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(A meditation through the eyes of Mary - Beneath Thy Protection)
Mark 16; John 6,14, 20, 21; Matthew 28; Luke 22, 24; Hebrews 9; Malachi 1;
Acts 1, Deuteronomy 30 
It is the first day of the week. The new Sabbath has arrived, and my Son has risen! It is truly a glorious day. I have had little sleep, but who can sleep when the entire universe seems charged with so much excitement? My Son has forever transformed this world by joining himself to his creation and becoming man. I allow this truth to seep into my inner being as I contemplate the incredible fact that this all happened through me! Soon, Jesus will ascend to heaven to be seated on his throne as king. Heaven will then be forever altered as he enters it with his humanity, bringing with himself all his brothers and sisters! Heaven and earth have been refashioned by my Son through his body. This exciting revelation lifts my heart as I proceed to tidy up the empty common room of the house that has been so graciously made available to me since Jesus’ death.
It is still early in the morning, but I feel that Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome must have reached the empty tomb by now. I hope they realize that Jesus has risen! What will they do? What will they think? Until they return home to deliver the news to me, I can only imagine. My relief and my joy at this moment are beyond words as I keep thinking of the time spent with Jesus earlier this morning before dawn. I am so very thankful.

Suddenly, I hear high-pitched exclamations outside the building, giving me confidence that these dear women have returned from the tomb. I am so anxious to hear their news! The door bursts open, and the three women vie to reach me first. Their excitement clearly reveals that they have wonderful stories to share. Mary Magdalene begins, “Mother, I have seen Jesus. He is alive! We all saw him!” I invite them to sit near me and to tell me everything they know.
Salome explains, “At first light we went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body. Mary and I wanted you to come with us, Mother, but Mary Magdalene told us not to disturb you.” I nod in an effort to show my approval. She continues, “So the three of us hurried along toward the sepulcher, and we were wondering, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?’ But then, as we drew near, we noticed that the stone was rolled back; for it was very large. And entering the tomb, [we] saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe; and [we] were amazed.”

“And then he spoke to us, Mother!” Mary, James’ mother, interjected, “I thought I was going to faint!”

Salome proceeds, “He said, ‘Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.’ We ran directly to Peter and the disciples just as we had been instructed and spoke to no one on the way.”

Mary Magdalene then gives her account. “When we arrived at the room where the disciples are staying, though short of breath, we told the men all that we witnessed. But they immediately laughed at us.”

“That’s right,” adds Salome, “they were so condescending; they treated us like children who were making up tales. And then they peppered us with so many questions that they caused us to begin to doubt ourselves.”

Mary Magdalene takes command of the story once again. “But, Mother, we were telling the truth.” With a reflective tone she adds, “John was the only one who seemed to be listening with any pretense of seriousness, and I saw him pull Peter to the far side of the room to speak to him privately, but not before I added, ‘If what we say is not true, then someone [has] taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him. Regardless, the tomb is empty.’ I can only guess that John convinced Peter to trust us and encouraged him to verify our story. We then saw Peter and John run out of the house. I decided to follow them. John ran so quickly that he was soon out of sight, leaving me to show Peter where the tomb was. We finally arrived and saw John stooping by the entrance of the tomb, but it was clear that he had not yet entered. I presume that, out of respect for his elder, he wished to defer to the official witness of Peter. I remained outside the tomb while they went in and examined the inside.

“Upon exiting, it seemed to me that John believed that Jesus had risen, but Peter showed signs of doubts. He turned to me shaking his head and said, ‘Maybe someone stole his body during the night.’ And then he walked away shrugging his shoulders. The last thing I heard was Peter mumble, ‘I don’t know.’

“I was devastated! I began to doubt and question myself. Did I really see an angel? Mary and Salome were not with me at this time to confirm what we had witnessed together. And so I thought, ‘Maybe Peter is right, maybe someone stole Jesus’ body.’” Mary pauses slightly before continuing her story. “So I stood weeping outside the tomb, and then once again I stooped to look into the tomb; and [I] saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to [me], ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ I answered them, ‘Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ Then I sensed that someone was standing behind me so I turned around and saw a man clothed in a white, almost glistening, garment. And he said, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?’ Mother, I know it sounds silly, but I didn’t recognize Jesus at first. It was as if I was in a daze. It was hard for my tear-filled eyes to focus on his figure which was radiating light as bright as the sun. I could only imagine that this man I was having a conversation with was perhaps the gardener or caretaker. So, [I] said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’

“Then he said, ‘Mary.’ My heart melted, and my knees gave way beneath me; I fell to the ground. I knew it was him. I could feel his love, Mother. All I wanted to do was hold him and never let him go. Practically prostrated, I grabbed his feet. I could see the nail openings from the crucifixion, but his wounds seemed healed over, and yet . . . still present. I remember thinking, ‘I never want him to be apart from me again.’ He responded as if he was discerning my every thought, ‘Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

“This is so wonderful,” I interject between Mary’s breaths.

She proceeds, “So I did as I was commanded by my sweet Lord. Once again, I began to run back to the disciples’ lodging. However, I had only gone a short distance when I met Mary and Salome again.

“Yes, Mother,” says Salome, as I turn to face her. She resumes the story, giving Mary a brief rest. “We were still in the upper room with the other disciples when John and Peter returned. They were arguing over what they had just witnessed. It was apparent to us that John wanted to believe that Jesus had risen, just as the angels had earlier declared to us, but Peter kept insisting that the most likely explanation was that his body had been stolen. And, as the leader, his opinion carried weight for the rest of the group. I turned to Peter and said, ‘Where is Mary Magdalene?’ He just shrugged his shoulders. I thought to myself, ‘How could he just leave her there by herself in her grief-stricken state?’ So Mary and I headed back to the garden. Not far from the tomb we found her racing toward us.”

