March 30, 1997 John 20, 1–9
JESUS CHRIST is risen from the dead! The power of the Resurrection imparts new life to us-life that is new in every way. Easter does not signal a return to business as usual, resuming the life to which we had become accustomed before the penitence of Lent. No, the Resurrection animates us with an utterly new way of living. Resurrection is not resuscitation. The new life we receive in the Risen Christ is not a reprise of old thought patterns, bad habits, sinful behavior, or worldly desires.
Mary Magdalene approaches the tomb “early in the morning on the first day of the week, while it was still dark.” The triumph of Resurrection is the vanquishment of darkness, of every impulse of sin and evil in the world. The Resurrection dispatches the tyranny of Satan, whose earthly reign enslaves human beings through the absolute exaltation of self. Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb alone but, at the sight of the rolled-away stone, she runs off to find Peter and John. That is, she rushes off to unite herself to the community of the Church. For the new life that the vision of the empty tomb quickens within her-and within us-is ecclesial.
Why does Mary Magdalene run to experience this event in the company of the Apostles? First of all, she knows that there she will find the meaning behind the mystery she has encountered. She exclaims: “We don't know where they have put him!” That is to say, Mary Magdalene relies on the Apostles' leadership in faith to take charge in this dilemma and to get to the bottom of the problem. she commends herself to these good shepherds to find, not a lost lamb, but the missing body of the Lamb of God.
Moreover, Mary Magdalene's take on the occurrence presumes the worst: “The Lord has been taken from the tomb!” She depends on the teaching authority of the Apostles to clarify confusion and to dispel doubts. She will trust the magisterial judgment of the Apostles more than what she has seen with her own eyes. When John enters the tomb after Simon Peter (out of deference to Peter's primacy), the Evangelist tells us: “H e saw and believed.” Like Mary Magdalene, we entrust ourselves to the Magisterium of the Church to gain the interpretation and illumination that unite us to the saving power behind mysterious events.
The fact that Mary Magdalene runs to the Apostles, and that the Apostles run to the empty tomb emphasizes the missionary essence of the Church. Their running is a sign that they follow the prompting of the Spirit of truth who leads them on the way of salvation. In the same way, all members of the Church to whom this truth has been entrusted must vigorously go out to satisfy the desire for salvation in all people so as to bring them the truth as well.
Mary Magdalene could have kept the experience of the empty tomb to herself. But the maturity of her faith compelled her to unite herself to the leadership, the Magisterium, and the evangelizing mission of the Church. For it is not as solitary individuals but as covenanted persons within the community of the Church that we experience the ultimate power and joy of the Resurrection. In union with the Church, the early morning of Easter become the Eternal Day of Resurrection.
Father Cameron, a Registercontributing editor, teaches homiletics at St. Joseph Seminary, Yonkers, N.Y.