When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go and anoint him. Very early when the sun had risen, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb. They were saying to one another, “Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back; it was very large. On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed. He said to them, “Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him. But go and tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.’” (Mk 16:1-7)
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead. (John 20:3-10)
Christ has died!
Christ has risen!
Christ will come again!
Never do these words become more real than at the Easter Triduum. When the Easter Season has come and gone hopefully, Jesus is still alive in our hearts, all year long. The “Good News” of our faith is that Jesus lives. We do not serve a dead God but one who has risen from the dead. We serve Jesus Christ, the one who is, who was, and who is to come.
I treasure the gift of my Catholic faith. It was the St. Joseph nuns who taught me the truths of my faith. As the seeds of our faith were planted in my soul, the nuns watered them through good example and their love of the Catholic Church. It was not long before vocations were stirring in the hearts of girls and boys in the class. I was among those discerning the call.
The truth is that I felt so sorry for poor dead Jesus on the Cross. I thought to myself, He died for me so the least I could do was live for Him. In my elementary-school brain, I thought that was heroic. In my mind, it was definitely in line with what the saints would do. It wasn’t until later on in life that I came to know the truth: “He lives!” You can only imagine the transformation that took place in my heart from that barely ten-year-old Catholic school girl, who was willing to dedicate her whole life to serving a dead Jesus on the Cross, to embracing my faith as an adult who has dedicated her entire life to serving the living God.
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The “Good News” is that our faith is a living faith. It is ever growing with in our hearts, if we let it. I, like the disciples am always amazed when Jesus opens my eyes to see His Word come alive in my heart. Let us take a look at what I mean. While at Easter Mass one year my husband, Deacon Pat, read the words of the Gospel and a new awakening began to take place in my soul. Let me preface this with the fact that I always close my eyes during the readings. I am a visual person, so closing my eyes serves a two-fold purpose for me. One, I am not distracted by those around me, even if they are wearing cute shoes, or have the most adorable baby who seems to be smiling right at me. Two, I am able to concentrate on what is being read. Being contemplative, I automatically put myself into the story while the words are being read. This time was no different: I closed my eyes to grasp a clear view.
As the words, “Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb.” were read, I recalled the reading from the Stations of the Cross. I related it to the disciples, John and Peter. I, of course, was John. (As one priest said, “Whoever wants to be Peter?”) However, I did not find myself inside of Jesus’ tomb by the end of the gospel, as I expected. Oh, I ran faster than Peter, of course, but when I got to the entrance of the tomb, I deferred to Peter as might be expected of the disciple, John. Instead of going in and finding the tomb empty, I went inside a different tomb, the tomb of my own heart. It was in that quiet contemplative moment that the words, “Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” became living words in my soul. I became well aware of the fact that all of us have stones which block the entrance to our heart, keeping Jesus from coming in. In our humanness, like Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, these stones seem way too large to roll away. They block us from letting the Life of Jesus’ Resurrection come in. These stones bring death to our soul. Our soul cries out along with those women, “Who will remove the stones?”
As I contemplated throughout the week upon this passage, I was brought in my mind’s eye to another scripture passage about stones. I found myself in the crowd as Jesus said these words, “Who will cast the first stone?” Again, “Who” became the main character in the Word of Life: “Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” and “Who will cast the first stone?” This time the stone was not too large that it blocked Jesus from coming in but rather the adulteress’ sin was blocking the entrance to her heart.
Who rolled away the stone? Who stopped the stones from hitting the adulteress? Jesus is the only one who can take the stones away. The heart is a work of God. He does not need our help. He did not need the disciples' help; the stone was rolled away before the disciples even arrived. Many of us have stones way too large for us to roll away by ourselves. Let us run towards Jesus like Peter and John did. Let Him empty the tomb of our heart of sin and death, and flood us with His Resurrection Life.
We all have a choice each day. We can live our life dead in sin, or we can let the love of Jesus in. The stones weigh us down and block the entrance of our hearts so that the love of Jesus and the love of others cannot enter. The stones within keep us from living our lives fully for Him. He lives! Are we living for Him? Let us live in Him, with Him, and through Him. Let us leave no stone unturned by turning them over to Jesus. Only Jesus can remove the stones of sin, disappointment, hurt and pain from our souls.
Do you find yourself crying out, “Who will remove the stones?” The Sacrament of Reconciliation gives us the grace to surrender our stones to Him. There you will meet Him face to face. No stone is ever too large for Him to lift and toss aside with the power of His shed blood. Then He remembers our sins no more. Easter Sunday is at the doorstep of our year; make room in your heart for the resurrection power of Christ to come in. If you empty, He will fill. How empty is the "tomb" of your heart?
Christ has died!
Christ has risen!
Christ will come again!
Copyright 2017 Ellen Mongan
About the Author
Ellen Mongan, a Catholic writer and speaker, has been married more than 40 years to Deacon Pat Mongan. They have 7 children and 12 grandchildren. Ellen is a host of WOW Radio Podcasts, a religious columnist for the Augusta Chronicle, and has spoken on both radio and television. She is the founder of Sisters in Christ, Little Pink Dress Ministry, and Women-Fests.