Sunday, November 27, 2016

20 Mysteries: Jesus Resurrects from the Dead

Luke 24:1-12:

[1] And on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared. [2] And they found the stone rolled back from the sepulchre. [3] And going in, they found not the body of the Lord Jesus. [4] And it came to pass, as they were astonished in their mind at this, behold, two men stood by them, in shining apparel. [5] And as they were afraid, and bowed down their countenance towards the ground, they said unto them: Why seek you the living with the dead? 
[6] He is not here, but is risen. Remember how he spoke unto you, when he was in Galilee, [7] Saying: The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. [8] And they remembered his words. [9] And going back from the sepulchre, they told all these things to the eleven, and to all the rest. [10] And it was Mary Magdalen, and Joanna, and Mary of James, and the other women that were with them, who told these things to the apostles. 
[11] And these words seemed to them as idle tales; and they did not believe them. [12] But Peter rising up, ran to the sepulchre, and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths laid by themselves; and went away wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.

John 20:1-18:

[1] And on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalen cometh early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre; and she saw the stone taken away from the sepulchre. [2] She ran, therefore, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and saith to them: They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him. [3] Peter therefore went out, and that other disciple, and they came to the sepulchre. [4] And they both ran together, and that other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. [5] And when he stooped down, he saw the linen cloths lying; but yet he went not in. 
[6] Then cometh Simon Peter, following him, and went into the sepulchre, and saw the linen cloths lying, [7] And the napkin that had been about his head, not lying with the linen cloths, but apart, wrapped up into one place. [8] Then that other disciple also went in, who came first to the sepulchre: and he saw, and believed. [9] For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. [10] The disciples therefore departed again to their home. 
[11] But Mary stood at the sepulchre without, weeping. Now as she was weeping, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, [12] And she saw two angels in white, sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been laid. [13] They say to her: Woman, why weepest thou? She saith to them: Because they have taken away my Lord; and I know not where they have laid him. [14] When she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing; and she knew not that it was Jesus. [15] Jesus saith to her: Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, thinking it was the gardener, saith to him: Sir, if thou hast taken him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. 
[16] Jesus saith to her: Mary. She turning, saith to him: Rabboni (which is to say, Master). [17] Jesus saith to her: Do not touch me, for I am not yet ascended to my Father. But go to my brethren, and say to them: I ascend to my Father and to your Father, to my God and your God. [18] Mary Magdalen cometh, and telleth the disciples: I have seen the Lord, and these things he said to me.


Praised be Jesus Christ!

Now and forever. Amen.

Tomorrow is the first day of Advent, the first day of the Church's Liturgical Year. So, Happy New Year!

I didn't plan this, but I see this post as particularly fitting at this time. Sure, it also would have made sense to have started this 20 Mysteries reflection series at this time as well, as the Joyful Mysteries begin with the Conception and Birth of Our Lord, but this first Glorious Mystery, the Resurrection, follows and end, and begins a new beginning.

The First Day

All four Gospels begin the Resurrection story, following Jesus' death and burial, by noting that this event occurs on "the first day of the week".

It is interesting to note that, if you count it out, Jesus was only dead for a little over a day and a half (He died at 3pm Friday and resurrected before sunrise--6pm--on Sunday... approximately 39 hours), and not three full days. You sometimes hear objections about this from skeptics, who say that Jesus prophesied He would be dead for three days before rising again, but clearly He wasn't.

This doesn't really represent a problem though, as it's a matter of interpretation. Jesus' death did span across three days: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday--even if He wasn't dead for all of the three days. This is really just a side note, though.

The meaning of the First Day as it relates to this event needs to be reflected upon. It was the understanding of the Jews that observance of the Third Commandment--Remember to keep Holy the Sabbath day--is a manner in which one imitated God. In the work of creation, God worked for six days, and rested on the seventh. So, to be like God, the Jews observed this command fastidiously, working for six days, and resting on the Sabbath, and keeping it a holy day.

Again, we observe in Jesus' death, who is God, a rest on the Sabbath day. Jesus died on Friday, uttering "it is finished," His work, the work of the Old Covenant, was complete. Then He rested for the whole of the Sabbath day, and on the First Day, He rose from the dead to begin the work of the New Covenant.

But the First Day has special significance to us Christians, as this is the day that we hold the ritual observance of the Sabbath, and not on Saturday. Seventh Day Adventists are particularly critical of this practice, as they see it as a departure from obeying the Third Commandment. However, it is precisely because Jesus rose on Sunday that we practice the Sabbath on Sunday, and there is a very good reason for this, stemming from Jewish Tradition.

Saturday was not the only day that Jews observed the Sabbath. In fact, there are several holy days and feasts throughout the year that are to be observed as sabbaths. One such Feast is the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:34-43). During this feast the "first day and the eighth" (Sunday) are kept as Sabbaths.

But what is the Feast of Tabernacles? It has a double-meaning. It's practical significance was that it marks the end of the agricultural year, when the harvest is completed, thus it is also called the Feast of Ingathering. It's more religious significance is that it is a ritual commemoration of the Exodus, or God's freeing of the Israelites from Egyptian oppression.

Jesus' death and resurrection mark the new exodus: God's work in freeing His children from the oppression of sin and death. Each time we celebrate the Mass, it is a ritual commemoration of Jesus' death and resurrection, which He commanded at the Last Supper ("do this in memory of me"). Thus, each Mass is effectively a "Feast of Tabernacles" unto itself, as it commemorates this new exodus.