Mary Magdalene resumes, “I was so ecstatic to impart the glorious news that I had actually seen and conversed with the Lord! I began to tell them all about my experience, and as soon as I spoke the words that Jesus told me to deliver to the brethren, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God,’ he suddenly appeared again to all three of us!”

Salome chimed in, “Mother, it is true, he is alive and risen and . . . beautiful! We all fell at his feet and worshipped him. And then Jesus said, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.’”

Mary Magdalene continues, “So we quickly made our way back, once again, to that upper room. This time, upon entering, I spoke with a bold voice. I must confess, Mother, I was somewhat irritated that I had allowed the brothers’ lack of faith to cause me to fear and doubt. But, now with confidence, I reiterated that what we had previously spoken was true, that the tomb was empty and that angels had told us that Jesus had risen. ‘And furthermore,’ I told them, ‘I saw him. I spoke with him. I touched him! And he instructed me, “[G]o to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”’ Then Salome and Mary stepped forward and testified that they also saw the Lord and that he directed them to tell the disciples, ‘[G]o and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.’”

I am so thrilled hearing these faith-filled, courageous women witness to my Son. Their faces are glowing with excitement, contentment, and fulfillment. It is apparent to me that they are experiencing the peace of the resurrection. I turn first to Mary Magdalene, and, before I can ask how the brethren received the glorious tidings that she brought them, she divulges her devotion to my Son. “Mother,” she begins, “seeing Jesus in his most heavenly state gave me such a warm and comforting feeling. Just knowing that he will suffer no more, and yet is alive, gives me an inexpressible joy! Mother, I love him so much, and even though I want to cling to him with my whole being, I am content knowing that he will be forever mine.”

She pauses, and then with the sweetest smile confides, “He told me that his Father is now my Father. And that through the Spirit he will cleanse me and make me worthy to meet his Father and be part of his divine family. He will ascend to heaven and prepare a home for me! Then he said, ‘And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.’ I know he loves me, and I know I am so undeserving of his love, but I accept his love wholeheartedly. You were so right, Mother. You told me that Jesus would not disappoint me, and he hasn’t.”

I warmly embrace this precious daughter of mine as I say, “I hope you realize that Jesus entrusted you to be the first to preach his gospel message. What a privilege he bestowed on you, my dear Mary. He loves you so very much and wished to reward you for your steadfast devotion.” Mary nods, and I am aware from the sparkle in her eyes that she knows she has been greatly blessed by her Savior.

And then I ask, “How did the disciples this second time react to your wonderful news?”

Mary replies, “Most, if not all, just smirked and continued with their patronizing accusations. Except for John . . . I am sure he believed me. He was very quiet but displayed, what seemed to me, to be a knowing smile. Yet, even with the additional testimony of Salome and Mary, the rest of the disciples still refused to trust us. We finally left and came straight to you. We knew you would believe us. Although my brothers have disappointed me, still nothing can diminish the excitement and elation that is mine!”

We are interrupted by a knock at the door. Mary, the mother of James, leaves to attend to the visitor. After a moment she escorts a woman into our presence. I immediately recognize her as the woman with the veil who attended to my Son’s face along the road to Calvary. She is behaving like an overly protective mother, guarding a bundle in her arms, which appears to be a newborn infant. In a very gentle manner, she apologizes for intruding, draws near to me, and begins to disclose her treasure hidden under a wrapping.

She sits beside me and explains that, after the crucifixion, which she witnessed from a distance, she lingered in the area despite the ominous weather conditions. Though the ground was shaking and the wind blowing violently, she had the strong urge to remain at the execution site of her Messiah, even as all others fled. She reveals to me that she walked about praying and touching the blood-stained cross. “Then,” she says, “somehow, though the light of day was compromised, I saw it. It was as if a small ray of light guided me to it.” She pauses and stares off to the far wall of the room.

I am about to say, “What did you see?” But then I notice she is consumed in some sort of dazed memory, and I decide to give her time to collect her thoughts. Fortunately, the women surrounding us follow my lead. After a brief moment she fully unwraps her precious package and places the crown of thorns which adorned my Son’s head in my lap. Tears spontaneously flood my being. Initially, I am unable to express my gratitude as I am paralyzed by my emotions. I cannot recall when this critical symbol of his kingship became missing. In my mind, I am inundated with images of the integral role it played in his passion. “Thank you! Thank you, so much,” is all I am able to say in response to this kind gesture. I feel blessed to be given such a gift.

And then, after a moment, I collect myself to add, “I wish also to thank you for the charity you showed my Son as he struggled along the road to Golgotha. It was very courageous of you to rush past the guards to reach him and wipe the blood from his face with your beautiful, white veil. I will always remember that sweet moment and will be forever grateful to you.”

I am surprised to see her shake her drooping head. She clearly is struggling to formulate the words to describe her innermost thoughts. I lift her chin and smile at her. She, too, is a dear daughter to me. Slowly, she begins to unwind her mantle as if she desires to reveal more, and, as she does, she exclaims, “Your Son was an amazing man; his compassion and mercy were truly unmatched. A year ago, he healed me of my disease. All I did, at the time, was touch the hem of his garment, and, immediately, I knew I had been healed because I felt an indescribable warming sensation enter and travel through my body. A couple of days ago, when I saw him carrying the cross and being so unjustly treated, I was compelled to show him some tenderness in return for the generosity he showed me. I will forever be grateful to him not only for healing me but for bringing joy and hope to my life.”

