“He saw and believed.”
Why is the Blessed Virgin Mary conspicuously absent in all the Gospel narratives of the Resurrection even though she is the one who is must intimately connected to the body of Jesus? He was conceived in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit and she bore Him in her womb for nine months. She gave birth to Him in a manger, lived with Him for thirty years in Nazareth, journeyed with Him to Calvary, witnessed His brutal death and received His dead body for burial. Why isn’t she among the women and disciples who go in search for the dead body of Jesus?
The answer is simple: She believed in her son’s bodily resurrection, and she does so based on His divine person and the words that He spoke to her. She does not go into a frantic search for her son’s dead body but, having done all that she should by acting on His words and promises, she patiently waited in confident faith of her son’s resurrection in fulfillment of His promises to her.
Mary believed the words of the Angel at the Annunciation about her son’s eternal reign, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High…and of His kingdom there will be no end.”(Lk 1:32,33) She believed the divine words of promise as Elizabeth attested, “Blessed is she who believed that was spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”(Lk 1:45) Jesus Himself affirmed her for her invincible faith, “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, sister and mother.”(Mk 12:50) She listened attentively as God spoke directly and indirectly to her through persons and events, “She treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.”(Lk 2:19) That is how she cultivated that invincible faith that St. Paul tells us only comes from hearing God’s words, “Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ.”(Rom 10:17)
The beloved disciple saw many things before he believed in Jesus’ resurrection. It is only after seeing an empty tomb and burial clothes that “he saw and believed.” Mama Mary does not need to see an empty tomb or burial clothes as evidence of Jesus’ resurrection. She does not need to see angels or hear them tell her that her crucified son is alive again. And she definitely does not need to hear from the other women that her son is risen from the grave. No person or life experience could separate God’s words from her heart because she lovingly acted on this word as she waited patiently for God to fulfill His promises to her and to all humanity, especially His promise to rise from the grave after dying on Calvary.
Our risen Savior Jesus Christ invites and challenges us to enter into a unique beatitude by believing in His resurrection based on His words to us and not based on what we see or experience. He called us to this beatitude when He said to Thomas after His resurrection, “Blessed are those who have not seen yet believe.”(Jn 20:29) We glorify Him more by believing in Him, His resurrection, and presence with us based on His words alone.
There are so many things that we believe exist today that we have never seen or may never see. Believing these things also affect the way that we live. For example, how many of us have ever seen a COVID-19 virus? What does it look or feel like? How is it constituted? We have no idea but we believe that it is real and present. That believe moves us to take all necessary precautions to avoid contagion and spreading this disease. We willingly obey lockdowns, quarantines, and all sorts of things because of this belief.
But why it is that when it comes to God’s words and His promises to us, we begin to doubt and question His words to us based on what we see or do not see, what we experience or do not experience? In raising Jesus from the dead, God has fulfilled all His promises to us, “What God promised to the fathers, this He has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus from the dead.”(Acts 13:32-33) By the resurrection of Jesus, God has proven Himself and His words to us to be true and reliable beyond doubt. As Easter people, the resurrection of Jesus demands that we must now listen to His words with complete trust and confidence and not judge His words and promises based on our past or present experiences in life. We cultivate that Easter faith that Jesus is alive and risen from the grave by listening to His words and acting on them with full confidence that He will surely keep His promises to us.
Mary Magdalene sits at the tomb in a graveyard weeping. The disciples are all gone and she feels all alone and distraught because the man whom she trusted and followed all these years is now dead and she cannot even find his dead body. She has seen the stone moved away from the tomb and she has spoken to the disciples and expressed the worst possible scenario she could think about, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we do not know where they have put Him.” She has unknowingly spoken and replied to angels in the same words. Nothing she heard or experienced brought her to believe in the resurrection until Jesus spoke her name, “Mary.” She came to faith and received her own commission, “Go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father.”(Jn 20:17)
Who among us will not freak out if we heard someone calling our names when we are all alone in a graveyard? But our faith in the risen Christ is enkindled when that voice is that of Jesus. The risen Christ is alive and speaking to us, calling us by name always and in all conditions and places, even in the graveyard! He wants to commission us to others too.
Hasn’t the Covid-19 virus rendered our lives and our world like a graveyard? We feel so isolated and disconnected from others because of social distancing. We are hearing and experiencing so many things in our world through the mass media that it is hard for us to sense the presence of the risen Christ. We try to avoid the inner silence by our non-stop conversation with everyone else about things that we feel helpless about. We rehash the worst case scenarios that can happen to us and share them with others.
But how much time do we have to commune with the God who is alive and who dwells within us? How sincerely do we listen to His words in scripture and in prayer? How firmly do we hold on to His promises to us? How are we responding to the risen Christ’s gentle voice calling each of us by name and inviting us to deep intimacy with Him? We used to excuse ourselves from deep prayer life by claiming that we did not have the time. Now that we have more than ample time in our lockdowns, how many of us are spending quality time with Christ in prayer? Are we not still busy speaking to everyone else but Jesus that we are losing our faith in His living presence with us? Are we still in touch with the mission that He has in store for us even in these moments?
Mama Mary shows us the right way to respond in times like ours with her own Easter faith: Listen and act on God’s words with faith and then wait on Him to fulfill His promises. We want to learn from her how to ponder every single thing, person and events in our hearts until we hear the voice of God beneath all the noise inside and outside of us. We want to learn from her how to act on His words in loving obedience. We want to learn from her how to wait on Him to fulfill His promises to us.
Jesus is with us, even if we may feel like we are all alone in a graveyard. He is watching us as we appear fixated on an empty tomb with our minds filled with the bleakest possible scenarios we can imagine. He also wants to recommission us with the hope of the Gospel to others.
United with and molded into Mary’s heart of faith, we too can hear His voice calling us to a true live-giving communion with Him who is truly risen from the grave and alive. It is this communion with our resurrected Lord that unfailingly gives rise to us being on hope-filled mission for Him in our world today, even when it feels like we are in a graveyard.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!