Click the arrow below to hear a member of the Assumption community read today’s Gospel.
Luke presents Jesus’ life as a journey. In a special way, he highlights Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. For the evangelist, the pascal mystery realizes itself in Jerusalem and from this place the Apostles will go to announce the good news of the resurrection. In Luke, all the resurrection appearances took place in and around Jerusalem. There is no mention of Galilee as the meeting point where the disciples encounter the risen Lord. The particularity of Luke’s Gospel helps us to give importance to our own place, to wherever we are, in order to make our own journey there. By following in Jesus’ footsteps, from birth to death via suffering, we are to assume fully our human condition so that we can share with him his glorious resurrection.
From the manger to the tomb via the Temple
At the beginning of Luke’s Gospel, an angel of the Lord appeared to the perplexed shepherds to explain to them the meaning of the great event in Bethlehem: The Savior had been born. Now, at the end of the third Gospel, two angelic men in dazzling garments come into view to explain to the fearful women the meaning of what has happened at the tomb: The Lord has risen. Jesus’ birth caused joy whereas his death brought sorrow. Those two different events, however, contributed to the manifestation of the divine glory on earth. Thanks to the explanation from heavenly beings, the good news about Jesus was received and spread throughout the earthly world.
While the women were still terrified, the angelic men asked them: “Why do you seek the living one among the dead?” (Luke 24:5). This question reminds us of the one that Jesus used to address his parents in the Temple: “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 3:49). The “must” in Jesus’ saying in the Temple—in fact the very first words of Jesus in Luke—was repeated by the angelic men at the tomb to emphasis the necessity of the Passion and of the crucifixion. Everything that happened to Jesus was ordained by God. The Father wanted to save humanity by the self-giving life of his Only Begotten Son. It is through the desire God had for human beings that the crucifixion become understandable and the resurrection inevitable.
From the crucifixion to the resurrection of memory
In Luke, among those who followed Jesus, only the women witnessed both his crucifixion and the deposition of his body. It should be no surprise that they were the first who came to the tomb. And consequently, they were the first to hear the news of the resurrection. Their journey shows us that the good news of the resurrection was preceded by the painful witness of crucifixion and burial. The road marked with suffering is the road to glory. That road is not only for the master, but also for all those who follow in his footsteps. It is in this sense that the two angelic men talked to the horrified women: “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” (Luke 24:6-7).
When the women heard the two men, they remembered Jesus’ words. Before understanding what the resurrection was all about, they experienced the resurrection of memory. The fact that they recalled Jesus’ teaching urged them to announce the news to the other disciples. They could not pay their last respects by embalming a dead body as they had planned to do. But something good came out of that unexpected circumstance. They became the first heralds of the risen Lord. Unlike Mark, Luke did not mention the request of the angelic men concerning the transmission of the message to the disciples. It was their memory of Jesus’ words that made the women become the first messengers of the resurrection. By an act of memory, they became apostles to the apostles.
From an anonymous group to a specific individual
Returning from the tomb, the women informed the eleven and all the others of what they had seen and understood. Surprisingly, it was only at that moment that the women were identified: “The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James” (v. 10). The women became distinctive and identified individuals when they passed on the news of the resurrection to others. We too, by making known the risen Lord to others, we become the persons God wants us to be, namely, unique and identified beings, made in the image of the Creator and saved by his Only Begotten Son.
Separated from the group, “Peter got up and ran to the tomb” (v. 12). Peter got up from where he was and especially from who he was. This was a moment of resurrection for Peter. The last time Luke mentioned Peter was when he wept bitterly after betraying Jesus who turned around and looked at him. Probably the bitterness of having betrayed the master did not cease to torment him during Jesus’ crucifixion and after his burial. Now, in the wake of the Passion, Peter runs to the tomb in the hope that he can find something other than what he was told by the women. Indeed, he sees something different. When the women entered the tomb, they noted the absence of the body. Now Peter enters the tomb, he sees the burial cloths. There is a little progress between the absence of the body (someone could remove Jesus’ body from the tomb) and the presence of the burial cloths (the body was not stolen). But still, Peter returns from the tomb, not with joy but with amazement. Doubt still crosses his mind.
With Peter, we are to recognize that faith in the risen Lord is a long journey. The Christian faith is not acquired once and for all. This faith always remains a questioning faith. Of course, doubt is part of it. As someone once said: “Faith and doubt go hand in hand. One who never doubts will never truly believe.” Yes, doubt and questioning are indispensable in our journey toward a mature faith. When we doubt, we begin to believe. When we question the foundations of our faith, we begin to make it grow. The paschal structure profoundly marks our life of faith. Good Friday has already taken place, but Easter Sunday in its divine splendor remains forever the horizon of our expectation. Between the “already” of Good Friday and the “not yet” of Easter Sunday, we rejoice in the “now” of Holy Saturday, a day of doubt and questioning. It is from this day that we begin to understand the greatness of our Christian faith.
Prayer: Lord, helps us to understand doubt as a journey toward faith.
Resolution: Ask myself where I am in my paschal journey.