Then she exposes the inner side of her veil and adds, “But it seems that his mercy has no bounds and his benevolence is unlimited. Look . . . gaze upon my veil and see what he left for me to remember him forever.” On her veil is an image of Jesus’ face. My breath is taken away as I stare at this icon of my Son. The other women in the room in unison let out an audible gasp. She then proceeds to say with a twinkle in her eye, as if she had just thought of a new idea, “Here, I offer it to you. Then you can always remember your Son’s face.”

I smile at this dear child of mine and take her hands, fold them over the veil, and gently guide them back toward her heart. “No,” I begin, “my Son wished this gift for you. It was his way of thanking you for your gentle kindness. I want you to treasure it and always remember my Son and his sacrifice for you.”

Again, we hear a knock at the door. Salome and Mary attend to the newest visitor and within moments I have my son, Peter, standing before me. He looks at me and his eyes reveal a degree of fear and shame. I give a nodding signal to all the women, and they leave the room, perceiving my desire to be alone with Peter. After a moment, Peter approaches me with his head hung low and drops to the floor before me. He declares, “I have sinned against your Son and against you. Forgive me, Mother, for I am so unworthy of your Son. I betrayed him; I denied knowing him in his darkest hour. I failed him. I am a wretched man!”

“Peter,” I reply, as I encourage him to take a seat beside me, “Jesus has already forgiven you. He knows all your failings, but still he is calling you to lead his Church. Learn from your mistakes and move on. You failed because you trusted in yourself. Trust in Jesus, and you will be a great leader and defender of the faith. I believe in you, but, most importantly, I know my Son believes in you. He has faith in you; you must have faith in him. For now, you must have the humility to see that you are not yet perfect and that God has great plans for you. Let Jesus use you, change you, and glorify himself through you!”

Peter eagerly nods at my words. “Has he truly risen?” He inquires as if he is certain that I must know the truth.

“Yes! He has,” is all I reveal.

Peter then questions, “Then all is not lost? His kingdom will come? His ministry will continue?” It is clear to me that he is exposing all that has consumed his mind the past couple of days. I nod with enthusiasm. He continues in a more hushed voice, “The women of our group claim that they have seen him. And I want to believe them. But if it is true, then why has he not shown himself to me? Perhaps he has changed his mind about wanting me to lead his Church. I wouldn’t blame him, since I denied him as my friend and brother.”

I take hold of Peter’s hands. This gesture seems to make him uncomfortable, but still I continue with some motherly advice. “Peter, this is much bigger than you and your failings. You are consumed by your own self-pity, and that allows fear to create a wedge between you and my Son. Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, and he proclaimed to her the gospel message that his sacrifice has opened a path into his family, into a right relationship with the Father, and that he will ascend to prepare each of his loved ones a room in his kingdom. Mary, a woman out of whom Jesus cast seven demons, was commissioned by him to be the first to deliver the good news to you and the disciples. You might wonder why Jesus revealed himself to her first and not to you. Perhaps her tremendous love compelled her to linger by his empty tomb as she wept and mourned her Savior while you ran off refusing to believe. Her love afforded her the opportunity for Jesus to appear to her.” I look at Peter directly. “Jesus loves you Peter. Do you love him?” I ask quite plainly.

“I do love him, but I do not know how I will ever make amends,” Peter responds.

I explain, “Oh, you need to learn that there is nothing you, by your own power, can do to make amends. You have to allow Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit to do everything for you. All you can do, my son, is open yourself to his love and allow him to cast out all the fear that presently torments you.”

“Tell me Mother, where do I start, what should I do?” Peter asks pleadingly.

“Well, a moment ago you confessed to me that in Jesus’ greatest need you denied knowing him; you denied his holy name,” I begin as an idea formulates in my head.

Peter hangs his head in shame and states, “It is true, Mother.”

I continue, “How about you begin by proclaiming his name and doing what he commanded you to do in his name?” I can see that he is confused as to what I am asking of him, so I add, “Do you remember about a year ago when you expressed to Jesus your trust and support upon hearing that difficult teaching about consuming his flesh and blood in order to possess eternal life? I was so proud of you as you declared to him in front of all your brethren, ‘You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.’ Don’t be afraid Peter, I am here with you. Do not underestimate the power of my Son’s words, for they are spirit and life. Stay here. I will return with some bread and wine.”

I rise, leaving Peter behind in the room alone. I pray that he understands the action I desire him to perform. I am brimming with anticipation at the thought of seeing my Son again, and I am filled with the desire for Peter to feel his peace. I return shortly with a small amount of unleavened bread and wine. I place the tray containing the elements on a small table before Peter, whom I know is my Son’s priest. He stares down at them for a moment and then looks up at me and slowly murmurs, “Do this in remembrance of me.” I smile back and give him a gentle, reassuring nod.

I am excited and thrilled to be participating for the first time in this new Passover and to again be in the very presence of my Son. As an offering, I place the thorny crown at the base of the table, which I know in a moment will be an altar. I watch as Peter recalls the sacred words of our Savior. Peter’s hands are visibly trembling as he holds the consecrated bread in his hands. In an instant, I am mesmerized as my eyes are transfixed on the face of God, my Son. He is the manna come down from heaven, promised by him to now remain forever, this bread of the Real Presence, my Lord. I am in full worship of my Son as Peter raises him above our heads. I whisper to Peter, “See how much he loves you.” Then there is an immediate glow behind Peter, and I am in ecstasy as my eyes behold my Son in human form.

