Prayers today: If men desire wisdom, she will give them the water of knowledge to drink. They will never waver from the truth; they will stand firm for ever, alleluia. (Sir 15:3-4)
Father, by this Easter mystery you touch our lives with the healing power of your love. You have given us the freedom of the sons of God. May we who now celebrate your gift find joy in it for ever in heaven. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who liveth and reigneth world without end, Amen.
St. Crescentia Hoess (1682-1744)
Crescentia was born in 1682 in a little town near Augsburg, the daughter of a poor weaver. She spent play time praying in the parish church, assisted those even poorer than herself and had so mastered the truths of her religion that she was permitted to make her holy Communion at the then unusually early age of seven. In the town she was called "the little angel."
As she grew older she desired to enter the convent of the Tertiaries of St. Francis. But the convent was poor and, because Crescentia had no dowry, the superiors refused her admission. Her case was then pleaded by the Protestant mayor of the town to whom the convent owed a favor. The community felt it was forced into receiving her, and her new life was made miserable. She was considered a burden and assigned nothing other than menial tasks. Even her cheerful spirit was misinterpreted as flattery or hypocrisy. Conditions improved four years later when a new superior was elected who realized her virtue. Crescentia herself was appointed mistress of novices. She so won the love and respect of the sisters that, upon the death of the superior, Crescentia herself was unanimously elected to that position. Under her the financial state of the convent improved and her reputation in spiritual matters spread. She was soon being consulted by princes and princesses as well as by bishops and cardinals seeking her advice. And yet, a true daughter of Francis, she remained ever humble. Bodily afflictions and pain were always with her. First it was headaches and toothaches. Then she lost the ability to walk, her hands and feet gradually becoming so crippled that her body curled up into a fetal position. In the spirit of Francis she cried out, "Oh, you bodily members, praise God that he has given you the capacity to suffer." Despite her sufferings she was filled with peace and joy as she died on Easter Sunday in 1744. She was beatified in 1900 and canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2001.
The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John (20.11~18)
Mary stood outside the tomb weeping. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the feet. They asked her, Woman, why are you weeping? They have taken my Lord away, she said, and I don't know where they have put him. At this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realise that it was Jesus. Woman, he said, why are you weeping? Who is it you are looking for? Thinking he was the gardener, she said, Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him. Jesus said to her, Mary. She turned and cried out in Hebrew, Rabboni! (which means Teacher). Jesus said, Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: I have seen the Lord! And she told them that he had said these things to her.
(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)
At times — not often, it must be said — one hears the complaint that it is not fair that women are not called to the ministerial priesthood. In a sense it is to be expected that some women would have thoughts of attraction to the ordained priesthood, for the simple reason that the priesthood is a wonderful thing. I think I remember reading somewhere that St Therese of Lisieux as a child felt attracted to the priesthood. The Church has formally declared, of course, that this is impossible in God’s plan, but what can be behind this desire is the notion that an ordained office is more important than, say, intimacy with Christ as his disciple. What is of paramount importance is not office, but loving discipleship. Who were the ones who entered into the deepest intimacy with Jesus Christ during his life here on earth? They were, as we may call them, two “lay persons” who had no office in God’s people. I am referring to the mother and the foster-father of our Lord. Mary and Joseph lived in a wonderfully intimate friendship with our Lord for thirty of the thirty-three years of his mortal life. Manifestly no other person attained such a friendship with him. Consider the scenes of the infancy of our Lord — the nativity scenes and those associated with them, the scene of the presentation in the Temple, with Simeon and Anna gazing with veneration on the face of the Child Jesus — these were ordinary members of God’s chosen people. They had a privileged relationship with the Saviour. During our Lord’s public life we read in more than one Gospel that Martha, Mary and Lazarus were special friends of our Lord. He loved them in a special way. We read that certain women followed Jesus and the apostolic band, and ministered to them with their assistance and resources. At the last, it was certain women with Mary his mother, who stood at the cross of Jesus as he died. There was only one of the Twelve there. It was certain women who were the first to arrive at the tomb early on the Sunday morning. On Easter Sunday, the longest conversation which the risen Jesus had was with two disciples who were not of the Twelve. The principal thing is discipleship.
What I am saying is that while those with a special office in Christ’s Church by ordination are called to an intimate friendship with Jesus Christ, the vocation to a special friendship with him is not exclusive to those with this special office. The most important thing for any disciple is precisely this calling to friendship with Jesus, and then by his grace actually attaining this friendship and living according to it. Who was the most blessed of all God’s creatures? It was not any one of the Twelve, nor any of those who received a special apostolic mission from Christ, such as St Paul. It was, according to the inspired utterance of Elizabeth, the Virgin Mary. She was blessed among women. All generations will call her blessed, and it was her faith and her fidelity to grace — her being full of grace — that was the reason for this. She occupied no ordained office in the Church, although as Christ’s mother, she was mother and model of the Church his body. Let all this be an introduction to our Gospel passage today (John 20: 11-18), in which, according to St John, the risen Jesus shows himself for the first recorded time to his disciples. We may piously assume that, though it is not recorded, Christ appeared first to his most holy mother. Beyond that, we have it before us that he appeared first of all, not to Simon Peter nor to the beloved disciple, but to Mary Magdalene. It may have been something of a reward for her coming so early to the tomb, and waiting when the tomb was discovered to be empty. She was granted a most lovely meeting with the risen Jesus, and before any of the Apostles. Consider the scene. I like to think of our Lord acting somewhat playfully and full of joy in his victory. He asks Mary Magdalene, “Woman, why are you weeping?” — though, of course, he knew why she was weeping. Then came his surprise for her: “Mary!” He addressed her by name, and joy beyond description flooded her soul. “ Do not hold on to me,” he continued. “I have not yet returned to the Father.” It is a symbol of the special dealings of Jesus Christ with every one of the baptized.
According to the Gospel of St John, it was Mary Magdalene who announced to the Apostles the fact of the Resurrection. According to the other Gospels, it was the women. It is surely a symbol of the richness of the vocation of all the baptized. All are called to holiness, that holiness which consists in a loving discipleship and a share in Christ’s mission of bringing the Gospel to others. Each person’s friendship with Jesus and share in his redemptive mission will depend on vocation and circumstances, but each possesses the great dignity of being in Jesus Christ. This is the basic and most important thing in the life of the Church. Jesus addresses each and all of us by name. It is the expression of his personal choice. Let us cherish this choice as the foundation of life.