Sunday, April 16, 2017

Monday in the Octave of Easter

“Noli Me Tangere” by Franciabigio, 1520-25
Reading 1: Acts 2:14, 22-33
Commentary on Acts 2:14, 22-33
This is the first of the six professions (“kerygma” or proclamations) in Acts about the resurrection set immediately following the Pentecost event. In this proclamation, Peter, speaking to the Jews in Jerusalem (many of whom would have been in the crowd that saw Jesus crucified), first tells them that: “This man (Jesus)” demonstrated, through “signs and wonders,” that he was the Christ. He then makes the accusation: “you killed,” and concludes with, “but God raised him up.” He reminds them that David had been promised an eternal dynasty (quoting Psalm 16:8-11), and  that promise had been fulfilled in the resurrected Messiah, Jesus.
CCC: Acts 2:22 547; Acts 2:23 597, 599
R. (1) Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
R. Alleluia.
Psalm 16 is a song of thanksgiving that has become prophetic. It speaks clearly of the resurrection accomplished now in Christ. It is one of trust in God. Each strophe ends with an affirmation of faithfulness. Key in the context of the Easter season is the idea of trust in God who has conquered death and offers the same gift. ("Because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world, nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.") The psalmist prays that God will shield the faithful from harm, and expresses confidence in the Lord’s salvation, closing the passage with praise for God’s loving mercy.
CCC: Ps 16:9-10 627
Gospel: Matthew 28:8-15
Commentary on Mt 28:8-15
From Matthew’s Gospel we are told of Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the risen Christ as she returned from the empty tomb. In this account, Mary is described as actually touching him. This differs from the description in the Gospel of St. John (John 20:17), where Jesus asks Mary not to hold on to him because he has not yet ascended to the Father. This scripture also tells us something we would expect of those who did not want to believe, that is the rumor that it was the disciples of Jesus who took the body rather than letting the truth get out. What was not disputed was that the tomb was empty.
CCC: Mt 28:9-10 641; Mt 28:9 645; Mt 28:10 654; Mt 28:11-15 640
The Gospel story is dripping with irony.  At the time the events of this story take place, the disciples probably didn’t fully understand what had happened.  Certainly those who first discover the empty tomb are likely to be thinking it was the Romans that came to take the body of Jesus away or perhaps someone hired by the Sanhedrin.  Here, St. Matthew describes the reaction of the Jewish leadership to the empty tomb.  It appears they understood, better than Jesus’ friends, what had taken place in the Resurrection.
The reaction of the Jews is one of dismay.  All of the Law and the Prophets is predicated upon the one who comes from God to establish his kingdom, and now they find that they were the instruments of his death.  Is it any wonder they initiate the biggest cover-up in the history of the world?  But it is not God’s will.  That is where they have gone wrong from the beginning.  They have been trying to have God behave as they wanted, instead of trying to understand what God was telling them through His Son.
Our faith in the truth of the Empty Tomb must caution us not fall into the same trap, only accepting our limited view of what God wants us to do and be.  The resurrection of Christ changes everything.  It changes the meaning of victory.  If victory for the Christian was expressed in human terms; our crucified Savior would seem a defeat.  It changes the meaning of life!  If life was defined simply in physical terms, Christians would be nothing but the dust of death.  Yet Christ shows us his risen body, and life with him moves to the eternal plain.
We see the irony of St. Matthew, and like all great truths, the logic fits impeccably.  But the Sanhedrin is too late. As the old saying goes, “the cat is out of the bag.”  The Lord has risen as he promised, and with that promise fulfilled, we rejoice in the knowledge that all we have come to know about Him is true as well.

[1] The picture today is “Noli Me Tangere” by Franciabigio, 1520-25

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