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Lenten Reflections 2024: Easter Sunday

Lenten Reflections 2024 graphi

Dear friends,

Happy Easter! As we share this final reflection from our Lenten journey, we extend our sincere gratitude to our partners at the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art for their dedication to our series as we paired art from the Museum with prayerful reflections from members of our community. As we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, Fr. Lou DelFra, CSC, director of pastoral life with the Alliance for Catholic Education, reflects on Noli Me Tangere by Vincenzo Spisanelli.

We hope that this cross-campus partnership offered a welcomed space to practice Visio Divina, or sacred seeing, and through the lens of art consider this Lenten season anew. We continue to encourage and recommend taking time to visit the Museum in person to encounter and connect to the art in a deeply meaningful way.

May God bless you, your communities, and your families this Easter.

~ The Institute for Educational Initiatives and the Alliance for Catholic Education

Noli Me Tangere by Vincenzo Spisanelli.
Noli Me Tangere
Vincenzo Spisanelli, (Italian, 1595-1662), Noli Me Tangere, 1640, 91 ½ x 71 in.  Raclin Murphy Museum of Art, University of Notre Dame. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. David B. Findlay, 1958.008 

The First Loves of Easter
Reflection offered by Fr. Lou DelFra, CSC, director of pastoral life, Alliance for Catholic Education

Their names are what first catch my attention. For all the “spiritual fireworks” that are about to erupt with the revelation of Jesus’ rising from the dead, the well-known stories of Christ’s Resurrection all begin with single, precisely identified, names — of a few women. They come, not to get front-row seats for the fireworks, about which they know nothing, but in fear, and love, to pack Jesus’ dead body with burial spices.

The evangelist Mark begins, “When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome brought spices so that they might anoint him.” Given the violent revile with which the Jerusalem crowd had killed Jesus the day before, at what risk did these women expose themselves as his followers by bringing spices that morning? After the gathering of fellowship at the Thursday Passover meal, so filled with intimate exchanges of friendship and camaraderie, where were the eleven remaining apostles? With guards alerted that Jesus’ body might be stolen by his disciples so as to claim a resurrection, what opposition must these women have faced, surely from armed guards, as they made their way, alone and unarmed, to Jesus’ tomb that morning?

Luke writes: “When Jesus’ body was taken down from the cross, the women who had come from Galilee with him followed behind, and when they had seen the tomb and the way in which his body was laid in it, they returned and prepared spices and perfumed oils — Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James.” Luke says they followed Jesus’ expired body from the time it was taken down from the cross, directly to his burial place. Moments before, authorities and the crowd taunted Jesus, daring him to fulfill his claims that he was the Son of God by coming down from the cross. Perhaps it is not hard to imagine what this same crowd asked of these women in the minutes after Jesus refused to come down, on their way to bury their failed Messiah. Luke does not record the taunts and curses that surely were thrown their way, like stones at discovered adulteresses. Luke, however, is clear about one detail: they followed, to see where their friend — failed Messiah though he may have been — was to be buried, that they might return and take care of him.

These are the beginnings of each of the Resurrection stories. And they are stories of love. Human love. Love for a friend. Unconditional love, for — as far as they knew — their beloved’s mission had utterly failed. Yet, at least for these disciples, they were not following an abstract mission. They were following a person, a person whom they loved, and who had revealed Love to them.

The heart of the Resurrection is the love of God for his Son Jesus, and through Jesus, for all of us. It is a love that is revealed on this Easter morning to be the strongest force in the universe – stronger even than the power of death.

But isn’t it noteworthy that the stories of the Resurrection all begin with acts of human love? To whom would the Resurrection have been revealed, if no one had loved enough to make the intimidating, failure-confirming journey to the grave? He loved us — yes, this would be confirmed, in the fireworks that awaited at the rolled-away stone. And yet, something else important is revealed to us at the Resurrection, through these women who approach the tomb.

We love him.

Not an abstract love. A love for a real person we have come to know and believe in. Who has stared into our eyes, and enkindled our hearts, and called us by name. Who has engendered in us … Love.

John records: “Mary of Magdala stayed outside the tomb weeping.  And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb.” Who bends over into the darkness of death? One in whom the love for Christ has been irrepressibly planted, and who has the freedom and courage to let it direct one’s actions.

May Christ’s Resurrection rekindle our love for Him this Easter. May we join the women at the tomb in courageous love for Him whose invincible Light seeks to shine through us.