Peter gently places the bread of life on the table, falls to the floor, and repeats several times, “Lord have mercy! Forgive me, my Savior, I am unworthy to be your servant.” Jesus helps him to his feet and embraces him. He says, “Peace be with you. Do not fear, for it is your recognition of your unworthiness that qualifies you to be the prime minister of my kingdom, my Church.” Jesus picks up the Eucharistic bread and says, “Now take and eat; your sins are forgiven. And take and drink; do not be afraid, but believe.” Peter consumes the bread and wine of the new and everlasting Covenant. And then Peter offers my Son, under the form of this consecrated bread and wine, to me. The warmth of his Real Presence once again permeates my body, and I am tempted to proclaim the words that I recited to my dear cousin, Elizabeth, thirty-three years ago when she hailed the infant Jesus within my womb. I am in total adoration of my Son.

Jesus then turns to Peter, looks him in the eyes, and says, “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. Because you came to my mother, who now is truly your mother, you have turned again; now go and strengthen your brethren.” Then the aurora-like light that permeated the small room dissipates, and my Son’s glorious body vanishes. But, with his presence within me, I remain consumed with his Spirit and life.

The fullness of my Son’s glorified body and blood enveloping my own is a reality that I can hardly express. Carrying Jesus in my womb for nine months brought me such an indescribable joy; and yet, there is a part of me that feels an even deeper appreciation and adoration for my now glorified Son, indeed, a more profound wholeness. While this complete satisfaction continues to permeate my body, Peter falls to his knees before me and says, “Forgive me, Mother, for my lack of faith. And thank you for never giving up on me and for reminding me of my calling. I hope someday to be a worthy servant. I pray that I may always be your son, safeguarded beneath your motherly protection.”

Once again, I take hold of his hands, and this time there is no tension between us, for we are in full communion as a result of my Son’s flesh and blood. I kneel beside him and say with sincerity, “Peter, may you always realize the incredible privilege bestowed on you of having been given the power to bring forth the very presence of our Lord, Jesus, the Christ. God will use you to father new creations, men born again in my Son. In addition, he has given you the power to nourish his brothers and sisters with this new manna as they journey to the true promised land to join their loving family. You will be an instrument of the Holy Spirit who will work through you to make us all God’s children and partakers of the divine nature! This is an unbelievable grace. This is glorious news!”

Then I rise to my feet and guide Peter to his. Peter exclaims, “Mother, I vow to be a faithful minister and to fulfill all that God requires of me. Now I must go to my brothers and deliver the good news and inform them that we must travel to Galilee to see Jesus, in accord with the instructions given to the women by our Lord. It will be so good to be all together again with the Lord.” He pauses a moment and then continues, “Of course, we have lost Judas. And Thomas has yet to rejoin us; though, I am hopeful within the next few days he will return.”

He then asks, “Will you accompany us to Galilee?”

With excitement I reply, “I will be delighted to come with you. This will be a very special time before you are officially sent out to evangelize the world for my Son.”
Then I look him in the eyes and tell him I have one request of him.

He speaks with assurance, “Yes, Mother, ask me anything.”

I proceed, “During this brief time, while I am with you and before my Son’s ascension into the heavenly Holy of Holies, will you nourish me every day with this daily bread? For this bread of angels is my Son, truly present, the bread which has come down from heaven, the true manna which existed before time but is now with us forever. By this truly miraculous bread I will find fulfillment the remainder of my days here on earth until I rest for all eternity in the embrace of my Son.”

Peter smiles. He gives me a warm hug and says, “It would be my honor, my dear Mother!” I can feel his excitement and his love. His fear has been cast out. I am so proud of Jesus, for I am fully aware that it is due to him and his works. Peter departs, and I am left to contemplate the great mystery of my Lord as I gaze at my Son’s crown of thorns which serves as a reminder of his sacrificial love that has redeemed and will continue to recreate this fallen world. Jesus is now within my body again after all these years, but now in a glorified state! I feel fully sustained by this bread of life.

                                                           * * *

It is a week later, the second new Sabbath, or, as I like to think of it, Resurrection Day! I am thrilled to be with all of Jesus’ closest friends in this upper room where they all witnessed Jesus transform the old Passover into the new, eternal Passover. The week-long Feast of Unleavened Bread is over, and the population of Jerusalem is beginning to return to its normal size as the pilgrims who came for the feast are returning to their hometowns. Our group will also be leaving Jerusalem to travel to Galilee; in fact, we will depart tomorrow at the morning’s first light. We are all thankful to spend one more evening in this special room which holds such precious memories.

It is still early in the evening when there is a knock at the door. Slowly, Peter approaches the door and opens it to reveal Thomas standing at the threshold. I am so very grateful to see him! A mother’s heart always aches when one of her children has strayed, yet rejoices when that child returns. Thomas enters the room, and his brothers and sisters spontaneously, all at once, greet him with, “The Lord has risen!”

To this, he responds predictably, “How can this be?” Immediately, his brothers take turns informing him of all that transpired over the past week. I sense that Thomas is feeling the inadequacy of his faith and is becoming aware that his missing out on the happenings of the past week was a result of his own betrayal. I want to sit beside him, reassure him that he is loved, and tell him that his absence was perhaps the will of God and that he needed a respite, time to organize his thoughts and assess his failings. However, I am not afforded the opportunity.

The brethren are not so sensitive to Thomas’ feelings, and I cannot contain, nor do I wish to hamper, their exuberance as they are overflowing with the urge to share all the details of the past week. Beginning with the women’s accounts of finding the empty tomb, my children continue with their stories, including the remarkable report of two other disciples who saw Jesus when he walked with them as they journeyed to the town of Emmaus. Though these men didn’t recognize him at first, Jesus remained with them through supper, at which he had made himself known to them in the breaking of the bread. I am thrilled to see the sense of awe in these men as they witness to the Real Presence of Jesus in the sacred manna. The glow in the eyes of Jesus’ gathered disciples is heartwarming. This occurrence has enhanced their faith and understanding of the great gift of the Eucharist. They now know that it was given to them as a means by which Jesus would truly remain with them always.

