It is something of a tradition in the Eastern Churches of our faith that during this week, people greet each other by saying, “Christ is risen.” The response to this greeting is, “He is risen indeed.” While this may not be the custom in the Western world, we do suspend our normal liturgical practice during this week by celebrating the resurrection for eight consecutive days. Each day we will hear a Gospel in which Jesus will appear to his disciples to explain the empty tomb of which we heard yesterday.
The Gospel of choice today comes from St. Matthew. He tells us that Jesus’ first appearance was to the two Marys who discovered the empty tomb. His first words are the very familiar greeting, “Do not be afraid.” This message appears at least 100 times in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. It would seem that God and his messengers are used to being greeted with fear.
Somehow these words were the ones that struck me today as I was reading over the Scriptures. It made me ask myself whether fear was a part of my relationship with God. I do have to admit to a basic human fear that may be part of all of our lives at one time or another. Perhaps as we grow older, fear begins to be replaced by a yearning for the time when our time on this earth will be completed.
As I pondered the times when I have been afraid, I have begun to recognize that it, like everything else in life, has changed as I grow older. The things that I feared as a boy and as a young man have been replaced by new fears. However, the greeting means the same thing whether it is said to a young person or to an older person because Jesus is with us at all stages of our lives.
As we listen to the Gospel this morning and try to place ourselves in the scene, it is comforting to note that Jesus understands why his resurrection might have caused the women and his disciples to be fearful. Indeed, Jesus understands all of the things that may be fearful to us as we continue to move toward the day when we too will see him in his glorified body.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M.