The Hidden Glory
by Rev. Robert J. Wagner
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.
On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, "They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don't know where they put him." So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.
The Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus is the defining event in our history. In that moment, humanity shared in Christ’s victory over death. The empty tomb on the first Easter allows us to faithfully proclaim that we believe in the “resurrection of the body and life everlasting” each Sunday, a certain truth that fills us with hope as we prepare for sanctification in this life for the next. It is this event that allows us to proclaim confidently with St. Paul, “O death, where is your sting!” (1 Cor 15:55).
Yes, on Easter morning, Jesus Christ ended the reign of death and opened for us the path to eternal life. Therefore, we would think that such a momentous and extraordinary event would be matched by a magnificent and glorious spectacle viewed by countless witnesses. Yet we have not accounts from anyone who may have seen it. None of the disciples of Jesus, including those closest to Him, the Apostles, were even at the tomb when Jesus rose from the dead. The soldiers guarding the tomb, traditionally believed to be asleep, offer no testimony.
What we are left with is the mystery of why God allowed this critical historical event of our salvation to be seen by no one. We can imagine that it would have been easier to believe in the Gospel were there hundreds of witnesses describing the power and glory of Jesus Christ rising and opening the tomb on Easter morning. Instead, God chose that the Resurrection remain unseen.
A contrast to the Resurrection is the Crucifixion of Our Lord, which was witnessed by many. Each of the Gospels presents a description of it. We can even find accounts of the death of Jesus Christ recorded in the works of several first century Roman historians. This event, showing humanity at its worst, was made visible and present to many that afternoon on Calvary.
We may ask why the violence against Jesus is so public but his victory over death is unseen. Perhaps because until Christ comes again, sin and death, will remain visible and obvious afflictions in our world. However, the divine power of God, victorious over both sin and death, also remains, most often working invisibly in the silence of our hearts, converting and transforming.
The awesome power of God often remains hidden, particularly in the Sacraments. In Baptism, we are washed free from our sins by the power of Christ’s blood, and become temples of the Holy Spirit, who prepares us for eternal life. Yet, we would not now see these events without the gift of faith. Also hidden to the world is the infinite mercy of Jesus Christ, who forgives all sins confessed by those of faith with contrite hearts during the Sacrament of Penance. Most radically, the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus remain hidden in the appearance of bread and wine at each Mass.
The hiddenness of God is also the trademark of the Holy Spirit, who appears rarely as a dove or as tongues of fire in Scripture, but most commonly is not seen as He prompts us in the depth of our souls to seek and follow the will of God.
In God’s invisible presence, we see that He draws us to sanctity not with a shove, but with a silent and welcoming whisper. Our Lord’s way is one of tenderness. He does not force Himself on us. He does not overpower us with His glory. Instead, He calls us to respond in faith, and it is by offering ourselves to Him in faith that we come to know God’s power, strong enough to conquer death, but hidden so that we must choose freely to place our hope in it.
Around us, we see the effects of evil all too present, visible to us whether or not they choose to see it. Yet, we are called to choose whether to know and love God and His hidden glory.
Our Lord desires that we know Him Who has conquered sin and death once and for all. Prompted by faith and love, may we come to experience the victorious love of God this Easter and always.
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