresses a popular belief that it was Mary to whom Jesus first appeared.
In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius seems to have the same logic when he wrote in the Fourth Week of the Exercises (no. 219): “Rising again, he appeared in body and soul to his Blessed Mother." He further explained: "Although this is not stated in Scripture, still it is considered as understood by the statement that he appeared to many others" (no. 299). If there is someone to whom Christ would show himself first after his Resurrection, it must be to his mother whom he loved and who loved him so much.
Aside from this, Our Lady is “a silent witness, because it is to the pious women and to the disciples that the task of announcing to world this stupendous and divine prodigy has been entrusted" (593 c). This explains why the gospels are silent about it. As “a silent witness,” She sustains and increases the faith of those who have come to believe in the Risen Lord. “I have given new courage to those who were thinking that all was now finished; I have asked the pious women to go quickly to the sepulcher, which I knew was already empty; I have confirmed the faith of the Apostles, telling them how Jesus had first shown Himself to me in the splendor of his divine glory” (593 d). Likewise, She points out the relevance and urgency of witnessing “in these times, when the historical fact of his resurrection is being denied or placed in doubt by many (593 h). Let us recommit ourselves in living our consecration and in praying in the cenacle, so that She may sustain us in keeping our baptismal promises.
Yours in the Immaculate Heart,
This reflection is shared with all cenacle and other prayer groups (priests and laity), communities and Marian organizations, associations and movements within and outside of the Philippines, with Our Lady’s words transcribed verbatim for those who do not have copies of the messages. This may also be shared with private individuals for their personal use.
Our Lady's messages are taken from the book: "To the Priests, Our Lady's Beloved Sons", a compilation of 604 messages in the form of locutions given by the Blessed Virgin Mary through Fr. Stefano Gobbi of Italy.
Imprimatur: Bishop Donald W. Montrose, D.D., 1998
Archbishop Francesco Cuccarese, 2007