By Msgr. Joseph P. Calise
Pascal once wrote that “the heart has its reasons which the reason does not know at all” (Le couer a ses raisons que la raison ne connait point).
There are many times in the human experience that the mind alone can neither express nor accept our experiences. That does not mean that our experience is unreasonable or irrational — only that the mind alone is not enough to fully comprehend it. Falling in love, accepting suffering, sacrificing for a stranger are all behaviors that find their motivation not in thought but in feeling, not as an exercise of the mind but of the heart.
There is something odd in today’s Gospel. On this holiest of days, Jesus is absent from the Gospel except in Mary’s announcement that His body was taken from the tomb.
There is no dramatic moment when we see Jesus push away the stone from the tomb and emerge triumphantly resurrected.
Instead, we see subtle references — the moved stone, the cloths cast aside — that let us know something wondrous has happened but needs more than reason to be understood and accepted.
The message of the Gospel comes not from any teaching of Jesus but from the example of the earliest witnesses, Mary, John and Peter.
Mary was the first to arrive at the tomb Sunday morning. The tradition of the time was to visit the place of burial for three days.
After that, since there was no embalming, it was understood that the decay taking place in the body meant the spirit had left.
However, since Christ was crucified on Friday, Mary, an observant Jewess, could not break the Sabbath and visit on Saturday. So, although it was the third day, it was also her first opportunity to go to the tomb.
When she sees that all is not as she expected, she does not enter but runs to Peter and John. They, in turn, make their way to the tomb — John, being younger, gets there first but does not enter.
It is interesting that Mary and John are the first to arrive at the tomb but neither enters. Both of them are known from the Scriptures as being particularly loved by Jesus.
Mary Magdalene was so grateful for all He did for her and for the dignity with which He treated her that she followed Him closely. John felt so loved by Jesus that in his Gospel he never refers to himself by name but as the beloved, the one Jesus loved or the one sitting nearest to Him.
But they share something else in common as well. Rather than enter the tomb, they both concede to Peter. Mary does not enter but runs to tell him first; John runs to the tomb faster, arriving first, buts waits and lets him be the first to go in.
There is no doubt that Peter was recognized as the leader. The others heard Jesus tell him, “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church.”
Even having denied Jesus three times as He predicted at the Last Supper, Peter returned to the others to assume his role of leadership and they accepted him.
He was to be the rock of faith on which the Church would be built. Love may have gotten to the tomb first, but faith entered it first. Yet, Peter did not grasp what had happened. It is John who the Gospel tells us “saw and believed.”
Faith could receive the information but it could only be understood by love.
No one can prove the Resurrection for us. There is no adequate scientific explanation. Yet all we need to make the leap of faith surrounds us — if we are simply willing to listen with our hearts.
Readings for Easter Sunday
Acts 10:34a, 37-430
Msgr. Calise is the pastor of Transfiguration-St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish, Maspeth.