Finally, the rest of the disciples in turn admit to Thomas that initially they too doubted the truth that Jesus had risen from the dead. Still, Thomas shakes his head and responds, “How can this all be true? He was crucified, he is dead!” But all at once the men stand up, surround Thomas, and start clamoring simultaneously.

Peter calms his zealous brothers, takes the lead, and speaks on behalf of all gathered, “Last week, in this very room, with the doors locked, as they are now, Jesus walked through the wall as if there was no barrier there at all. I cannot tell you how it happened, all I can do is testify to the fact that he is risen, he is no longer dead. He is more alive than you and I have ever been!

“Furthermore, his appearance brought me, and all of us, such an incredible sense of peace, for we had been scared and ashamed as a result of our betrayal of him. No one felt it more than I, Thomas. I denied our Lord, verbally, three times the night of his arrest. Therefore, at the first sight of his glowing countenance, we all were terrified, but he immediately said in a reassuring tone, ‘Peace be with you.’ And then he revealed to us his hands and his side. Thomas, they still bore the marks of the crucifixion. Somehow, his wounds were brilliantly healed yet . . . remained at the same time. And then Jesus said, ‘As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’ He then breathed on us, and it was as if a gentle wind flowed through each of the gathered brothers. With our eyes fixed on his glorious presence, he continued, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’”

Thomas again shakes his head at Peter’s words. But Peter continues, “Jesus’ plan all along was to continue his ministry through us! Remember how he washed our feet during the Last Supper? He was preparing us for his priesthood, one that we are to minister in his name here on earth, fulfilling his will as high priest where he will minister for all eternity in the heavenly Holy of Holies. Therefore, when we actively participate in his ministry, we will make his kingdom present. In this way, his will shall be accomplished here on earth as it is in heaven.”

My admiration for my son, Peter, is increasing as I witness him finally begin to assume his role as my Son’s chief minister and head father-figure here on earth. The eucharistic bread is bearing fruit in him, and I am certain that he will lead my Son’s flock with faith and love. I direct my attention to Thomas and hope that his heart has turned, but he immediately rises and declares, “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

Clearly, this is all too much for Thomas to assimilate. Nevertheless, I have great faith in Thomas. He is truthful and honest, a man of integrity who, when he is not sure about something, steps back and reflects. He may be slow in believing, but he is not easily deceived. Furthermore, in the past, I have noticed that Jesus would often use Thomas’ questioning instinct as an impetus to explain deeper truths about his divine nature.

This final declaration spoken by Thomas sparks a flurry of accusations from his brothers who are indignant at the idea that Thomas would question their word. Mary Magdalene rises and puts their complaints into proper perspective by gently reminding them that they too initially failed to believe. Thomas looks like he is about to leave. I can tell he is hurt and confused. I quickly guide him off to a more private area of the room and confide in him that when I heard that he went missing after the crucifixion I prayed for his safe return. “My prayer has been answered,” I say with a smile. “Thomas, you need to be here with your brothers, and they very much need you here with them.”

He looks at me with sincerity and questions, “Mother, what can I possibly offer to them or anybody?”

I gently laugh, as I expect Thomas will embody greatness someday. For now, I explain, “My Son chose you to be his priest. He has entrusted his ministry to you. Therefore, I have all the confidence in the world that you will be a great leader of the faith someday.” I am not entirely sure he believes me, but I can see that he has taken my words to heart as a faint smile breaks across his face. We both move back toward the center of the room to rejoin the company of the brothers when suddenly the room is brightened with the glow of what I immediately recognize as my Son’s resurrected presence. Again, Jesus is standing before me, and, again, I am struck with the love that is radiating from his body. Though my eyes are fixed on my Son, still I am aware that the men in the room are emitting spontaneous sounds of astonishment, and I am able to perceive that Thomas, who is still beside me, has fallen to the floor in full prostration before his Lord.

Although I know that we are not alone, I feel that there is no other being in the world besides my Son and me. Our eyes seem locked in eternity. And then I recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit hovering above as sweet poems are whispered in my ear, poems of a beloved to his bride. Suspended somewhere between heaven and earth, I feel the loving embrace of my Spouse and find myself repeating the thought, “How could anyone be afraid of this love?” My Savior gently releases me from his gaze, and I become aware that my experience was only a private moment between my God and me.

I turn my concern toward my children who are still fearful. “Over time,” I reason to myself, “they will learn to love and to allow my Son to love them more than they will allow fear to control them.”

Knowing this truth, the first words that my Son repeats to them are, “Peace be with you.” Jesus turns to Thomas and invites him, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.”

Thomas is shaking his head, ever so slightly, as he approaches Jesus, as if to indicate that it is no longer necessary for him to physically touch his Lord. Yet, Thomas proceeds as directed. He fulfills Jesus’ command and then announces, “My Lord and my God!

I put my hands to my mouth and release a spontaneous gasp of delight as I view this tender scene before me. Thomas has successfully responded to his Lord’s prompting and has provided a beautiful, heartfelt testimony. Then I hear my Son question Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

I wonder to myself, “How many millions of people will follow Thomas’ lead and declare, ‘My Lord and my God,’ when they gaze upon the elevated manna of the New Covenant, when their eyes are fixed on my Son, the bread that has come down from heaven? Will they be ‘the blessed’ who have neither seen his wounds nor had the opportunity to touch his side and yet believe in the Word ministered through his priests who act in Jesus’ name, even when all they see is bread and wine?” My Son requires faith, a deep faith, a complete faith, to have the privilege of being his disciple. However, I am confident that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, his followers will respond nobly as one would expect of sons and daughters of God.

