In just a few days the whole Church marks the sacred days of Holy Week and will celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. These are the most important days in the Church year and they do take on a different rhythm from the rest of the year. What do you notice during each of the Holy Week liturgies? What is God saying to you as one day passes to the next until Easter Sunday? It is still a time to connect the dots between the readings and ceremonies of the elaborate Liturgies and our lives but it may take extra effort to focus. There are crowds to navigate in church, the excitement of a big holiday, preparations to make at home for company coming, and shopping. Keep in mind that Easter doesn’t end with the first chocolate bunny unwrapped or the last Peep eaten. Easter is a longer season than Lent with plenty to celebrate!
We continue to become more familiar with Ignatian spirituality at Notre Dame and during the “Lent, Lunch and Loyola” series for the faculty and staff we spent some time (lunchtimes) with how some themes in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius dovetailed with where we are liturgically. Now it’s almost Easter and we find St. Ignatius bringing us into an episode that he was convinced would have taken place.
St. Ignatius suggests imagining a scene that doesn’t appear in the gospels. It gives us a window into a tender spot in the heart of St. Ignatius and an opportunity to spend some time with Mary and Jesus after Jesus rose from the tomb.
Consider how devastated Mary must have been as she watched Jesus experience such an agonizing death and knowing that her son whom she loved so much was dead. She was well aware that for a Jew of their time the belief was that to be crucified was a clear sign that God was rejecting this person and therefore the Jews in effect “excommunicated” the crucified one. What was worse? Being killed like this or being ostracized completely from your community of believers?
The other women who stayed with Jesus as he breathed his last surely tried to comfort Mary and John was trying to be a good son for her now. But, Saturday must have been endless and a real test of her own faith in God who had never abandoned her even when she couldn’t understand what was being asked of her. Her mind must have been numb with grief but she must have also had deep concerns about the future of Jesus’ disciples and her own future. It must all have seemed like the worst nightmare imaginable. Yet, she had always been faithful to the God she knew as loving. How could it end this way? There must be something else but, what . . .?
Ignatius was convinced that the Risen Jesus would have visited his mother first. He would have to be very gentle when she first sees him so she isn’t frightened. He was the same but, different – transformed as God would transform him from death into life. He wanted his mother to see him, alive and in glory and he knew she would rejoice with him. She would share his joy – this was just what he wanted for all of his friends, disciples and us. He was not disappointed! She couldn’t contain her joy and didn’t want him to leave either. Can you picture them eating breakfast and Jesus assuring her that he would see her again? She felt so relieved that God did have a glorious ending/beginning for her beloved Jesus.
Can you put yourself in the scene? Are you the neighbor just passing Mary’s window who hears the voice of Jesus? Are you Mary’s best friend listening to her later as she describes what happened so early in the morning? Are you one of the women who were followers of Jesus who came to check on her when they thought she might be waking up? How does she look? What does the kitchen look like? Is she still at the kitchen table? What did Mary say? What did you say?
Can you feel the joy that Jesus knows now and that he has shared with his mother? Can you be deeply grateful to God that the Risen Jesus is as present to you as he was to Mary, Mary Magdalen, the disciples on their way to Emmaus and the apostles? This is the season of joy – open your heart to it and give thanks to God who never stops loving us.
Sr. Mary Dolan, SU