Commentaries on Holy Week | Easter Sunday
And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week they went to the tomb when the sun had risen. This is how St. Mark begins his narration of what happened that morning, two thousand years ago on the first Christian Easter.
Jesus had been buried. To the eyes of men, his life and message had ended in the most abject failure. His disciples, confused and frightened, had scattered. Even the women coming to anoint him piously, asked one another: “Who will roll away the stone for us, from the door of the tomb?” Nevertheless, St. Josemaria points out, they continue on. You and I, how much do we vacillate? Do we have the same holy determination, or do we have to confess that we feel ashamed as we contemplate the decisiveness, the courage, the daring of those women? Fulfilling God’s will, being faithful to Christ’s law, living our faith consistently, can at times seem quite difficult. Obstacles present themselves that seem insuperable. Nevertheless, God always conquers.
The epic of Jesus of Nazareth did not end with his ignominious death on the Cross. The last word is that of his glorious Resurrection. And Christians, in Baptism, have died and been resurrected with Christ: dead to sin and alive towards God. “O Christ,” we say with our Holy Father John Paul II, “how can we fail to thank you for the ineffable gift which, on this night, you lavish upon us? The mystery of your death and resurrection descends into the baptismal water that receive the old, carnal man, and makes him clean with divine youthfulness itself” (Homily, April 15, 2001).
Today the Church, filled with joy, exclaims: this is the day that the Lord has made: Let us rejoice and be glad in it! This cry of jubilation is prolonged for fifty days throughout Easter time, echoing of the words of St. Paul: If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hid with Christ in God.
It is logical to think—and this is what the Church’s tradition holds—that Jesus, when he rose, first appeared to his Blessed Mother. The fact that she does not appear in the Gospel narratives, with the other women, is, as John Paul II points out, an indication that our Lady had already met with Jesus. “This deduction is also confirmed,” the Pope adds, “by the fact that the first witnesses of the resurrection were, by Christ’s will, the women who had remained faithful at the foot of the Cross, and who therefore were firmer in their faith” (Audience, May 21, 1997). Only Mary had kept her faith fully intact during the bitter hours of the Passion; therefore it seems only natural that our Lord would appear first to her.
We have to always stay close to our Lady, even more at Easter time, and learn from her. With what eagerness she had awaited the Resurrection! Mary knew that Jesus had come to save the world and that, therefore, he had to suffer and die; but she also knew that he could not remain subject to death, because he is Life.
A good way to live the time of Easter is to strive to help others share in Christ’s life, fulfilling with great diligence the new commandment of charity that our Lord gave us on the eve of his passion: By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. The risen Christ now repeats this to each of us. He tells us: truly love one another; strive every day to serve the others; be concerned about the slightest details to make life agreeable to those who live with you.
But let us return to the scene of Jesus as He appears to his Blessed Mother. How happy must our Lady have been to contemplate that most Holy Humanity—flesh of her flesh and life of her life—now fully glorified! Let us ask her to teach us to sacrifice ourselves for the others without being noticed, without even looking for thanks. May we have a hunger to pass unnoticed, so as to possess God’s life and communicate it to others. Today let us address the Queen of Heaven with the greeting proper to the Easter season. Queen of heaven, rejoice, alleluia. / For he whom you did merit to bear, alleluia. / Has risen as he said, alleluia. / Rejoice and be glad O Virgin Mary, Alleluia. / For the Lord is truly risen, alleluia.
Commentaries on Holy Week were originally broadcast by the EWTN Radio Network (April 4-11, 2004). Reprinted here with permission.