My smile continues throughout the evening as my Son remains with his disciples, eats with them, and reveals more of the kingdom to them. The bonds of brotherhood are strengthening as I witness them interact with their master and with each other. Since we are all one family and share the same Father, Jesus’ first lesson is showing them that we will all have a special sign to remind us and the world of who we truly are, that is, children of God. Each disciple practices signing himself with a cross beginning on the forehead and continuing across the chest while speaking the words describing our new family: “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

And then I am moved to tears as I watch them confess their sins to each other. Jesus stands behind each apostle, one at a time, as each takes a turn listening to the sins of his brother and then ministering the grace of Christ upon him. The love that is moving among them is evident as each penitent witnesses Jesus pronounce the words of absolution and make the sign of the cross in unison with each of his confessor priests. Every apostle is wide-eyed and focused on my Son and his teachings as they begin to comprehend that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus will be the high priest acting through each of his ordained ministers. Jesus will be the priest behind the priest imparting every saving sacrament until the end of time. Watching his grace move among them gives me an unspeakable satisfaction as I am so thankful for all that God has done in my life and for the whole world. This is what my Son has desired his entire earthly life. This tender moment floods my being as I sit off in the shadows. But still Jesus’ eyes find me, and he answers my every thought with a full grin. He is so happy.
After several hours Jesus departs but promises to meet us again in Galilee. He assures his brethren that he will continue to instruct and guide them in the ministry of the faith and the building of the kingdom. Our group will travel to Galilee at the break of dawn. “We are small now,” I think to myself, “but we will grow quickly.”

                                                             * * *

More than a week has passed since leaving Jerusalem and that special night in the upper room when Jesus appeared to his disciples. Now in Galilee, we wait for Jesus to present himself again, to continue to teach and form his priests. Though I do my best to encourage those about me to use this time for prayer and reflection, it is clear to me that impatience and anxiety is growing among most of the group. It is especially noticeable in Peter, who tends to be restless in the absence of activity.

One evening while we are camped near the Sea of Tiberias, he comes and sits beside me. He asks with tension in his voice, “Why hasn’t he appeared to us? He told us to come to Galilee and that he would meet us here.”

I remind this dear son of mine, “Have faith and believe in Jesus’ love. Sometimes it is in his absence that our faith grows, because often during such moments our natural senses betray us into thinking that he has abandoned us. But he hasn’t. He just told us a few days ago, ‘Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.’ Believe, Peter. Jesus is close. He is with us daily in the breaking of bread. Use this time for prayer and ask him for guidance.”

Without allowing my words to penetrate, Peter rises and begins pacing about. After a few minutes I can hear him mumble, “I want to be doing something!” And then more audibly he begins to complain, to anyone who might listen, that Jesus has not shown himself even though they travelled to Galilee as directed. He is wondering why and for what purpose.

My heart grieves as I observe his restlessness. Even after all the miraculous signs Peter witnessed just a few short days ago, he still succumbs to the weakness of distrust. But my Son often spoke to me of the shortcomings of man’s fallen nature, and one, in particular, is on display before my eyes: the forgetfulness of blessings and promises received. I pray that Peter learns that God will at times remain distant from those he loves to help stretch their hearts for the purpose of filling them with even more of his love. Peter has many trials to face in his future. To be successful, both his patience and his faith need to be strengthened, and this will only happen if his love for my Son grows.

I look up at Peter as he announces in the exasperated tone of one who is tired of waiting around doing nothing, “I am going fishing.”

Those near him, Thomas, Nathanael, John, and James, and two other disciples respond, “We will go with you.”

“He is falling back to his old job,” I think to myself. Instead of asking in faith for the comfort of Jesus, Peter seeks the security of a trade he knows, a trade of this world, in the hope of attaining some immediate gratification or, at least, of distracting himself from his lack of spiritual wholeness. It was while fishing that he first met Jesus, so perhaps my Son will once again use the occasion of fishing to present his glorified self and solidify Peter’s eternal occupation. I smile as I contemplate this possibility. Perhaps Peter’s idea to go fishing is a good one after all. I pray earnestly for him that he may fully embrace all that Jesus is calling him to be. May he respond to the will of the Father as Jesus did; may he become Christ-like.

It is late in the morning when Peter and his companions return with the news that they saw Jesus. I am anxious to hear all that transpired. Peter approaches me and asks if we can take a walk. He wishes to discuss the events of the morning with me in private. Of course, I am pleased to do so. His invitation reminds me of the many walks I would have with Jesus. I smile as I look forward to making myself available, in a special way, to all my Son’s priests and, especially, his vicars. Peter immediately informs me that they had been out fishing for hours during the night and had caught nothing. He continues, “Then, as the first light was dawning, and we were heading back, dejected at our failure to catch even a single fish, we spotted a man just off shore. But, before we reached him, he called to us to cast our nets on the right side of the boat. He assured us that there we would find fish.”

Peter proceeds with even more excitement, “Mother, the quantity of fish was so great we were not able to haul it in. And then I recalled how Jesus performed this same miracle when we first met. He used his power then as he did this morning to stir the fish and attract them to our boat. At the start of his ministry he told me that I would be a fisher of men, and now I think I understand. He was teaching me then, and all of us now, that it will be through his power that people will be drawn to us as we proclaim his name and his saving message. Oh Mother, I pray I do not get in the way of the work he is planning to do through me.”

