“When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” (Mark 16:1-8)
Mary Magdalene and the other women bought their aromas and headed towards the tomb of Jesus. They had a mission, a purpose. But there was a lot of uncertainty. How were they going to roll away the stone? The biblical passage tells us that the stone was very large. Impossible for these pious women to remove the stone. However, in the midst of their doubts and uncertainty, they armed themselves with faith and courage and threw themselves into the unknown without knowing what their fate would be. They carried their spices to embalm the Lord’s body even when they were not sure if they would be able to access it.
Many times in life we are like these women. We have doubts, there is a lot of uncertainty, we do not know what awaits us on the other side of the road. We do not know what kind of stones await us. We all have similar moments in our journey of faith. We all run into certain stones along the road, some bigger than others. These stones can present themselves as problems in our family, financial burdens, perhaps an illness, depression, etc. These stones look so big sometimes that they prevent us from approaching the Lord. But just as these women we must also carry our aromas -the aromas of faith, hope, and love- and take that leap of faith and throw ourselves into the unknown. Why? Because as we heard in the Sacred Scriptures, the stone had already been removed, even though it was very large!
Is there a stone or problem too big for our God? Of course not! With Christ, it is possible to fill ourselves with the aroma of joy and faith even when our problems seem too great for us to handle. I am not referring to a faith full of magic and superstition. I speak of a faith that is rooted in the power of the Resurrection of Jesus. The Resurrection of Jesus among other things is the anticipation of what awaits us on Judgment Day. If we learn to completely trust in our Loving Father and depend on him as a baby depends on his parents, then we can look at how all the stones have already been rolled away.
The greatest stones of humanity were those of sin, death and our separation from God. The Good News is that Christ has already overcome and removed these stones! It’s true that many times it doesn’t seem like it. Sometimes it seems that Jesus has fallen asleep just like he did in the middle of the storm that lashed against the boat. But just like he did on that occasion he is not going to let the storms of life sink us either. Of course, we must continue to trust in him.
How is it possible that the stones of our lives have been rolled away when we can still feel their weight on our shoulders?How can we see this? We can only see this by “looking up” to Heaven and with God’s gaze from eternity. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. God exists outside of time. He is there from the beginning of creation, continues to act and renew it and is also there in the finish line. In Heaven, there will be no more stones. There will be no more sadness or death. We must decide to trust that at the end of our pilgrimage on earth we will all be rejoicing in his presence for all eternity. These stones are temporary. With his death and resurrection, Jesus has already removed them.
“Do not be afraid.”
This is one of the most repeated phrases in the Bible. God loves us so much that he knows that there is no reason for us to be afraid. At the same time, he knows that we are weak human beings. Even though these holy women learned about the resurrection of Jesus, they were filled with fear. God does not expect us to be perfect in our trust and in our desire to serve him. It only takes faith as big as a mustard seed. The Lord will do the rest. Of course, we have to make an effort and ask him to help us to be mature disciples, but at the same time, we have to recognize that holiness does not mean perfection. We are all sinners and we all have the opportunity to achieve holiness. As St. Josemaría Escrivá once said: “a saint is a sinner who keeps trying.” We need his grace, the sacraments, and prayer. We also need the support of our community. Just as the women supported each other, we also need others to share our faith, our hope, and our fears.
Mary Magdalene, the other Mary, and Salome didn’t stay home that Sunday morning lamenting what just had happened in their lives. These negative experiences could’ve made them choose to stay home. Instead, they got up and on their way to encounter the Lord. Many Catholics have been very discouraged lately due to all the recent Church scandals or because of other personal negative experiences. A great portion of baptized members finds Mass stale and boring, sort of like going to a grave. Yet in the Sacrifice of the Mass, we encounter the Risen Jesus who gives of his very self to us because he loves us and wishes to be intimately united to us. I encourage all Catholics to make that sometimes difficult decision to run to the encounter of the Risen Jesus every Sunday even if the aroma of our faith has lost its spice.
Mary Magdalene became the “apostle to the apostles” (apostolorum apostola) even though she had doubts and fears.
What an honor for this courageous woman! None of the male followers of Jesus had the privilege to be the first witness of his resurrection. All of us, women and men, are called to extraordinary things regardless of our weaknesses and character defects. These extraordinary things often present themselves in very small and ordinary ways but to God, they are very important. The key is to take that step into the unknown. How many times have we held ourselves or others back because of the fear of failure and disappointment? Sure, in life we will have fear and disappointments and there are times when prudence should be our master. But there are other times when we must take risks and leaps of faith in order to achieve our goals, our dreams and our missions. The good news is that even if we err in that decision, Jesus waits for us there and He will not let us fall. He loves us and desires nothing more than to spend eternity with us in Heaven.
Image: The Resurrection by Annibale Carracci