Every time I attend the Easter Vigil, I await with eager anticipation the portion of the Mass when the Litany of the Saints is sung. Reflecting on the lives of these great saints never cease to amaze me; it’s always a hair-raising experience. Here in the Litany are men and women of faith, who through it all, have survived the most difficult of challenges. In this Prayer, one can’t fail to notice the prominence of Mary Magdalene; in her simplicity, she has shown that it doesn’t need something really great to show Jesus how she loved him.
The first sentence of today’s Gospel according to St. John says,
“On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb.” (Jn. 20: 1)
In this narrative, Mary Magdalene showed that her mere presence in the tomb is enough proof of her profound love for Jesus. We also note that she is a very courageous woman; have you imagined yourself going to the graveyard very early in the morning while everyone’s still asleep? Her love was so strong, she has to rise, get dressed, and go to the place where Jesus was buried, while it was still dark. Have you been to the cemetery at night? Isn’t it creepy and eerie? And yet, Mary Magdalene’s deep love for Jesus was above and beyond her fears.
More than her courage, we also reflect on the sadness that must have engulfed her as she walked towards the tomb. Events that have transpired in the past few days happened so fast, culminating in the crucifixion and death of the Lord. So many may have lost hope; how can the Savior suffer a traumatic death? However, Mary Magdalene’s love for Jesus never failed, she was so steadfast. Most probably though, a mix of disbelief, shock, and conflicting emotions may have engulfed her as she arrived and saw Jesus body is gone. Where is Jesus body? She must be crying as she ran to tell the disciples to see for themselves the empty tomb. Peter and “the other disciple whom Jesus loved” ran to the empty tomb as fast as they could, to see what had happened. They examined the empty tomb, the empty burial clothes; Peter may have doubted, but the other disciple “saw and believed”.
During the crucifixion, they have lost all their hope in Jesus, but in this moment, perhaps there was a small ember of hope ignited by the empty tomb. In the midst of all the seeming sadness and hopelessness, something in the empty tomb begin to envelope them with hope, joy, and a newfound lease on their faith in Jesus. “The other disciple” had to open his heart for Jesus to come in and transform his life.
As Easter people, our joy lies in our being hopeful, that there is more to life than all the problems we may have now. To live in faith, hope and love is a decision we have to choose, not a set of emotions that pop up spontaneously. Like Mary Magdalene, we will appreciate the meaning of the resurrection if we ardently follow our Lord in faith, even in the emptiness, even in the darkness of our lives.
“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice in it and be glad.” (Ps. 118: 24)