I am elated to hear this news! I am confident that, despite his shortcomings, Peter will make an exceptional leader of my Son’s Church. Suddenly, I denote a slight change in his demeanor that suggests a hint of penitence as, slowly, he begins to share more. “After we reached the shore, with this amazing catch of fish, Jesus directed us over to a fire that he had prepared nearby. He wanted to eat breakfast with us. And we were so excited to see him, as you can imagine, Mother. We had been waiting for so many days to be with him again. But, as I approached the raging fire, I immediately noticed that it was fueled by charcoal; in fact, I could smell it before I even saw it. I froze in my tracks. There was plenty of driftwood littering the sand which could have been used for a fire; but no, Jesus made this fire from charcoal, the same material that fueled the fire in the courtyard of the chief priest’s residence where I warmed myself the night I betrayed him three times. Upon this realization, I knew that Jesus had planned something important between us—something public before my companions, but also something deeply private between him and me. I glanced over at John and realized that he too noticed the significance of the charcoal fire. I have no doubt that Jesus was purposely connecting this setting to that of my betrayal. Nevertheless, I was unprepared for what happened next.

“We had finished breakfast, and I knew Jesus wanted to say something to me because his eyes were fixed on me for the greater part of the meal. Then, in front of all the brothers, he said to me, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ I replied, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said . . . , ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said . . . , ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ Again, I answered, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said . . . , ‘Tend my sheep.’ Then he spoke a third time, saying ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ I must admit, Mother, at this third inquiry I was cut to the heart. But, I remembered my vow to you and renewed my pledge not to give up; so I swallowed hard and answered him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus finished the exchange with, ‘Feed my sheep.’

“My emotions are mixed, Mother. Should I feel proud to have professed my faith to Jesus three times before my brothers, or should I feel ashamed for having my profession forever linked to my triple denial of him?”

“Peter,” I advise, “you should feel neither pride nor shame. Instead, be grateful for the opportunity you were afforded. And even though we both know that Jesus had already forgiven you, it was important for your brothers to hear you profess that you will not betray the Lord again, nor will you lead them astray. I have confidence in you, Peter, that you will be steadfast in your commitment to be the leader of Christ’s Church, no matter where the ministry takes you. Be eternally thankful that you were offered the chance to reverse your three-fold denial, because, in denying him three times, you were in effect denying each person of our holy God: God the Father, Son, and Spirit. So, now, in affirming your love three times, I hope you always remember your commitment and devotion to our Triune God.

“In addition, Jesus tied each of your declarations of love for him to the ministry of the Church as he instructed you to feed and tend his sheep. My Son is placing his trust in you. You must realize that he sees greatness in you. So now, the smell of charcoal will always be a humbling reminder to you of your betrayal of him, but also a reminder of his merciful renewal of you.”

Unlike the previous night, Peter is listening to my every word. He nods and adds before he leaves my side, “Jesus informed me that he will be ascending to the heavenly Temple in a few weeks, and then I will officially be his acting shepherd here on earth. Yet I know I will not be alone as he has promised to send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit. He also revealed to me that I will suffer like him for the sake of the kingdom. It will be the price I will pay should I agree to follow him. This time, Mother, I will be faithful. This time, I will proclaim his name to all. With the aid of the Holy Spirit and the knowledge that you, Mother, are interceding on my behalf, I am confident I will not fail him again.”

Listening to Peter relay the events of his time spent with my Son reminds me of how my Son always knows just what we need and when we need it. Aware of Peter’s shortcomings, Jesus lovingly choreographs a tailor-made plan for his life that will produce an abundance of fruit in him and guide him in a way that brings him nearer to God’s divine will. It also amazes me that my love for my Son continues to grow as I see him work through his disciples. I pray that he continues to use me in any manner he chooses to fulfill the will of the Father.

                                                            * * *

After several weeks in Galilee, and after many more appearances of my Son to his disciples, I know that it is time for him to ascend to the Father, to take his rightful throne and minister his Church from the true Holy of Holies. One evening, as I sit among the gathered disciples at the perimeter of our campfire, Mary Magdalene sits beside me and leans her head against my shoulder. I wrap my arm about her and contemplate that, like her, there is a part of my heart that wants to hang on to sweet Jesus and never let go; but, then, like every mother who loves her son, I want him to be all that the Father has called him to be and to reach his fulfillment.

Jesus is so excited to be with his family in heaven once again and to bring all of us with him. To accomplish this, he must leave this world and enter the realm of the heavenly Temple to complete his sacrifice through the offering of his blood to the Father, and then he will send the Holy Spirit to apply the graces won by his sacrifice to each of us. For since he has appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he will enter once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. In this way he will fulfill what God spoke to the holy prophet Malachi many centuries ago: “For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering.” His return to the Father, and his offering of himself for all eternity on our behalf, will provide the purest of offerings for his priests to celebrate continuously here on earth. I give Mary an extra hug and think before I drift off to sleep, “She will be fine. She will stay close to me, and she will understand that her Jesus will come for her in a few short years.”

The next morning Peter informs the group that we are to travel to Bethany. Jesus will meet us there. It has been nearly forty days since Jesus rose from the dead on that first day of the new Sabbath. He has given the eleven disciples many instructions, and I believe that they understand he has passed his authority onto them, for he told them emphatically, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” With his power and in his name, they will be enabled to ordain new ministers as the Church continues to expand into the future.

