Monday within the Octave of Easter
(Acts 2: 14.22-33; Matthew 28:8-15)
The behavior of the chief priests in the gospel of Matthew might make a saint anti-clerical. They pay to arrange Jesus’ arrest. They seek false testimony to condemn him. They show no compassion for Judas as he struggles with a guilty conscious and much less for Jesus as they ridicule him on the cross. After Jesus’ death, they ask Pilate for a guard to prevent the abduction of Jesus’ body. And, in today’s gospel, they bribe the same guard to lie about what took place. Perhaps some of these incidents may be attributed to the animosity between the Jews and the Christians when Matthew wrote; nevertheless, they indicate some trut,hs about Jesus’ resurrection.
The assertions that the chief priests asked for soldiers to guard Jesus’ tomb and then bribed them to be quiet when the tomb was found empty point to one of the reasons Christians believe in the resurrection. His tomb, which is marked in a definite place by all four gospel accounts, was found to be empty that Sunday morning, again in all gospel narratives. 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 not based on circumstantial evidence alone. Jesus also appeared to many people after his body was found missing from the tomb. Today’s gospel speaks of the first appearance to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. St. Paul will give us a list of his appearances: Peter, the Twelve, five hundred Christian brothers, and, of course, to Paul 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 to save us from sin and death.