Our Easter Franciscan Gospel reflection is multi-faceted. There are three possible Gospel readings for the celebration of Easter: Mark 16:1-7 for the Vigil Mass, John 20:1-9 for Masses on Easter Morning, and Luke 24:13-35 for afternoon celebrations. The Easter Vigil Mass is usually when the new members of the community are baptized and welcomed for the first time to the Lord’s Table. It is a beautiful and faith-filled celebration. However, the majority of people attend one of the Masses on Easter Sunday. The text from Luke (Easter Afternoons) is also the text for the third Sunday of Easter, so the background and reflection questions for that text will be provided then. The focus here is on the gospel texts for the Vigil Mass and the Easter Morning Masses. As always, but especially during this wonderful feast, we hope these reflection questions help foster an awareness of God’s desire to speak to you through these texts. For the complete text click here: Franciscan Gospel Reflection April 1 2018
This weekly Sunday Gospel reflection and questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM. They are edited by Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Anne Marie Lom and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. If you would like to read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here: Franciscan Gospel Reflection April 1 2018 Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Please include this information when printing.
Photo: Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity Stations of the Cross, Eugene Burnand’s Peter and John running to the tomb
Mark 16:1-7 (Easter Vigil)
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go and anoint him. Very early when the sun had risen, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb. They were saying to one another, “Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back; it was very large. On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed. He said to them, “Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him. But go and tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.'”
This gospel text describes the situation the morning after the Sabbath. Jesus had died the day before the Sabbath. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome are going to anoint the body of Jesus. They expect to find the body of the dead Jesus in the tomb. Whatever instruction Jesus has given about his death and resurrection has not affected their expectations.
What they find once they arrive at the tomb is described in such a way that people of day would know that this is a supernatural experience. Physical reality has been changed; a huge stone that the three of them together could not have moved has been moved. In the tomb they encounter a young man clothed in white. In the Old Testament, angels are described as appearing as young men. “Tobiah went to look for someone acquainted with the roads who would travel with him to Media. As soon as he went out, he found the angel Raphael standing before him, though he did not know that this was an angel of God. Tobiah said to him, ‘Who are you, young man?’ He replied, “I am an Israelite, one of your kinsmen. I have come here to work.” Tobiah said, ‘Do you know the way to Media?’” (Tobit 5:4-5) “While the high priest was offering the sacrifice of atonement, the same young men in the same clothing again appeared and stood before Heliodorus. ‘Be very grateful to the high priest Onias,’ they told him. ‘It is for his sake that the Lord has spared your life.’” (2 Maccabees 3:36) The young man here at the tomb responds to the women’s amazement in the typical fashion of a heavenly messenger. He reassures them, and then delivers his message.
The women are commissioned to be the first to proclaim the resurrection. They had come to anoint the body of Jesus but are sent away with an entirely different task. God’s plan for them is very different than what they had been prepared to do. There are still many questions that long to be answered: Why will the risen Jesus meet them in Galilee, and not there at the tomb or where they have gathered? Why is Peter singled out as one who should be told? Is it because he is the leader, or because he was the one who most vehemently denied that he even knew Jesus? Why is it that the angel appears only to the women at the tomb, and not to the men where they are? This text leaves many questions unanswered. The resurrection of Jesus, like his birth, leaves people free to respond with faith, questions, total rejection, and even open opposition.
1. How do you respond when someone close to you has died? What gets priority, tasks that need to be accomplished, being present to those affected, your own emotions, or reassurance of your own faith?
2. As you come to celebrate the resurrection, what receives the majority of your attention?
3. What might have been some of the things going through the minds and hearts of the women as they made their way to the tomb of Jesus?
4. Does the fact that this gospel text focuses on three women have significance for you?
5. Are you disappointed that this Easter Gospel does not contain a dramatic account of the risen Lord?
6. The women came willing to anoint the body of Jesus, and got sent away commissioned to proclaim the resurrection. Do you ever feel like you are prepared to do one thing but God wants you to do something different?
7. Can you take some time to talk with God about whatever is going on within you as you come this Easter to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection?