Holy Saturday

Scripture Reading

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning,
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.
And behold, there was a great earthquake;
for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven,
approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it.
His appearance was like lightning
and his clothing was white as snow.
The guards were shaken with fear of him
and became like dead men.
Then the angel said to the women in reply,
“Do not be afraid!
I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified.
He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said.
Come and see the place where he lay.
Then go quickly and tell his disciples,
‘He has been raised from the dead,
and he is going before you to Galilee;
there you will see him.’
Behold, I have told you.”
Then they went away quickly from the tomb,
fearful yet overjoyed,
and ran to announce this to his disciples.
And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them.
They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage.
Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid.
Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee,
and there they will see me.”
(Matthew 28:1-10)

Scripture Study

28:1 After the sabbath … dawning: since the sabbath ended at sunset, this could mean in the early evening, for dawning can refer to the appearance of the evening star; cf. Lk 23:54. However, it is probable that Matthew means the morning dawn of the day after the sabbath, as in the similar though slightly different text of Mark, “when the sun had risen” (Mk 16:2). Mary Magdalene and the other Mary – To see the tomb: cf. Mk 16:1–2 where the purpose of the women’s visit is to anoint Jesus’ body.

28:2–4 A great earthquake Peculiar to Matthew. Descended from heaven: this trait is peculiar to Matthew, although his interpretation of the “young man” of his Marcan source (Mk 16:5) as an angel; cf. Lk 24:23 where the “two men” of Mt 24:4 are said to be “angels.” Rolled back the stone … upon it: not to allow the risen Jesus to leave the tomb but to make evident that the tomb is empty (see Mt 24:6). Unlike the apocryphal Gospel of Peter (9:35–11:24), the New Testament does not describe the resurrection of Jesus, nor is there anyone who sees it. His appearance was like lightning … snow.

28:6–7 Cf. Mk 16:6–7. Just as he said: a Matthean addition referring to Jesus’ predictions of his resurrection, e.g., Mt 16:21; 17:23; 20:19. Tell his disciples: like the angel of the Lord of the infancy narrative, the angel interprets a fact and gives a commandment about what is to be done; cf. Mt 1:20–21. He is going … Galilee: like Mk 16:7, a reference to Jesus’ prediction at the Last Supper (Mt 26:32; Mk 14:28). Matthew changes Mark’s “as he told you” to a declaration of the angel.

28:8 Contrast Mk 16:8 where the women in their fear “said nothing to anyone.”

28:9–10 Although these verses are peculiar to Matthew, there are similarities between them and John’s account of the appearance of Jesus to Mary Magdalene (Jn 20:17). In both there is a touching of Jesus’ body, and a command of Jesus to bear a message to his disciples, designated as his brothers. Matthew may have drawn upon a tradition that appears in a different form in John. Jesus’ words to the women are mainly a repetition of those of the angel (Mt 28:5a, 7b).

Scripture Reflection

Friends, on this Holy Saturday our Gospel we hear St. Matthew’s account of the resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the be-all and end-all of the Christian faith. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, all bishops, priests, and Christian ministers should go home and get honest jobs, and all the Christian faithful should leave their churches immediately.

As Paul himself put it: “If Jesus is not raised from the dead, our preaching is in vain and we are the most pitiable of men.” It’s no good, of course, trying to explain the resurrection away or rationalize it as a myth, a symbol, or an inner subjective experience. None of that does justice to the novelty and sheer strangeness of the Biblical message.

It comes down finally to this: if Jesus was not raised from death, Christianity is a fraud and a joke. But if he did rise from death, then Christianity is the fullness of God’s revelation, and Jesus must be the absolute center of our lives. There is no third option.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.