Monday in the Octave of Easter
(Acts 2: 14.22-33; Matthew 28:8-15)
The behavior of the chief priests in the gospel of Matthew could turn a saint anti-clerical. They pay to arrange the arrest of an innocent man. They seek false testimony to condemn Jesus. They show no compassion for Judas as struggles with a guilty conscious and less for Jesus suffering on the cross. After Jesus’ death, they ask Pilate for a guard to prevent the abduction of Jesus’ bodies. And, in today’s gospel, they bribe the same guard to lie about Jesus’ resurrection. Because the veracity of these outrages cannot be confirmed, it may be best to attribute them to the animosity between Christians and Jews at the time of Matthew’s writing.
The last two assertions here about the chief priests point to one of the reasons Christians give for belief in the resurrection. His tomb, a marked grave in which Jesus alone is laid in all four gospel accounts, was found to be empty that Sunday morning again in all four gospels. Unless the body was stolen as the Jews in Matthew’s account allege, there is no other explanation for its disappearance than the resurrection.
However, our faith in the resurrection is based on more than circumstantial evidence. Jesus also appeared to people after his body was found missing. Today’s gospel speaks of the first appearance -- to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. Writing almost a generation later, St. Paul will give us a list of such appearances: Peter, the Twelve, five hundred Christian brothers, and himself. Based on their testimony, the empty tomb, and our own experience of the power of Christ acting in our lives, we do not hesitate to affirm that, yes, he rose from the dead.