A HOLY SATURDAY MEDITATION
READING: MATTHEW 27:62-66
THEME: AS OUR SAVIOUR LAID IN THE TOMB
Our Saviour Jesus Christ was hurriedly buried on the evening of that fateful Friday of His crucifixion. This was because no burials were allowed on the Sabbath, which began at sunset on Friday. As Jesus laid in the tomb, people of diverse affiliations and interests had varying concerns or reactions. In this meditation, we wish to take some lessons from such concerns or reactions.
HIGH PRIEST, CHIEF PRIESTS, SCRIBES AND PHARISEES
Generally, the high priest, chief priests, scribes and pharisees passionately ensured that Jesus was condemned to death and crucified. However, this was not enough for them, as they ensured that Jesus’ tomb was sealed and guarded, due to their needless fear that His disciples would steal the body and claim that He was risen. Thus, while Jesus restfully laid in the tomb, they restlessly schemed: they would meet, agree to request Pilate to order that the tomb be sealed and guards stationed there; and Pilate obliged (cf. Matt. 27:62-66).
In the light of the above, let us reflect on the following questions: Am I restless like the high priest, chief priests, scribes and pharisees? What am I restless about? Is it about something beneficial to the mission of Jesus and/or society in general? Or, am I scheming for selfish gains? Is lack of knowledge about God’s purpose misinforming the agenda for my restless scheming?
Pilate had acted cowardly in condemning Jesus to death, whom he knew was innocent. Unfortunately, his cowardice will resurface while Jesus rested in the tomb. That is, he succumbed to the senseless request to seal and guard the tomb of the dead “man”.
Do I, like Pilate, act cowardly to secure my position or interest at the expense of others? Or, am prepared to stand by truth and justice at any personal cost?
On the one hand, the soldiers simply took orders to guard the tomb of Jesus, whether the task made sense or not, whether they were well-informed or not. Can I say “no” to a task which I feel, in conscience, is senseless? Do I ask questions in order to be well-informed about an assignment?
On the other hand, Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen saw an irony in the fact that there were guards at the tomb of Jesus. He observed that it was fitting that soldiers would be on guard as the King of kings rested. In like manner, does my obedience to authority bring glory to God?
Firstly, while the chief priests and their associates had not forgotten about Jesus’ prediction of His resurrection, ironically the Apostles appeared to have forgotten. Do I, like the Apostles, sometimes forget essential aspects of my faith or the promises of Jesus when they matter most?
Secondly, while Jesus laid in the tomb, the eleven Apostles were obsessed with the fear of being arrested. Similarly, am I unfortunately obsessed with fear? Has fear “arrested” my good initiatives or progress?
Thirdly, there was probably tension among the Apostles as one of them had betrayed their Master, and Peter (the Vicar of Christ) had denied Him, while the rest had deserted Him. Have betrayals, disloyalty, or the like generated tensions in my family, workplace, church or community?
MARY MAGDALENE AND OTHER WOMEN
Firstly, like the Apostles, Mary Magdalene and the other women disciples seemed to have forgotten about Jesus’ resurrection, and so they were preoccupied with preparing the spices to embalm His body (cf. Luke 23:55-56). Thus, despite their goodwill, the risen Lord did not need the spices. Do I, then, always allow the light of the Christian faith to guide my intentions and actions?
Secondly, the women disciples were concerned about how to get the huge stone at the entrance of the tomb removed (cf. Mark 16:3). Again, this was a needless worry in the light of the resurrection. So, am I sometimes needlessly worried, because I fail to allow the Christian faith to enlighten my situations?
Fortunately, though, the risen Lord would eventually reward Mary Magdalene with His first appearance. This glorious lesson, however, is for another time, as we are considering only the burial period of Jesus.
Firstly, unlike the chief priests and their associates, I should be restless only about that which is beneficial to the mission of Jesus and/or society in general. Secondly, unlike Pilate, I should courageously stand by truth and justice. Thirdly, on the one hand, unlike the guards at the tomb, I should be able to raise conscientious objection to orders; on the other hand, like them, my obedience to authority should bring glory to God. Fourthly, unlike the actions of the Apostles and the women disciples, my faith in the Lord should be steadfast. Finally, unlike the women disciples, I should overcome needless worries with the light of my faith. Amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John K. Louis