On that first Easter morning, Mary Magdalene believed that she had lost everything when Jesus died. She stood at the foot of the cross with the mother of Jesus, and John, the beloved disciple, as the dying Jesus entrusted his mother and John to each other. She personally witnessed the brutal death of one that she loved so much. We don’t know why it was that Mary Magdalene went to the tomb alone on Easter Sunday morning. Was it that she and the other women had agreed to meet there? Was it that she wanted to be alone for a while? Did she, perhaps, want to spare Jesus’ mother the agony of seeing her son’s body as she did when He was crucified?
Mary Magdalene’s journey was solitary but also risky. Guards protected the tomb lest any of Jesus’ disciples tried to remove his body. They were rough men; and she was a solitary woman. The soldiers might or might not allow her access. Mary Magdalene was the first witness of the resurrection. Yet her unexpected news was far beyond the imagining of any of the apostles. Peter and John wanted to verify her story for themselves. It was only when they entered the tomb of Jesus that they realized the truth of the resurrection. Mary Magdalene and the apostles soon found that the resurrection of Jesus would transform their own lives, and it changes our lives as well.
At Easter, even while we praise our Lord for the gift of His defeat of the Evil One, we know that there are many battles that lie ahead for us who have chosen to join our alliances to Christ and His Church. Our own personal experience shows us that living the life of Christianity does not mean that we will not struggle. Rather, we can expect to encounter resistance from the world around us and challenges from the “prince of this world,” when we choose to live our lives according to the Gospel. Jesus made this quite clear when He told His disciples: “In the world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). But He doesn’t leave it at that, for He follows this warning up with words of great hope as He tells them: “Take courage, I have conquered the world.”
We, too, are invited to have this same courage when we are confronted with the battles that lie ahead of us, for by His death and Resurrection, which we celebrate today, He has overcome the world and every possible obstacle that could be placed in our way.
In the battles that the people of Israel faced from their enemies, and the struggles that they faced among themselves, God demonstrated time and again that He would continue to fight for them and give them the help that they would need, just as He did when He freed His people from slavery in Egypt, parting the Red Sea and thus providing a way out of their tribulation. Every generation can count on that same promise that, no matter what the trial, God will provide a way to safety. There was never a time in which challenges to the Christian way of life weren’t present. The experience of the early Church, which we hear about in detail during the Easter Season in the Acts of the Apostles, was one of constant trial. It was the memory of the victory won on Easter Sunday that gave them the strength to keep from backing down in the face of what seemed to be impossible odds.
Today, we’re just as much in need of that message of hope as any other time in history. We hear of the shocking news of the killing of people in premeditated attacks, specifically targeted against Christians, in the Middle East and parts of Africa. Such sobering reports leave us with a great sense of dismay and fear.
In addition to the various forms of physical violence against Christians, we have many examples of ways in which our Catholic and Christian values are being attacked in our world through unjust laws and attitudes which chip away at the foundations that had, at one time, been so solidly established. There are the many adversities that we may face in our individual lives, such as sickness or other personal setbacks, which can tempt us to question or even doubt our faith. It can be easy to be pessimistic and without hope in the face of so many trials that confront us, and it is for that reason that we need the Good News of the Resurrection to shake us out of our preoccupation with focusing on the shadow of the Cross in order to see the glory of the empty tomb. The words of St. Augustine, written over 1500 years ago, are every bit as applicable to us today as they were then when he wrote that: “We are an Easter people, and ‘alleluia’ is our song.” We are invited to be that Easter people who are always mindful that Christ has already won the victory for us. Knowing that, we can have the courage to fight our battles, confident that at the end of our journey, we too will share in that victory. HAPPY EASTER!!