How often I have heard someone say, “If I don’t tell you this, I am going to bust!!!” It happens in the movies and in television sit-coms all the time. Someone has to say something out loud to another person in order to relieve the internal tension that has been building around something marvelous or something strange or something that is a secret. It happens in real life too whether it be a family member, or a friend, or a perfect stranger. When it is finally out in the open, whatever it is, then there is great relief and joy ensues. I had a cousin Bridget from Ireland. When she became pregnant with her fifth child, she thought long and hard about how to tell her husband. The right time didn’t seem to come along. Anxiety grew. The internal pressure kept rising. Finally, she wrote a note and placed it in the middle of his lunch sandwich which he took to work. He took a bite – what the heck? He read the note and ran home to give Bridget a hug and a kiss. The pressure was released and the celebration of life began.
As we reflect upon our Easter readings today, we are present to several people who just cannot keep a secret. These are people who come to know something truly wonderful and cannot wait to tell someone – anyone – about this great news. In the gospel, we run alongside Mary Magdalene, the first witness of the resurrected Lord in Mark’s gospel. She has had a tough life with a great many challenges. Jesus had helped her meet those moments. For this reason, she was in the depths of grief and agony over His death. Suddenly, the presence of the Risen Lord sends her spirit soaring to the highest heavens. She must tell someone. She goes to the disciples who cannot accept her good news. Mary’s enthusiasm and joy cannot be dampened by weeping and grieving companions of Jesus. She knows – He is Risen. Nothing is able to separate her from her belief and her joy.
Eventually, the Risen Lord appears to the rest of the disciples who in turn come to know the joy that Mary experienced. Like Mary, the internal anxiety, the internal pressure of that joy rises to the level of having to say something to someone – anyone. This is not something to be kept secret. In fact the joy being experienced only grows deeper and wider with every opportunity to tell someone – anyone – else about it. The mandate of Jesus, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” becomes the driving force of every disciple. As we witness the altercation between Peter and John and the Sanhedrin in the Acts of the Apostles, we see the overflowing driving force of the presence of the Risen Lord in their healing actions and in their zeal for broadcasting the Gospel. We are able to nod our heads in agreement when Peter and John say without hesitation, “It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.”
Our Easter visit with Mary Magdalene, Peter, John and the other disciples this day reminds us of who we are as we walk in their footsteps. We are the companions of Jesus today who have received the revelation that the Messiah has suffered, died, and is truly risen from the dead for our salvation. The Risen Lord remains present to us, continues to reveal Himself to us in a myriad of ways and circumstances causing us to marvel at His Risen Presence, find joy and peace in His dedicated loyalty to us, and then expand that joy by proclaiming to someone – anyone – who the Risen Lord is and what He has accomplished for us. At Easter vigil this year, I celebrated with our parish family the baptism of five adults and the reception into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church an additional six men and women. As they entered into new life in the Risen Lord, an indescribable picture of overflowing joy and happiness filled their eyes, their smiles and their parish community supporters. All were present to proclaim the presence of the Risen Lord and to say this is something to shout about. These wonderful men and women knew about the good news. They had heard the shouting the year before. They spent a year delving into what all the shouting was about. At Easter vigil, as new companions of the Risen Lord, they added their voices to the chorus.
May the good news of the Lord’s Resurrection be the source of abundant Easter blessings for all of us and may it rekindle in us the kind of joy which requires us to regularly speak this marvelous mystery to someone – to anyone – in our lives.
Fr. Richard Burke, CP, is a member of St. Paul of the Cross Province. He lives at St. Ann’s Monastery in Scranton, Pennsylvania.