The silence was deep, as it is just before dawn breaks night’s hold. Jesus, entombed since Friday night, slept the sleep of death. But not for long, because at some moment known only to Him and His Father, Jesus was alive. Whatever happened that made Jesus alive defies logic. Once again, it was only between Him and His Father. No brilliant insight of the learned could explain it. Jesus was not alive, as were Lazarus and the daughter of Jairus, after Jesus raised them from the dead. Jesus, the very Word Made Flesh was alive in a unique, irreversible way.
“Death, that old snakeskin,” someone once wrote, “lies discarded at the garden’s gate.” Jesus discarded the snakeskin, broke the bonds of death for all people for all time. Surely, we would have to go through death, as He had. Just as surely as he was alive, we would be alive with Him, because of Him and through Him.
That morning, if the Gospel writers were to be believed, there was a lot of activity at the tomb: guards awakened to its emptiness, women came ready to anoint the dead body of Jesus, messengers sat in the tomb, giving their news to anyone who came there looking for Jesus. He is not here. He is alive!
Mary Magdalen, bereft, came in the cool of the morning to weep. But the appearance of the one she thought to be the gardener turned her tears into joy! It was Jesus, alive! True she did not recognize Him immediately – not until He spoke her name. If we are open, we recognize Jesus when He speaks our name.
The gospel accounts are silent about that first day, from the new dawning of the Risen Jesus, until evening. In the evening, Jesus would penetrate the locked door and stand in the awed presence of His disciples, save Thomas and Judas. Vulnerable Judas had already hurled himself into the darkness that Jesus would not have chosen for him. Thomas? Where was Thomas? Whatever it was that kept him away, he returned by the next Sunday. Had conviction stirred in him a little later than the others? We don’t know. He may be more like us than the others.
But where was Jesus between morning and evening of that first day? There’s an ancient tradition not substantiated in our official church writings that Jesus went first to His mother – to Mary, the one who bore Him, first held Him, nurtured Him, supported His ministry and most recently held his dead body. We can imagine the joy that tender encounter would have brought them both. But for the remainder of that first afternoon, Jesus was wherever He was. We don’t know. Let’s just let Him be in His divinely human newness.
Reunion, reconciliation, peace-sharing marked Jesus’ meeting that evening with His closest disciples. No recriminations or voiced disappointment on the part of Jesus. There was no room in Jesus’ heart for anything less than full reunion. Love. The depth of what it means to say that God loved the disciples no matter what.
There is so much we don’t know about that First Day of the Week. We do know this: the story of the Risen One has been interwoven with our story. Jesus’ Passion, Death and Resurrection brought us salvation as nothing else could. It is still working in us.
~Sister Joan Sobala