Tuesday in the Octave of Easter
Reading 1 ACTS 2:36-41
On the day of Pentecost, Peter said to the Jewish people,
“Let the whole house of Israel know for certain
that God has made him both Lord and Christ,
this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart,
and they asked Peter and the other Apostles,
“What are we to do, my brothers?”
Peter said to them,
“Repent and be baptized, every one of you,
in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins;
and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
For the promise is made to you and to your children
and to all those far off,
whomever the Lord our God will call.”
He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them,
“Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”
Those who accepted his message were baptized,
and about three thousand persons were added that day.
Responsorial Psalm PS 33:4-5, 18-19, 20 AND 22
R. (5b) The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
Upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield.
May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us
who have put our hope in you.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
Alleluia PS 118:24
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
This is the day the LORD has made;
let us be glad and rejoice in it.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel JN 20:11-18
Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping.
And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb
and saw two angels in white sitting there,
one at the head and one at the feet
where the Body of Jesus had been.
And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
She said to them, “They have taken my Lord,
and I don’t know where they laid him.”
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there,
but did not know it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?
Whom are you looking for?”
She thought it was the gardener and said to him,
“Sir, if you carried him away,
tell me where you laid him,
and I will take him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,”
which means Teacher.
Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me,
for I have not yet ascended to the Father.
But go to my brothers and tell them,
‘I am going to my Father and your Father,
to my God and your God.'”
Mary went and announced to the disciples,
“I have seen the Lord,”
and then reported what he had told her.
SO, WHAT’S YOUR EXCUSE?
• Chapter 20 in John’s Gospel, besides the apparitions of Jesus to Magdalene, it also speaks about diverse episodes which reveal the richness, indicate the richness of the experience of the Resurrection: (a) to the beloved disciple and to Peter (Jn 20, 1-10); (b) to Mary Magdalene (Jn 20, 11-18); (c) to the community of disciples (Jn 20, 19-23) and (d) to the Apostle Thomas (Jn 20, 24-29). The purpose of the writing of the Gospel is that of leading persons to believe in Jesus, and believing in him, to have life (Jn 20, 30-3).
• In the way of describing the apparition of Jesus to Mary Magdalene one perceives, one is aware of the different stages of the road that she had to follow, of the sorrowful search up to the time of the encounter at Easter. These are also the stages through which we all have to pass, throughout our life, seeking God and living the Gospel.
• John 20, 11-13: Mary Magdalene weeps, but she seeks. There was a very strong love between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. She was one of the few persons who had the courage to remain with Jesus up to the moment of his death on the Cross. After the obligatory rest on Saturday, she goes back to the tomb to be in the place where she had met her Beloved for the last time. But, surprisingly, the tomb is empty! The angels ask her: “Woman, why are you weeping?” and her response is: “They have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have put him!” Mary Magdalene looked for Jesus, that Jesus whom she had known during three years.
• John 20, 14-15: Mary Magdalene speaks with Jesus without knowing him. The Disciples of Emmaus saw Jesus but they did not recognize him. She thinks that he is the gardener. And just as the angels had done, Jesus also asks: “Why are you weeping?” and he adds: “Who are you looking for?” The response: “If you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him and I will go and get him”. She was still looking for the Jesus of the past, the same one of three days before. And it is precisely the image of the Jesus of the past which prevents her to recognize the living Jesus, who is present before her.
• John 20, 16: Mary Magdalene recognizes Jesus. Jesus pronounces the name: “Mary!” This was the sign to recognize him: the same voice, the same way of pronouncing the name. She answers: “Master!” Jesus had returned the same, as the one who had died on the cross. The first impression was that death was only a painful incident on the journey, but now everything has again become as before. Mary embraces Jesus strongly. He was the same Jesus whom she had known and loved. And thus, is fulfilled what the Parable of the Good Shepherd said: “He calls them by name and they recognize his voice”. “I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (Jn 10, 3.4.14).
• John 20, 17-18: Mary Magdalene receives the mission to announce the resurrection to the Apostles. In fact, it is the same Jesus, but the way of being together with her is not the same as before. Jesus tells her: “Do not cling to me, because I have not as yet ascended to the Father!” He goes toward the Father. Mary Magdalene has to let Jesus go and assume her mission: to announce to the brothers that he, Jesus, has ascended to the Father. Jesus has opened up the way for us and thus, once more, God is close to us.
• Which is the change that took place in Mary Magdalene throughout the dialogue? Mary Magdalene was looking for Jesus in a certain way and found him in a different way. How does this take place in our life?
he is our help and our shield,
for in him our heart rejoices,
in his holy name we trust.
Yahweh, let your faithful love rest on us,
as our hope has rested in you. (Ps 33,20-22)
Christ is Risen. This is the heart of the Church’s proclamation. The resurrection of Christ is the central doctrine of the Christian Faith. The Church began with faith in the resurrection of Christ. Without this confession of faith in the resurrection, all the other doctrines will not hold water, whether it is the incarnation or the identity of Jesus as Lord, Saviour and the Son of God or the inerrancy of scriptures and the efficacious power of the sacraments and the authority of the institutions.
