At daybreak on the first day of the week the women who had come from Galilee with Jesus took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. (Luke 24:1)
These women ventured out at daybreak, which means they prepared in darkness. That darkness is the pregnant pause we call Holy Saturday. As you read this, Mass has not been celebrated since Holy Thursday. No one but the dying will receive communion between Good Friday and Easter Vigil. The Eucharist, which the Catechism calls the source and summit of our faith, has become virtually inaccessible. The poignancy of this should not be lost on us.
This is the day that the Lord has become inaccessible to his disciples. On this Sabbath day the Lord rests, not in majesty as God did at creation, not with family has Jesus did growing up, but upon cold stone in bloodied burial cloths. This is hardly a day at all, for the Light of the World lies extinguished in a rock-hewn cave. A cave gifted to him by Joseph of Arimathea.
He doesn’t need to do this. Jesus could have come back to life as they took Him down from the cross, wowing people into belief by His power. He could have opened His eyes and made His heart beat again while His mother cradled His broken body, illustrating His great love for her by preserving her from grief. Jesus could have done it any number of ways, but the Lord chose this way. Not because God needed it, but because we needed it.
Jesus wanted us to know that he entered so fully into death that he was left alone in the cold, suffocating darkness of a sealed cave. We needed to see just how human he was.
After that, the Lord had one more thing to show us. He emerged from that isolating, restricting darkness. He exited from the tomb as our liberator, rolling back the stone that held him bound. He emerged as victor; the one who has conquered death. Jesus returned as the Light and the Prince of Peace, with radiant angelic intermediaries speaking comfort and hope to His mourners. We needed to know that it truly was God who entered so deeply into our suffering, sin, and dysfunction. He didn’t need it, but we did.
That is the way of our God. For there is nothing that he needs, not even us, but here we are, because He wants us. It is precisely for that reason that the God of the universe does what we need in order to truly transform us. A god who needed us because he was lacking would work his magic to get us at the lowest cost to himself. Instead, we have a God who wants us and wants us to freely want Him. For that reason, He paid the price of this solemn day to show us that in our darkest, coldest, most solitary tombs, He is with us and has been there before us.