As we relive the Paschal Mystery leading to the solemn feast of the Resurrection of the Lord, we offer a Franciscan Gospel reflection and questions written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM for your prayer. 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. To read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here: Franciscan Gospel Reflection April 21 2019. Excerpts are 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. Photos: GRACE Schools, Ben Wideman and St. Benedict Convent, Cambridge, Ohio
Easter Gospels in Year C
The gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection are much like the accounts of his birth. While they are descriptions of a historical event, they are not overpowering, and they leave room to doubt that an extraordinary event or epiphany has taken place. Both the birth of Jesus and the resurrection happened in the midst of people of the day. Some experienced the event but others were oblivious. The events were also understood by some, even the most unlikely, but not by others. Among those who did not understand the significance of what had taken place were some who had the background and even the desire to witness the unfolding of God’s plan in history. There were also those who would destroy the evidence of what had taken place or deny what had taken place. This is how God has chosen to work in the events of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection. No overwhelming undisputable proof, only an invitation to understand history from God’s perspective.
Vigil Mass – Luke 24:1-12
But at daybreak on the first day of the week they took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb; but when they entered; they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were puzzling over this, behold, two men in dazzling garments appeared to them. They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground. They said to them, “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised. Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and rise on the third day.” And they remembered his words. Then they returned from the tomb and announced all these things to the eleven and to all the others. The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; the others who accompanied them also told this to the apostles, but their story seemed like nonsense and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb, bent down, and saw the burial cloths alone; then he went home amazed at what had happened.
The focus of this gospel text is the empty tomb in which Jesus had been placed. The empty tomb, of itself, is not a proof that Jesus had risen from the dead. The body could have been stolen. However, if someone had taken the body, whether a disciple or a person with malicious intention, they probably would not have left the burial cloth behind and taken just the corpse. What the empty tomb also suggests is that Jesus’ resurrection is not like the “coming to life” of Jairus’ daughter, or the son of the widow at Nain, or Lazarus.
The women are coming to the tomb with the intention of completing the burial ritual. They, like the other disciples, seem either to have forgotten or to be unaware of the times that Jesus predicted that he would be rejected, suffer, and die, but then would rise from the dead. (Luke 9:22; 9:43b-45; 18:31-34) They did not expect to find the stone removed from the entrance and the tomb empty. The two men in dazzling garments would be understood to be angels. They both tell the women that Jesus is not here among the dead, and they remind them of what Jesus has told them of both his passion and his resurrection. The women’s response is typical of one who encounters the presence of the holy: fear, wonder, and silence. Luke states that the women remembered what had been said, and then went to tell the other disciples. Luke’s text is different from Mark’s Gospel, where, even though the women are told to go and tell Peter and the disciples, they flee in fear. (Mark 16:1-8) When the women returned to the disciples and the others, they were not believed, because their report seemed like nonsense. Even Peter, who had gone to the tomb and found it empty, just as the women did, does not seem to believe that Jesus has been raised. He is amazed at the experience, but does not yet profess to the disciples any significance to the empty tomb.
1. Place yourself in the room where the disciples have gathered after the crucifixion. What are some of the emotions that are present among them?
2. When you hear Luke report that two women went to the tomb with spices to anoint the body of Jesus…
3. Can you imagine yourself at the tomb being asked why you are here at the tomb with your oil and spices, looking for the body of Jesus, and being reminded of what he had said about his death and resurrection? What feelings are going through you?
4. Can you take some time to talk with God about whatever is going through you as you reflect on the gospel?