I am straying a bit from my normal daily reflection of the Gospel reading of the day. I have been most recently sending these reflections out the night before to be read during the morning, or anytime anyone cares to read them. I thank those of you who choose to take the time to do so.
The readings for Saturday are the Easter Vigil readings, thus the glorious Easter readings of which we will have a joyous fifty days to bask in them. What I would like to do for this Saturday’s readings is ponder an incident that is not often mentioned too much before the Resurrection accounts that we will begin Sunday. To do so, I will borrow from the last lines of the readings from Good Friday.
“Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried. So they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day; for the tomb was close by” (Jn 19:41-42).
Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus courageously took the body of Jesus and placed him in the tomb. Both of these men were followers of Jesus in secret as John earlier stated about Joseph and Nicodemus we know met with Jesus under the cover of night (cf Jn 3:1-20). Word of being seen preparing and caring for the body of the one condemned as a blasphemer would certainly get back to the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high council, who had found Jesus guilty.
These two men were in a position to remain underground, after all, this one who proclaimed that he was the Son of God died on the cross. What kind of messiah could he really be? They could have just walked away like Cleopas and the other disciple heading toward Damascus, away from Jerusalem. Yet, Joseph and Nicodemus were both in a position to do something and they did. They came from the shadows and respected the body of the man who received them on their terms in secret. No longer giving into what held them back, they saw something in the death of Jesus that moved them such that they could no longer remain on the sidelines.
This Holy Saturday, as we remember Jesus in the tomb, let it not just be another Saturday. Let us spend some time in quiet reflection, pondering how we too are like Joseph and Nicodemus, how we too feel a draw to the light of Jesus, but we hold back and only reach out under the cover of night or in secret.
Let us imagine ourselves going up to Joseph and Nicodemus and sitting with them after they have left Jesus in the tomb and strike up a conversation asking them what changed. How did they come from a place of secret inquiry to public witness when the cost was so high to each of them. As we listen to their answer, may we then allow ourselves to be guided by them to be able to admit why we hold back, why we don’t give more of our lives in service of Jesus through one another, why don’t we love without counting the cost? What can we leave at the tomb so to be better disciples of Jesus this Easter Season?
Painting: The Entombment of Christ – Caravaggio, 1603-1604