Matthew’s Gospel tells us that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, after finding Jesus’ tomb empty, went away quickly– “fearful yet overjoyed”– to tell the disciples this news. On their hasty way Jesus met and greeted them. What must this have been like? Perhaps they had been in Bethany when Jesus called his friend Lazarus to come out of his tomb, and they had seen Lazarus come forth wrapped in his burial gown that others had to undo. This wasn’t the case with Jesus. The two women saw him and recognized him.
Perhaps because they were startled, they threw themselves on the ground before him and touched his human feet. They recognized his human voice telling them not to be afraid. Afraid of what? Probably the feeling that made the hair on their arms stand up and sent shivers down their spines when they unexpectedly found the tomb empty and then met Jesus, risen and alive, on the road. What would your reaction be if you met a flesh and blood person who had been raised from the dead? Well, we have no idea because it has never happened to any on us.
Besides feeling fear, they were also overjoyed. Jesus, whom they knew in his day-to-day life and whom they had seen suffer and die on the cross, was now present with them. Most of us have no problem believing that Jesus, the Christ, is divine. Unlike the two women and the other disciples who knew the human Jesus very well, do we really believe in Jesus’ humanity? Do we believe that Jesus is a risen human? That he chose to be present in our midst as a human being who is also divine should make a huge difference in how we approach the unfolding events in our world today. Jesus is alive and working through today’s unfolding events to bring about his Kingdom.
How can I work with Jesus to accomplish his purpose? Am I aware of his presence in my life today? What gifts is he giving me today to form me into the best person I can be?
—Fr. Jim Riley, S.J., a veteran high school educator, is currently superior of the Jesuit community at St. Ignatius High School, Cleveland OH.