Saturday, June 18, 2011

Open Wide the Doors to Christ!

Gustave Dore, "The Burial of Jesus"
A Reflection on The Burial of Jesus
and the Guard at the Tomb: Matthew 27:57-66

It was evening. Soon, it would be the Sabbath. As would Your priest, who in silent, reverent awe places the Holy Eucharist in repose, your disciple Joseph of Arimethea wrapped Your body in clean linen and laid it in a newly-hewn tomb. Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” remained, even after Joseph secured the tomb’s entrance and departed. The women remained, sitting there, facing the tomb, as though paying homage and adoration to the Body of their Lord, which they had beheld with their own eyes as broken for them. Soon it would be the Sabbath, the day of repose, but they remained—because there, in repose, was the Lord of the Sabbath!

Joseph of Arimathea was a rich man, and this was to have been his tomb. One can imagine that only a rich man could have afforded such a luxury. First, there would have been the cost of the land, and then payment of the wages for the many hours of hard labor needed to dig out such a tomb. To the many poor, surely such a purchase would have seemed a waste, as did the costly perfumed oil poured out upon You in Bethany. They could never fathom paying in advance for a tomb hewn out of rock, because everything they earned day by day by the sweat of their brows went into just scraping out a living—with the intent of putting off for as long as possible the inevitable need for their burial.

Joseph was a rich man, but he was also Your devoted disciple. You taught that it is hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven; that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. But Joseph was living proof, as You also taught: that, for God, all things are possible. As one who had heard and received You as his Messiah, did Joseph, as he laid Your body in his tomb, indeed understand that You had died in his place? And after placing Your body in the tomb, did he then leave to return home, not just to prepare for the Sabbath, but also to await in hope for Your promised resurrection?

Lord, as at the burial of Your body by Joseph, You continue to trust the care of Your Body to us in the Most Holy Eucharist—but are we, like Joseph, truly your devoted disciples in our regard for this gift of Yourself? What did it cost Joseph to claim Your body from Pilate? Money? Loss of reputation? Even future suspicion and persecution? Are we willing to bear all the costs of claiming to the world that the Eucharist is indeed Your Body? Or do we, like the unbelieving chief priests and Pharisees, in effect call You “impostor;” insisting that the Sacred Host is not truly Your Body, but “only a symbol?”

In placing a guard around the tomb and securing it as best they could, did Pilate and the chief priests and Pharisees believe that doing so could actually prevent what they most feared: Your resurrection? Have we also so hardened our own hearts until they are like stones, and have we placed a guard and seal over them to try to secure them against Your triumphant entry? May we instead believe what we see, and instead heed the words of the angel of the Lord spoken at Your empty tomb, recapitulated time and again in our own time by Blessed John Paul II: “Do not be afraid!” May we, in removing the fear, remove the guard and the seal, and let you roll away the stone, and do as Your Vicar bade us: may we “open wide the doors” to You, so that You may enter triumphantly into our hearts, our lives, our world!

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