Gathering before dawn, they relive the meeting of the risen Jesus with his Blessed Mother on the first Easter morning. The women come from one direction carrying a statue of Mary who is covered in a black veil. From the opposite direction, men come carrying a statue of a risen Jesus. Their two processions meet in front of the church. There, a child who is dressed like an angel removes Mary’s veil of mourning and the people enter the church with joy to celebrate Easter Mass.
In the Gospels, there is no mention of this meeting between Jesus and Mary after his Resurrection. But popular faith sometimes starts where the Scriptures leave off. And many saints and mystics have reflected on this encounter down through the centuries.
The Franciscans who brought Christianity to the Philippines taught that Jesus appeared to Mary before anyone else. John of Caulibus, in his Meditations on the Life of Christ in the 14th century, imagined Jesus and his mother falling to their knees when they met:
“Then they arose with tears of joy, she embraced him, pressed her face to his, and held on tightly, falling into his arms as he eagerly supported her. Later, when they were sitting down together, lovingly and carefully she looked him all over: at his face, and at the wounds in his hands, and throughout his entire body.…His mother rejoiced, ‘Blessed be your Father, who returned you to me!’ … So they conversed at some length, rejoicing and observing the Paschal Feast in a delightful and loving way.”
It is beautiful for us to reflect on the joy that Mary must have felt to have her Son back!
I also wonder what Jesus felt at that moment.
As he embraced his Blessed Mother, did he remember the widow he had once met in the town of Nain? (Luke 7:11-17) Did he think that Mary’s situation was a lot like hers – that Mary too was a widow grieving the death of her only son?
At Nain, Jesus touched the dead boy’s casket and he sat up and began to talk. The Gospel account concludes: “And he gave him back to his mother.”
On that first Easter morning, Jesus was giving himself back to his mother.
This is the joy of Easter! It is the joy of knowing that Jesus will “give back” to us all that we might suffer and lose in this life. Christ is risen and we will rise with him!
Easter joy is knowing that God’s love is stronger than death. It is the joy of knowing that Jesus is on our side!! That he will lead us through all the dark valleys to the light of his love and peace.
And Easter reminds us that Christian salvation is both universal and personal.
Jesus came to save the whole world. But notice how he did it. He came into this world at night and unnoticed, as a little baby. In the same way, his Resurrection happened in the middle of night – and again, nobody was there to see it.
The Gospels don’t describe salvation in earth-shaking events or overwhelming shows of power. God’s power is the power of humility.
Jesus came to save the world one person at a time.
When we reflect on his ministry, we recall so many personal and family dramas – the widow of Nain; fathers and mothers whose little children are sick and dying; men and women suffering from poverty and diseases of body and mind; Mary and Martha, two sisters whose brother Lazarus has died.
Our lives are no different. Jesus also comes to bring us salvation in the reality of our daily lives – in our worries and sufferings; in our struggles and setbacks; in the trials we face in our lives.
The promise of Easter is that if we believe in him, if we trust in his Word and stay close to him, Jesus will wipe away every tear. In his compassion, he will heal our sadness and fear and take away our uncertainty about the future. So let’s have confidence in him. In his rising, all our lives are raised.
So let us rejoice this Easter with our families and our friends. Let us pray for one another and let us share with one another the joy of the Resurrection.
I ask a special blessing for all of you families, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary our Mother. May Mary help all of us to live with the joy she felt when she looked upon her Son and our Savior, risen to die no more.
Reprinted with permission from The Tidings, official newspaper for the diocese of Los Angeles.
Most Rev. José H. Gomez is the Archbishop of Los Angeles, California.