Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA
Matthew gives us two gospel scenes this evening. Both describe fear. Both describe the nature of truth-telling. And both show us the importance of faithful testimony. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary discover the Lord's empty tomb on Easter morning. “Fearful yet overjoyed” they run back to the disciples to report the good news. The soldiers guarding the now-empty tomb are also fearful. They run back into the city to the chief priests and report the bad news. The two Mary's are “overjoyed” that the Lord is no longer in his grave. The guards are very worried, yet they report “all that had happened.” On their way to report their good news, the Mary's encounter the resurrected Lord. And he says to them, “Do not be afraid.” While the guards are bribed by the chief priests and the elders to lie about what happened to Jesus' body, a story, that Matthew tells us “has circulated among the Jews to the present day.” When we bear witness to the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, our joy must always overcome our fear; otherwise, we will likely take silver to lie for the sake of staying out of trouble.
In Luke's version of the discovery scene, two angels greet the women and say to them, “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised. Remember what he said to you. . .” So, we can imagine both the fear and joy the two Mary's experience upon encountering Jesus. On the one hand, their Lord is missing. On the other, he is risen. And now, here he stands with them, resurrected but not yet ascended. “Do not be afraid” seems to be an understated request! Until you remember what he said to you. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. My yoke is easy, my burden light. I am with you always until the end of the age. Follow me. What is there for us to fear? Whom should we fear? There is nothing and no one to fear, nothing and no one who can silence the witness of the Church, or intimidate us into telling a story for silver. When it comes to our faithful witness to the resurrection of Christ, the Church has but one voice and one word: “Alleluia!” He is risen. He is risen indeed. Sure, there's plenty about which we could be afraid—street violence, crime, secular persecution, mockery, economic disaster, etc. But fearing these will not save us. However, finding and living in the joy of the resurrection will save us. Such joy will bring us to meet Christ along our way.
The guards took the chief priests' silver and told a lie. The Mary's took the word of their Lord and told the truth. Relieved of their fear, the women were left with nothing but their joy. Relieved of their integrity, the guards were left with nothing but their silver. And what are we left with? Two stories. One tells us that the Christ is risen from the tomb. The other tells us that his body was stolen by his followers. One of these stories is false. One of these stories is a paid-for lie told by cowards to give political cover to those who falsely accused Christ and caused his execution. And one of these stories—told again and again—is the founding story of a 2,000 year old faith tradition that has constantly and consistently preached the Good News of God's freely given mercy to sinners. When you bear witness to the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, your joy must always overcome your fear, your greed, your pride; otherwise, you will likely take silver to tell a lie. You might avoid trouble for the moment. But how much more trouble will come when Christ comes again and asks, “Have you been my faithful servant?” Silver in a bag cannot save you. But the wood of the cross most certainly can.______________
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