April 22, 2019
by Jay Carney
Creighton University's Theology Department
click here for photo and information about the writer

Monday in the Octave of Easter
Lectionary: 261

Acts 2:14, 22-23
Psalms 16:1-2A and 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11
Matthew 28:8-15

Celebrating Easter

Easter Prayer for Today

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Our Hope for Everlasting Life

Finding Hope in the Easter Season

The Fear of Easter

I am familiar with the joy of Easter, the warmth of Easter, and the hope of Easter. But the word that struck me in today’s gospel is “fearful.” What is going on here? Why the fear?

Peter gives us some insight in the first reading, telling his listeners that “you killed [Jesus], using lawless men to crucify him.” This reminds us that Jesus’ resurrection is not simply a generic overcoming of death; it is also the vindication of a “man commended to you by God” who was unjustly rejected, tortured and executed. In other words, the resurrection is an act of justice, which means there is also responsibility – and guilt – for his death. There is fear in this.  

Likewise, today’s gospel demonstrates the profoundly unsettling character of the resurrection – it did not fit the script, as it were. The women came to anoint a body, not to find evidence of eternal life. Already blown away by a vision of angels, the guards now have more existential fears – namely the punishment they will face when word gets out that Jesus is missing. For their part, the chief priests fear the destabilizing impact of the gospel proclamation, “Jesus is Risen.” The Empty Tomb is startling; it breaks our conventions and flips our expectations.  

In our oldest existing copies of the Gospel of Mark, the gospel ends with the word “afraid” (Mk 16:8). Matthew nuances this a bit, combining fear with joy. Yet even “joy” often emerges from a context of pain and suffering, as Pope Francis reminds us in Evangelii Gaudium: “I understand the grief of people who have to endure great suffering, yet slowly but surely we all have to let the joy of faith slowly revive as a quiet yet firm trust, even amid the greatest distress” (EG 6).

As the Pope implies, the Risen Jesus ultimately does not leave us in our fears but calls us through them. Raising the women up from his feet, Jesus commissions them: “Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” In the lingering darkness of the night – with its characteristic betrayals, violence, lies, and hypocrisies– a light shines forth on Easter morning.

Life wins. Jesus wins. God wins. On this Easter Monday, go and witness to the surprise of the gospel in your own Galilee.

“This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!”

Click on the link below to send an e-mail response
to the writer of this reflection.

Sharing this reflection with others by Email, on Facebook or Twitter:

Email this pageFacebookTwitter

Print Friendly

See all the Resources we offer on our Online Ministries Home Page

Daily Reflection Home

Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook