TEXT: Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 5, 2024

May 5, 2024 Father De Celles Homily

Sixth Sunday of Easter

May 5, 2024

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

I want to apologize up front:

I’ve had this homily bouncing around in my head for weeks,

but it wasn’t until just this morning that I figured out

how I wanted to approach it and write it out.

But it’s been a hectic day,

so it’s not as well organized or cohesive as it should be,

and it’s too long and repetitive.

So forgive me, and try to take from it what God wants you to.

Today St. John, in his first epistle and gospel account of the Last Supper,

relates to us Jesus’ beautiful teaching on love.

Now, there are lots of directions I can take this homily from here.

But as we begin this month of May, the month of Mary,

and do so in the context of the season of Easter, the Resurrection,

I want us to reflect today on how all these texts

have a special meaning to teach us about Mary,

Jesus’ love for her, and her role in our salvation.

Let’s go back to the scripture we just read.

In the second reading from John’s first epistle, he writes:

“In this way the love of God was revealed to us:

God sent His only Son into the world

so that we might have life through Him.”

Ask yourself:

Who was the instrument through which

this love of God was revealed and made incarnate?

Who was the person who cooperated in giving God’s only Son

a human life in a human body,

so that then we might have life through Him?

The answer: Mary.

Then we have Jesus’ words at the Last Supper:

“Remain in My love.

If you keep My commandments, you will remain in My love.”
Who remained in His love from the very moment of her conception

in her mother’s womb,

years before Jesus was born?

And who defined her life by saying “yes” to His Commandments,

telling the Angel Gabriel,

“Let it be done to me according to Your word;”

and instructing the people, “Do whatever he tells you”?


And then we read:

“No one has greater love than this,

to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Who was the one who loved so much that she laid down her whole life

and gave it to Jesus as she gave Jesus His life,

so that thirty years later, He could give up, or lay down,

His life up for us on the cross?

And who stood at the foot of His cross and joined her loving sacrifice to His?


And we read:

“I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.

I have called you friends.”

Who was the first person to whom Jesus told what His life was about,

and with whom Jesus shared all His Father’s and His wisdom?

And who did He never call or even think of calling a “slave,”

but rather always called her not merely “friend” but “mother”?


Consider one more thing Jesus said that night before He died:

“I have told you this so that My joy may be in you

and your joy might be complete.”

Think of what His Mother was doing that night as He spoke those words.

She was not at the Last Supper; it seems only the Apostles were there.

For her, that night was not a night of joy,

but of great pain and sorrow, as she contemplated

what she most certainly knew would happen to her son

in the next few hours.

Surely, He had told her, loving her so much,

and wanting to prepare her as best He could.

And yet, it was Jesus’ desire that His joy might be in her above all,

who had loved and believed and hoped in Him above all.

In this Easter season we remember how on the first three Sundays of Easter

we read the different accounts of Easter Day and Evening.

There we read that when Jesus appeared to the disciples on Easter,

“They were…incredulous for joy.”

Imagine the joy of those disciples, His close collaborators,

who were getting a full taste of what Jesus had meant

when He promised that “their joy might be complete”

as their Master, their friend

who had suffered so horribly, died, and was buried for three days,

now stood in their midst, risen from the dead!

But have you noticed that no word is said of the one who

was Jesus’ closest collaborator, above all,

even before He was conceived?

The one who gave Him a body, and nurtured and protected that body

that was ultimately pierced and mutilated on the Cross?

The one who joined in His suffering most completely and purely while standing

at the foot of the Cross?

Mary Magdalene and John are prominently mentioned both

as standing at the foot of the Cross

and as seeing the Risen Christ on Easter Day.

But who is glaringly missing from all the Biblical accounts of the Scriptures?

Again, His Mother Mary.

Let’s think about this.

Why didn’t the Risen Jesus appear to His mother?

Even some time in the forty days before the Ascension?

Or did He?

The fact is, there is long tradition,

dating back at least to the year 100 to St. Ignatius of Antioch,

a disciple of St. John and St. Peter,

that Jesus did appear to Mary before He appeared to anyone else.

We can trace this tradition through such great Fathers of the Church

as St. John Chrysostom, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and St. Ambrose.

Then through the great Doctors of the Church,

including St. Anselm of Canterbury,

St. Albert the Great, and St. Ignatius of Loyola.

As the great theologian of the 19th century, Dom Guéranger, once wrote:

“There was no need of its being mentioned in the Gospel;

the Tradition of the Holy Fathers…bears sufficient testimony to it;

and even had they been silent, our hearts would have told it us.”

And of course, there’s the great Pope St. John Paul II,

who seemed absolutely convinced of it.

He once wrote:

“How could the Blessed Virgin,

present in the first community of disciples,

be excluded from those who met her divine Son

after He had risen from the dead?…

Indeed…the Mother was probably the first person

to whom the risen Jesus appeared.”

People ask, then why doesn’t Scripture tell us this?

John Paul answered this by suggesting,

“This silence must not lead to the conclusion

that after the Resurrection Christ did not appear to Mary;

rather it invites us to seek the reasons

why the Evangelists made such a choice.”

Dom Guéranger wrote,

“It is not difficult to assign the reason.

The other apparitions intended as proofs of the Resurrection;

this [apparition] to Mary was dictated

by the tender love borne to her by her Son.”

In other words, the accounts in Scripture are there

to convince people that Jesus rose;

but the apparition to Mary was just about love.

In the same way, Scripture never records

Jesus telling His mama, “I love you.”

—It’s just not necessary and literally goes without saying.

John Paul follows this logic and suggests

that, while the statements of several of the witnesses

mentioned in Scripture might have been credible to others,

the witness of Jesus’ own Mother,

                  “Would have been considered too biased

by those who denied the Lord’s Resurrection,

and therefore not worthy of belief,”

         and not necessary to record in Scripture.

In contrast, John Paul points out that it is very strange, incredible even,

that the Gospels seem to clearly indicate that

the Blessed Mother doesn’t join the holy women

going to the tomb on Easter Morning.

So John Paul wonders,

 “[Does this] indicate that she had already met Jesus?

Those women had been faithful and had been at the Cross.

Of course, Our Lady had been the most faithful of all.”

This takes us back to the love of Jesus,

the love of God who was the Son of Mary.

Again, Jesus says,

“No one has greater love than this,

to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

For whom did He lay down His life?

For all of us, of course,

but especially for those who believe and love Him.

So the first person Scripture tells us He appears to is Mary Magdalene,

and then Peter and the Apostles

—the ones who believed and loved Him the most.

Well, almost the most.

His mother had believed in Him and loved Him much more

than anyone ever did or could.

And she did so even before He was conceived in her womb.

In fact, He was conceived because she believed and loved Him,

as she said “yes” to the angel:

“Let it be done to me according to Your word.”

So if, as scripture makes clear,

Jesus appeared first to those who believe and loved Him the most,

it seems certain that He must have first appeared to His Mother.


In the end, this is all about who Jesus loved most.

There is no doubt that would be His Mother.

I mean, in a certain sense, He laid down His life for Mary first and foremost.

Remember, while we believe that

Mary was conceived without sin in her mother’s womb

—the Immaculate Conception—

that was possible because God is not bound by time,

and so He reached forward in time and gave Mary

the benefit of the salvation of the Cross.

Jesus is Mary’s savior too—just decades before anyone else.

So how could He not appear to her before anyone else on Easter?

One can only imagine with great joy and tender emotion that reunion.

The great 3rd century theologian, Origen,

relates one ancient traditional account:

“[The Virgin Mary] opened her eyes…

She said to Him with joy, ‘Rabboni, my Lord, my God, my Son,

thou art resurrected, indeed resurrected.’

She wished to hold Him in order to kiss Him…

But He prevented her and pleaded with her, saying,

‘My mother, do not touch Me. Wait a little,

….It is not possible for anything of flesh to touch Me

until I go into heaven.

This body is, however, the one in which I passed nine months in thy loins…

This flesh is that which I received in thee.

This is that which has reposed in my tomb.

This is also that which is resurrected today,

that which now stands before thee.

…O Mary, My mother, know that it is I, whom thou hast nourished.”

During Mary’s month of May in Easter season,

         let us give turn to her and see and love her as Jesus does.

Let us love and honor her above all others,

except for Jesus, to whom her love leads us.

Let us lay down our lives for love of Christ as Mary did.

Let us keep His Commandments as Mary did,

and so abide in faith and love for Him,

and love one another as Mary did and still does.

And in all this, let us rejoice with Mary as we share with her

in the life of her Risen Son,

so that His joy may be in us, and our joy might be complete.