Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Smallest of all Mustard Seeds

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

“Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has been raised.” The words of the angels were addressed to the women who went to the tomb on that early Sunday morning. The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary, the mother of James. The gospel writer identified them as the women who had come from Galilee with Jesus. This detail of coming from Galilee with Jesus was not a simple reference point of origin. One of the marks of St. Luke’s gospel is that of movement. The life of Jesus is shown as one big journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. Thus, “coming from Galilee with Jesus” was indicative of discipleship. Here, we have another important Lukan theme: the women as disciples of the Lord. In other gospels, only the males were identified as disciples – the 12 men who followed Jesus. However, St. Luke mentions a parallel list of female disciples. Of course, he was not advocating a battle of the sexes. Rather, he was making the point that Jesus elevated the dignity of women in society. These women disciples were made co-heirs of the kingdom of God.

And so, the gospel of the Resurrection was first proclaimed to these women. I totally dislike the comments that the choice of women was on account of the fact that females are rumor mongers and so they were chosen to make the news spread faster. I find such as offensive to both women and the faith. First, it is an unfair stereotype imposed on women. Second, the resurrection is not a rumor. It is a true event! I think that the women were chosen to be bearers of the gospel of the resurrection because society then looked down on their gender as second class citizens. And Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, once glorified his Father for having hidden great mysteries from the wise and the learned only to reveal it to mere children. The gospel of the Resurrection was entrusted to the lowly. These women were really so lowly that they were not even taken seriously: “the women…told this to the apostles, but their story seemed like nonsense and they did not believe them.” The story of the Resurrection is already fantastic enough and entrusting it to second class citizens makes it even less believable. But that is how it really is. The Lord entrusts the revelation of such great mysteries on the lowly.

The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that is the smallest of all seeds. But when it grows, it is the biggest of all plants. Pope emeritus Benedict referred to the Resurrection as the smallest of all mustard seeds: “Throughout the history of the living, the origins of anything new have always been small, practically invisible, and easily overlooked…In terms of world history, Jesus’ resurrection is improbable; it is the smallest mustard seed in history “ (Jesus of Nazareth, vol 2, 247). It was an event that involved a very small group of people to whom it was revealed. Nobody even saw it as it happened. It happened “behind closed doors” so to speak (well, it was more “behind unrolled rock”). And yet, the resurrection altered the course of human history. From the movement to destruction on account of sin, the course of the world was altered to a movement towards salvation. The smallest seed became the largest of plants and all of us take refuge in it. And such a history-changing event is entrusted to mere lowly vessels like Mary Magdalene, like Joanna, like Mary of James, like you and me. Perhaps the wise and the learned will scoff at us and find it difficult to believe, especially if it came from us who are the most unlikely of all messengers. But we must remember his words. We must return from the tomb. We must announce all these things to all the others. For the resurrection is too great an event to be kept secret and it will be unfair to keep it from those who need to know it. Christ the Lord is risen from the dead! He dies no more; death no longer has power over him. He lives for God. Let us live for God in Christ Jesus! Alleluia!

Jesus, I trust in you. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

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