But how do we arrive at faith in the Risen Lord when we have not seen Him ourselves? How do we enter into the faith of the apostles who claimed that they had seen the Risen Lord and were witnesses to the resurrected Lord? Unless we can enter into the faith of the apostles and make it our own, we cannot truly proclaim that Jesus is risen and He is Lord. What then are the stages to arrive at the apostolic faith which is the faith of the Church?
Firstly, faith begins with proclamation. One can come to faith only through the proclamation of the witnesses of the Lord. This is what St Paul wrote, “But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” (Rom 10:14f) Indeed, this was what St Peter did at Pentecost, as we read in today’s first reading. Proclamation therefore is necessary to bring people to faith. Not just proclamation but proclamation with faith and conviction! It is not only what we say but how we say it. Proclamation is not an intellectual discourse. It is a teaching that is rooted in faith. It seeks to strike the heart of the listeners.
Secondly, besides proclamation, the way to bring people to faith is through testimony. There is nothing more convincing than personal testimony. Faith in God is never the outcome of an intellectual process by which we come to agree on the facts. That would be reasoning and it is weak because reasoning can change with new evidence or findings. That is why the theories offered by science keep changing as they discover new evidence. But personal testimony is based on a personal encounter and a living out of our experience. Again, this is what we read in the early testimonies and account of the resurrection apparitions. The Lord appeared to the apostles and the disciples. According to St Paul, “he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” (1 Cor 15:5-8) In the gospel, we have Mary Magdalene who saw the Lord and “went and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and that he had said these things to her.”
Thirdly, we need to substantiate our testimonies with credible reasons, otherwise we can be accused of subjectivism, emotionalism and even hallucination. Faith is never against reason and so it is our duty to show the logic of our faith and belief. Again, this was what St Peter did. “He spoke to them for a long time using many arguments, and he urged them, ‘Save yourselves from this perverse generation.’ They were convinced by his arguments, and they accepted what he said and were baptised. That very day about three thousand were added to their number.” Clearly, it was not only through their testimonies alone that brought about the conversion of his listeners but he could show through scriptures and reasoning that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah foretold by the prophets.
As such, although the resurrection can only be perceived by faith, yet, we cannot do without reason as well. We need to help people to understand and find confidence to believe. That was how conversion in the early Church took place. It was not only personal testimony and proclamation but also a systematic explanation for their faith in the Risen Lord. Of course, we cannot prove the resurrection but we can establish the facts that strengthen our case for belief. Otherwise we might appear to be credulous and superstitious. For many intellectuals today, without some reasonable explanation, it would be difficult for them to make the leap of faith lest they are accused of being too credulous. Theology precisely seeks to understand so that one might believe. Theology seeks to give a systematic presentation for the credibility of a doctrine. Reason does not destroy faith but buttress our faith even more firmly. And for those who believe through study already, they may understand more deeply what they already believe.
Fourthly, we need to make an act of repentance. This is not just repentance from sin. This is included. But this fundamental repentance is a call to believe. In the gospel, Jesus began His ministry by proclaiming, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mk 1:15) In other words, we are called to repent by believing in the Good News. If we accept in faith the Good News, then great things can happen. If we believe in the Good News, then the outcome is repentance from our sins. The motivation for change is never fear but love. This was the response of the listeners to the discourse of Peter’s first homily. “They were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the apostles, ‘What must we do, brothers?’ ‘You must repent.’ Peter answered ‘and every one of you must be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise that was made is for you and your children, and for all those who are far away, for all those whom the Lord our God will call to himself.’” Thus, the call for change is based on the fact of the promise of the Holy Spirit and the gift of sonship in Christ.
Finally, those who believe will receive the power of the Holy Spirit and will come to know the Risen Lord personally, for this is precisely the work of the Holy Spirit. The work of the Holy Spirit is not to announce new things but to bring us to a personal encounter with the Lord. “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (Jn 16:12-14) This explains why the Charismatic renewal has helped many Christians to have a personal encounter of the Risen Lord through the release of the Holy Spirit. Only through the grace of the Holy Spirit can we know the Father through the Son.
Furthermore, through the same Holy Spirit, the apostles would be able to perform the same works that Jesus did as He promised. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.” (Jn 14:12-14) We read that in the early Church, when they prayed in the name of the Lord and in the power of the Spirit, miracles and wonders happened. “’And now, Lord, look upon their threats, and grant to thy servants to speak thy word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’ And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:29-31) Clearly, therefore, such miracles could only be possible unless the Lord is risen since every healing miracle is done in the name of the Lord.
In the final analysis, the foundation of faith, the motivation for proclamation and the power of belief in Christ’s resurrection must be that of a personal encounter with the Risen Lord in prayer, worship and in our daily life, witnessing to His presence and love at work in our lives. This gift is given to us if we are receptive to His love. The psalmist says, “The Lord looks on those who revere him, on those who hope in his love, to rescue their souls from death, to keep them alive in famine.” When we love the Lord like Mary, He will reward us with the gift of seeing Him. We can see Him through the intellect but we can see better through the heart. For the heart has an intuition of the lover that the intellect does not. No wonder, it is recorded in the scriptures that our Lord appeared to Mary Magdalene even before the apostles, perhaps because Magdalene loved the Lord most among all His disciples.