Every Sabbath, in Jewish practice, is accompanied by two ritual acts (so... not just days of rest, but holy days): the reading of Scripture at a Synagogue and the breaking and sharing of bread among families. Each Mass is exactly this, which is why Mass is obligatory on Sundays, as it fulfills our obligation under the Third Commandment to "keep holy the Sabbath day".

Jesus, Himself, completes these two ritual acts during the day of His resurrection. To the disciples who were on the road to Emmaus, Jesus "beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded to them in all the scriptures, the things that were concerning him." (Luke 24:27), and then again, when they arrived at Emmaus, Jesus went in with them, and "it came to pass, whilst he was at table with them, he took bread, and blessed, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him: and he vanished out of their sight." (Luke 24:30-31).

The First Day indeed is an important day for us as Christians. The first day, Jesus resurrected from death to marking the beginning of the New Covenant. It is also our day of worship and rest, in imitation of Our Lord, who performed the ritual acts of the Sabbath on the day of His resurrection; a commemoration of the work He did for us to free us from sin and death.

Why seek you the living with the dead?

This is the question posed to Mary Magdalene and the other women at the tomb by the angel as an indication that Jesus had risen from the dead. But it's an important question for us to ponder. It reveals to us the character of God, as a God of life, as well as the hope we hold in Jesus that He has conquered death and will bring life to us.

Remember when the Sadducees tried to trap Jesus by asking Him about the woman who married seven brothers, and whose wife she would be at the resurrection (and they asked Him this because they didn't believe in the resurrection, and wanted to show the absurdity of it), and Jesus responded to their real dispute (the resurrection) by pointing out that God said of Himself, "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob[...] He is not the God of the dead, but of the living" (Matthew 22:32)? Well it's true! God is the God of the living. He is referred to as "the living God" many times throughout the Old Testament, and throughout the Psalms and Ezekiel the blessed dead are said to reside in "the land of the living."

In Matthew 16:16, Simon Peter professes that Jesus is "Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus is the living one. Thus, the Angel's admonition to Mary and the women is important. Why do you seek the living one among the dead? It is not merely a profession of Jesus' resurrection. It is also a profession of Jesus' true being: that He is the living God. In her heart, Mary Magdalene still did not understand or believe that this is who Jesus is. We see this confirmed in John's Gospel, which I will look at next.

Jesus is the living one. We are the dead. Yet, through Him, we may enter the land of the living, as the Old Testament saints did through their faith and obedience to God and His Law. May we receive this life that He offers us. Adam's sin brought about death. Jesus' love brings about our life.

Do not touch me.

This is a confounding scripture for many. It seems harsh, and it's difficult to understand in light of the reason for it: "I have not yet ascended to my Father." It is especially strange when we see in other passages that Jesus allows other people to touch Him (Thomas, who touches his wounds, for example). So, what is this really about?

Let us examine the context of this as a frame of reference. At the beginning of the chapter, Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb and sees that it is open and empty. She runs and tells Peter that someone has taken Jesus' body. She does not believe He is risen. As Peter and John went to examine the tomb, and after they left, she remained outside of it, weeping. She then sees two angels in the tomb, who ask her why she is weeping. Again, she reiterates that someone has taken Jesus' body and she doesn't know where they've taken it. She still does not believe.

Then she sees Jesus, but does not recognize Him. I think this is the key passage. She does not recognize Him. She asks where He has taken Jesus' body, so she may take it away.

Then Jesus says her name, "Mary", and in that way, she realizes that He's Jesus! The way He said her name, suggests an intimacy, that by that way, she is able to recognize who is speaking. But she still doesn't recognize Him for who He really is. She responds "Rabboni", which means master, or teacher.

This is when Jesus tells her not to touch Him. He says, "for I am not yet ascended to my Father. But go to my brethren, and say to them: I ascend to my Father and to your Father, to my God and your God." He follows His rebuff to her with instructions, which must relate to why she must not touch Him. He tells her to go to the disciples and say to them "I ascend to my Father and to your Father." He does not say "Our Father", which is to distinguish that God's Fatherhood to Jesus was distinct and different to God's Fatherhood to them. He says to say to them "I ascend to[...] to my God and your God". He does not say "Our God", which is again to distinguish that the relationship is distinct and different. The Father is His God insofar as Jesus is also a man, but unlike us, Jesus does not require a mediator between Himself and God, while we do.

Jesus instructs Mary to relay this message to the disciples so that she may come to understand who He is. He is not merely a teacher, or spiritual master. He is not merely a Rabbi, a man. He is God, and He must go to His Father in heaven.

Therefore, she ought not to cling to Him, to hold on to Him, to desire Him to stay there, with her, as a man and teacher. Rather, she ought to recognize Him for who He is, to allow Him to depart to the Father, that He may come to her in the manner of His choosing; through Eucharist and prayer and Sacrament, as the God-man.

Notice, in Matthew 28:9, "And behold Jesus met them, saying: All hail. But they came up and took hold of his feet, and adored him." Here, there is no rebuff. They took hold of His feet, and He permitted it. Why? Because they bowed down and adored Him. They behaved toward Him as He is, as God.

So let us rejoice in Jesus' resurrection. Let us recognize this as the proof for our Hope in the living God, our Lord Jesus, who came to earth to live and teach and die and rise again, that we also may rise again to new and everlasting life. Let us thank Him for the work He has done for us to bring us out of the land of the dead, out of sin and misery, into the land of the living, into life and love.

Praise Him, our God!

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