We arrive in Bethany late in the day. This town has always been a special place for me, for it was here, during Jesus’ ministry, that we were hosted on many occasions by my dearest friends. It is only fitting that this is the place where my Son will ascend to his rightful throne in heaven. I prepare to retire for the evening in my friends’ home when I hear my Son’s voice, though I do not see him. He is beckoning me to meet him outside, behind the small house, for a private moment before his ascension. I find him visibly present out back, where he immediately embraces me and says, “It won’t be long, Mother. Soon we will be together for all eternity. For now, I need you to be with my disciples. Pray with them. Hold them in your loving arms, beneath your mantle, as you did me when I was but an infant. You protected me then as I know you will protect them all now. In ten days, the Holy Spirit will descend upon the gathered disciples as he did upon you thirty-three years ago. Your presence among them is vital, for as it was through you that the Holy Spirit brought me forth in you, so now, again, it will be through you that his action will bring forth new life in men, transforming them into precious children of God.”

I assure him that I am ecstatic to be part of his mission in redeeming souls and that I feel privileged beyond words to be chosen to be the mother of all God’s children. I cannot imagine a more noble and fulfilling vocation than motherhood. In addition, I reveal that I am excited for him to be fully reunited with his family in heaven. That is the joy that will sustain me until he calls me home to himself.
Then he confides in me, “All my earthly life I have yearned to unite my humanity with my Father and Spirit in heaven, to join them once again and be a complete family. Now, finally, I am able to go to them and take my rightful place with them as one God, and yet, I know that our family will still not be whole until my mother is beside me in heaven. I have indeed earned the crown of king over the kingdom and the right to assume the throne, but until the queen mother is seated beside me the throne room will be incomplete, as will be my heart. While it is true, because of our mother-son relationship, I take a small part of you with me, still, every moment we are physically apart I will miss you. Once in heaven know that I will long for the time when you, body and soul, will join me, and us, our family.”
He embraces me one last time here on earth. I take in every instant of what it feels like to be in his physical presence, hear his voice, look into his eyes, and experience the warmth of his arms. As much as I am going to miss him now, as he missed his heavenly family during his earthly life, I remind myself that my mission is still ongoing. His is finished; but mine continues as it is with each of his followers until we are called home where our crowns await. And I intend to make fruitful every moment of the time I have left to do his will here on earth. “Time is a gift,” I affirm to myself.

“Yes, my Son, I will lovingly attend to your mystical body here on earth, until you call me to serve it at your right hand in heaven,” I declare with all my heart. I step back from my Son’s heavenly embrace and into the realm of the earthly where my Son’s presence, his grace, and his kingdom can only be discerned through faith. He departs. There is no need to say “good-bye,” as I wipe the tears from my eyes. I have him with me here on earth in the sacred Eucharist, and, therefore, I will be sustained fully until I am seated beside him in heaven.

The next day, gathered with the disciples in a secluded area just outside of Bethany, I stand with Mary Magdalene and watch my Son impart his final words to his eleven apostles before ascending to the Father. Mary and I are several yards away from the men; however, we can still hear their conversation. Jesus charge[s] them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father. He explains, “John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

The apostles then ask, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus looks at them and smiles, revealing his endless patience. They still have much to learn. His priests are to concern themselves with ministering to his people and allow God to ultimately handle the reins of the Church.
He replies, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.”

“To the end of the earth,” I repeat to myself quietly, but still loud enough that Mary looks at me. I put my arm about her shoulder and exclaim to her, “This is going to be a glorious Church!” I feel the urge to rush to Jesus one last time, but, instead, I hold my daughter who I know is filled with his love. It is at that moment that his eyes find mine. And, as I wrap Mary with my other arm to embrace her fully and protect her completely, Jesus smiles. I know that he knows what I am thinking at all times, but at this moment I suspect I just might know what he is thinking.

He is looking at me, as he did last night when he visited me privately. He told me then what his eyes seem to speak to me now, that I am his flawless masterpiece of creation. As he spoke these words last night, I did not know how to respond, for I have never thought of myself in such a way. But then he reminded me that I am an embodied representation of his glorious New Covenant Church. My own Son created me to be his mother, taking on human flesh derived from me, and, in doing so, he became the Temple for all the redeemed, enabling them to properly worship their God. It is hard for me fully to grasp this idea, but I can only articulate the facts: his body is the Church, and in some mystical way, I embody the Church because I embodied him. And now, through the gift of the Eucharist, all his followers have the opportunity to embody Jesus.

In gazing upon me, his flawless masterpiece of creation, he is also cherishing his transformed creature, his beloved Mary Magdalene, who is safely tucked beneath my mantle. He smiles. He knows that she will be forever safe here with me, as will each one of his chosen ones, my children.

I gently release Mary in order to cradle my abdomen as Jesus becomes enveloped in a cloud and is taken from our sight. A part of me goes with him to heaven, and yet a part of him remains with me here on earth. I smile and slightly shake my head as my eyes gaze upon the scene of my children staring to try to catch one more glimpse of him. And as they do, two men dressed in white appear before them and say, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

I chuckle to myself. Jesus has only been gone a few short moments and already feels the need to send his servant angels to remind his brothers that he is the new Temple and that they will see him come again in the cloud of incense every time they perform the sacred liturgy. I announce to my children, “No need to stand looking into heaven for the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it; with the aid of the Holy Spirit, you can keep God’s commandments and minister in his name. Come!” I gather them about me as we slowly walk toward the town. The apostles may feel initially a bit apprehensive and scared, but I will be with them to provide constant encouragement. Though the mission is beyond their ability and greater than any mere human endeavor, its success is guaranteed. I am gratefully aware of Joseph’s protective presence over me and over his Lord’s infant Church. We will now devote ourselves to prayer and patiently wait. As I survey those about me, I affirm to myself, “We can do this!”

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