After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.” This is my message for you.’ So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’
Holy Saturday is a long empty day in the Christian calendar, when we wait outside the tomb, wondering what will happen. In a normal year, we should hear at midnight mass Matthew’s account of the brave women coming to the tomb in the early dawn. But this is not a normal year, because of the virus that has hit us all, and perhaps made us wonder if God is really in charge. You might like to pray over this story during the empty silence of this day.
Today’s reading is from the Gospel of Matthew.
The women bravely come to the tomb of this executed criminal… But where are the men at this time?
The authorities had posted guards to look after Jesus’ corpse and make sure it was not stolen by his disciples; but it turns out that they have become like corpses themselves! What is God saying here?
“He is not here; for he has been raised” is what the angel says to the women. Do you believe that, on this empty day? Perhaps you are feeling especially empty today, being on lock-down or in self-isolation; unable to attend mass… Do these words bring you any sense of comfort in perhaps a time of loneliness?
“the women left the tomb, with fear and great joy?” Why the fear? And why the joy? Place yourself into the scene with them… what are you experiencing? What does it look like as you leave the tomb… what can you hear? Or are you overtaken completely by the moment and your reactions?
Spend a moment asking yourself, “where am I, on this long and empty day? Shall I be meeting Jesus in Galilee? And where is my Galilee, in this time of illness and isolation?
Finally, gather all the feelings that the story has aroused in you, and turn them into a prayer to God or to Jesus.