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Matthew 28: 1-10 — Surprised by Joy

p bl 01 1Rose Datoc Dall, USA, “Why weepest thou”

Two women among those who had shared the ministry of Jesus, the same ones who had been under the cross and gone to his place of burial, they now come to visit the tomb, not to perform any ritual, but probably just motivated by their desire to remain close to the Master, even after his death.

p bl 01 2Rose Datoc Dall, USA, “First News (of the Resurrection)”The Gospel of Matthew gives ample space to the role of Jewish authorities who, remembering the words of Jesus in which he announced his resurrection “on the third day” (Mt 16,21; 17,23; 20,19), decide to place some guards to watch over his tomb for three days.  It is very likely that also these women would have remembered this announcement and had gone to the tomb hoping to see if something would happen.
And there is the irruption of the Divine in history: something that upsets, splits and frightens given its force and power, something unpredictable and unexpected as an earthquake and the apparition of an angel can be.
The earthquake is in fact accompanied by the descent of an angel from heaven: a figure that in the Gospel of Matthew always appears to bring a message from God.  And this messenger opens the tomb by releasing and rolling back the sealed stone, and sits atop so as to indicate the power of God’s victory over death.
It is only thanks to the words uttered by this heavenly creature that these women can understand what had really happened: the tomb is empty because the Lord is risen, not because someone has stolen his body.
This manifestation of God has a contrasting result: the guards are scared and remain as if dead, they are the paradigm of disbelief because they do not accept the facts in their true meaning and resort to a lie so as to justify themselves.
The angel invites the women not to be afraid, announces to them the resurrection of Jesus and sends them as apostles to the Apostles.
There seems to be an inconsistency there because in these women’s hearts there is a simultaneous incidence of fear and joy.  But their joy is overwhelming and they “run” to bring this announcement to the Disciples.
Unlike the Gospel of Mark, in Matthew the women promptly welcome the news, believing and obeying the word they hear as an announcement for themselves and a mandate toward the others.
But then the story continues to be surprising: Jesus himself appears to them while they set out on the road, not only as a true confirmation of the angel’s words, but above all to provide an encounter and a very personal contact as the first witnesses to his resurrection.
This way, they are not simply the heralds of such news, but witnesses of an encounter, of a personal, living experience that changed their lives.
It is comforting to notice that it is Jesus who takes the initiative: it is He who is going to meet them, as they seek to get closer to him by grabbing his feet and prostrating before Him.
A prompt and warm reaction, filled with affection and reverence.  In this, they appear as his true disciples, because they are capable of a faith that is both a recognition and an impulse.
By choosing to show himself to the women and by entrusting to them the announcement of his  resurrection, the Lord Jesus challenges the custom and tradition of that time, taking the risk that this testimony could be rejected as unreliable.  On the other hand He openly confers to the women a public Diaconate in the emerging Church, which is bought forth thanks to the announcement of his resurrection.
God baffles us for the scandalous choices He makes.  And He continues to make an alliance with women and asks even today for the collaboration of women who know how to seek him, wait for him and recognize him.

Questions for reflection


Who are the “angels” in the “earthquakes” of MY life who announce to me God’s good news and ask me to share my belief in SEEING Jesus?  And do I help others to SEE Jesus?  How?


Are we as a Congregation really getting closer to Jesus in “affection and reverence” when He comes to us and changes the customs and traditions of our past times and asks us to take the risk of seeking Him in the new emerging Church?  How?


p bl 01 3Julia Stankova, Bulgaria, “The Empty Tomb”Who are the “angels” in the “earthquakes” of my life who announce to me God’s good news and ask me to share my belief in seeing Jesus?
I have come to believe deeply in the individual angels in my life who come to me in human skin. Some of these appear at challenging times, such as a nurse whose gentle approach makes chemotherapy more bearable and the side-effects more manageable. Or a doctor who takes the time to break down scans and other tests and with a smile announces that these are negative. Their presence and news shine a bright light on the face of Jesus in my life. My angels accompany me to the empty tombs in my life and give my spirit the life-giving energy to believe anew in Jesus and to share that belief-energy with others.
How do I help others to see Jesus? In helping others recognize healing, in experiences that may seem to be coincidences and in being aware of protection from accidents.
Are we as a Congregation really getting closer to Jesus in “affection and reverence” when He comes to us and changes the customs and traditions of our past times and asks us to take the risk of seeking Him in the new emerging Church?
I find myself praying with changes that occur in the ways we view our SFP history and customs.  When I come to know and appreciate the value of our customs and traditions, I am grateful and reverently let go of what no longer appears to have value.  I think a loss for me/us is when we discard without adequate reflection “affection and reverence.”
The new emerging Church risk taking and some hopeful signs are:

  • Solidarity in our presence among and for the poor
  • Potential for equality of roles and services in Church and all aspects of society
  • Working toward wholeness within ourselves and allowing others to become WHOLE
  • Being more aware of the beauty of Mother Earth and asking for a new dawn in awareness of our responsibility to nurture and heal Mother Earth
  • Promoting a culture of hope, joy, and life

Sr. Mary Veronica Donohue

On a beautiful fall afternoon five women gathered in their Upper Room to call upon the Spirit to bless and guide them as they broke bread and shared their journey. Sr. Michela’s “Surprised by Joy” reflection was the catalyst for their pondering. We recalled with fondness and joy the women who have been “angels” for us as well as recognizing that we too have been “angels” for many on our journey. We affirmed the gift that each is to our broken and wounded world. As daughters of Mother Frances, we seek daily to be aware of our call to follow Jesus and to live the Gospel.
p bl 01 4Susanna Katherine, USA, “Praise HIM”In so far as we are willing to seek Jesus, wait for Jesus, recognize Jesus, and then to pronounce the Good News, we, like Gertrude, become angels for each other. Jesus comes in our Sisters, in our leadership, in people who are poor and needy to challenge me/us in unique, daily ways. Sometimes we respond by presence, sometimes by action, sometimes by words. Pope Francis leads by his example as well as by his words! He is a prayerful, humble man of God leading the Church response.
No matter what customs, traditions, or politics of the day we struggle with, the Gospel never changes; Jesus never changes, he is always there; the spirit and mission of the Congregation is still the same: to heal the wounds of Christ in the poor and suffering. It is up to us to stay focused on these timeless truths; to become quiet enough to listen to the Spirit speaking to us in the silence of our hearts, then to follow her lead. God’s love is poured forth into our hearts not to be kept for ourselves because God’s love cannot be contained. Our task is to release the love of God for the good of all.
 May you be “surprised by joy” during your Advent journey. Keep your eyes open for the angels all around you!


 Srs. Dorothy Ann Bolser, June Casterton, Mary Jacinta Doyle, and Marie Clement Edrich, and Associate Karen Skillman

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Published: December, 1, 2015