Journey Toward Holiness
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I always giggle inwardly when I hear this Easter Gospel, about how Mary Magdalene finds an empty tomb on Easter morning. Once about ten years ago, at The Holy Name of Jesus Parish where I was Pastoral Coordinator, because of the crowds we celebrated our Easter Masses at the larger University of Redlands Chapel. At communion time the Lamb of God was intoned by the choir, and several Eucharistic ministers climbed the steps to the altar on the stage. They brought the consecrated hosts down to floor level in order to fill a dozen communion dishes. Next it was time for the celebrant, Father Jorge Garcia, to say “Behold the Lamb of God.” Instead there was a pregnant pause. Then a deadpan Fr. Jorge threw out his hands and paraphrased Mary Magdalene: “They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they put Him!” Fifteen hundred people belly laughed as a Eucharistic minister retrieved the presider host from one of the ciboria and rushed it back up to the altar.

The mystery of the empty tomb: it was a mystery to the people of Jesus’ day, including the apostles and friends and family of Jesus. Almost immediately, rumors started (perhaps originating from the Romans) that the body had been stolen or misplaced, or that resurrection was a rumor started by silly emotional women. So belief in resurrection easily could have been buried.

But then there were the apostles and the many disciples. Over the next few weeks we will be listening to scriptures about their encounters with the post-crucifixion Jesus. We notice that in many of these encounters, they both don’t recognize Jesus and they do. The body they encounter is a strange one. It appears suddenly, comes through a locked door to the upper room, walks along with disciples for a couple hours before they “get it.” This is a new Jesus they encounter, but also a Jesus these witnesses can recognize because it matches how they experienced Jesus before his death. This is still the Jesus who feeds them fish (on a seashore), who breaks bread for them, who continues opening their eyes to new understandings, who continues to call them to their mission. Although their minds cannot understand, these post crucifixion appearances touch them at a deeper level than mind alone. It touches them at the soul level, where faith lives. These witnesses we listen to in our Easter season readings are testifying that something had happened to Jesus, that he is more than he was, that he is the Risen One, the Lord.

The late Bishop Ken Untener says that when Christ rose from the dead, he still had his human body with him, even if it was experienced as different. He says the tomb had to be empty because the Risen One still needed his body. Why? Because the risen Jesus intended to stay one with us in time and space, as part of our humanity and Lord of his family of believers. The incarnation of God in Jesus of Nazareth continues in the Risen Christ. The Lord is not gone but is still present with us, in the whole Christ as the Church says, body and soul, humanity and divinity.

That was the beautiful ending of that funny Easter Mass. For the next twenty minutes, fifteen hundred people moved slowly through the communion lines, and they did know “where they put him.” The Lord had been found and was at that moment joining all of us together in one body, just as He has been doing through Eucharist since that very first Easter.

Sister Mary Garascia, PhD (Theology), is a member of the Sisters of the Precious Blood of Dayton, Ohio, where she now resides. For several years she lived and ministered at The Holy Name of Jesus in Redlands. You can follow her weekly Sunday scripture blogs at