My husband’s family threw me a surprise birthday party one year. Just so you understand, when we talk husband’s family, we’re talking multitudes. He’s from a family of twelve children, many of whom have married and had a number of children themselves. It’s a crowd.
The surprise party was staged outdoors, and the game plan was for my husband to casually stroll up to the area and they’d all shout “Surprise!” As we were approaching, I noticed a bunch of people around the picnic tables, but thought nothing of it. I noticed some of them looking our way, but figured they were curious about who we were. As we got closer, I recognized some of the faces, and they were smiling at me. A few steps more and then, “SURPRISE!”
I screamed, jumped behind a nearby bush, and hid there.
I’m not sure who was more surprised – me, my husband, or his family.
It took me a couple of minutes to get a grip, and then my husband gently coaxed me out of the bush. Embarrassed, I timidly approached my surprise-ers, and managed a smile. Despite the unusual start, it turned out to be a wonderful birthday party. Definitely an unforgettable experience!
I think about that party whenever the Easter Season rolls around because it gets me wondering how I would have reacted if I’d been the one to discover the empty Tomb instead of Mary Magdalen.
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)
Seeing the stone rolled back probably would have shocked me, but more out of curiosity than fear, I suppose. But seeing Jesus’ Body gone and someone else just sitting there? I think I might have been looking for a bush to jump into!
In many ways, every holy Mass is an Empty Tomb experience. At the Last Supper, Jesus instructed his disciples to proclaim his Death and Resurrection with the Eucharist. And so we pray in the Memorial Acclamation at each Mass:
When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup,
we proclaim your Death, O Lord,
until you come again.
The Tomb is empty. Our Lord suffered, died, was buried, and rose on the third day. He conquered death and sin, and opened the gateway of heaven for all. At every Mass we see that the stone has been rolled away and the Body of our Lord has been transformed.
How will we react when we discover the Empty Tomb?
Image: Wikimedia Commons