On the Sabbath the women rested according to the commandment, but the first day of the week, at dawn, the women went to the tomb with the perfumes and ointments they had prepared. Seeing the stone rolled away from the opening of the tomb, they entered, and were amazed to find that the body of the Lord Jesus was not there.
As they stood there wondering about this, two men in dazzling garments suddenly stood before them. In fright the women bowed to the ground. But the men said, “Why look for the living among the dead? You won’t find him here. He is risen. Remember what he told you in Galilee, that the Son of Man had to be given into the hands of sinners, to be crucified, and to rise on the third day.” And they remembered Jesus’ words.
Returning from the tomb, they told the Eleven and all the others about these things. Among the women, who brought the news, were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James. But however much they insisted, those who heard did not believe the seemingly nonsensical story. Then Peter got up and ran to the tomb. All he saw, when he bent down and looked into the tomb, were the linen cloths, laid by themselves. He went home wondering.
In the liturgy we celebrate the feast or memory of various saints in the course of the liturgical year. Now, given the fact that women form half of humankind and half of the Church at any particular time, we would expect to find an equal number of women saints and men saints, would we not? But that is not the case. Among named saints, there are five times more men than women. And why is that? A good guess is because it is men who canonize, and they do not pay much attention to women saints.
At the time of Jesus men had a similar low esteem for women. But not Jesus. He accepted women disciples—what no rabbi would ever have done. And he treated women with respect and trust. In turn, they repaid him with complete devotion, following him to the cross, whereas all the men disciples had abandoned him at Gethsemane.
And, in today’s gospel reading, we see these same women faithful to Jesus even beyond Jesus’ death, and concerned about his burial. No wonder that the Risen Jesus manifested himself to women first and, in fact, made them “apostles to the apostles,” as some Church Fathers wrote in a beautiful formula.
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