Easter Homily 1 Easter and “The Other Mary”


I thought it might be an interesting meditation tonight, to just highlight one person in the Story of Jesus in this climatic time of His ministry.  It will be of Mary of Cleophas, often referred to in the Gospels as “the other Mary.”  Who was this woman?Of course, as I lead in to this Easter Message, let us be clear that this Easter Day is all about the Lord Jesus, and His triumph over the grave, and His rising up.   His resurrection is our victory.   He came to defeat the hold of sin on us, so we could freely live in Mercy, and He came to set us free, too, from the slavery of death.  All because Jesus rose from the dead, is this all made possible for us.  Alleluia to Jesus, to the Father Who sent the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, that we may live in glorious union in them as children, a people reborn by Grace via The Lamb, to as many as received Him.
We are called to live saintly lives in loving response to Jesus Christ.  We have models to follow in the Gospel story.  In Holy Week we heard it proclaimed that “… there were standing by the cross of Jesus His mother and His mother’s sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalen.”  Tonight (in the Easter Vigil) we hear: “After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb….an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it.  Then the angel said to the women in reply, Do not be afraid!  He, Jesus, has been raised from the dead!  Then they went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed, and ran to announce this to his disciples.  And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them.  They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage.  Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid.  Go tell my brothers we begin again at Galilee, they will see me.”Let us get to know this “other Mary” in the Crucifixion and Resurrection scene.  By her own fidelity and response to Jesus, we learn from her how to love and serve Jesus so ourselves, as is fitting to our Savior.First — the factual part on Mary of Cleophas.  Second– the emotional story of “the other Mary” and the bigness of her faith.

The factual stuff on this Mary of Cleophas:  How should we understand this Mary called Jesus’ “mother’s sister?” The short answer is that Mary of Cleophas is probably the Blessed Virgin’s husband’s sister-in-law.  Mary of Cleophas may have had a previous husband named Alpheus, or this Alpheus may have been Cleophas. Going by an ancient historian Hegesippus, Cleophas was St. Joseph ‘ brother, who had a wife, Mary.  (Another lesser historical theory has Mary of Cleophas as sister to Joseph. )

She IS definitely, though, the third Mary in the scene at Calvary and the Risen account of Jesus, and this “other Mary” is called as such so as to be distinguished from The Blessed Virgin Mary, or of Mary of Magdala, who both were witnesses like her to the Crucified and Risen Lord up close.

Just like in a few of number among Jesus’ followers, Mary of Cleophas was a family relation to Jesus.  Reading the Bible, we find that Jesus had “brethren” in the Semitic sense who were named James, Joseph, Simon (Simeon) and Jude (Mt 13:55).  They were close kin to Him—is what that means—as Jesus was an only child of Mary.  We also know that Jesus’ mother Mary had a “sister” (in the general sense of the word as a close woman relative), and this woman is our Mary of Cleophas.  This is the “other Mary” who had the husband named Cleophas, so we think.

What else do the Gospels tell us? That, at the death of Jesus, we are told this Mary, wife of Cleophas /Clopas (Jn 19:25), was present right besides Mary, The Lord’s Mother.  In a gospel account, this “other Mary” was described as to be the mother of James and Joseph (Mt 27:56), but then in another account, she’s called the mother of James the Less and Joses (Mk 15:40).  So what gives?  It’s that Semitic way of describing things again. For, on one hand, James is described as the son of Alphaeus (not Cleophas) in three Gospels’ listing of the Apostles (Mt 10:3, Mk 3:18, Lk 6:15). Thus, we can infer that Mary the wife of Cleophas is unlikely to be a true sister of the Virgin Mary, since they bear the same name.  Mary’s mother wouldn’t have had named two Mary’s in-a-row, is the sensible conclusion here.   However, the inference is made that Mary of the Holy Family and Mary of Cleophas are closely related.  Likely, she is St. Joseph ‘s sister-in law or sister.  We can go with that explanation, as it all makes sense, and it shows her importance, while being called “the other Mary.”  On the Church calendar, Mary of Cleophas shares April 24th with Salome, the co-witness with her to Jesus.

Now for the emotional and spiritual/faith dimension of this special Mary of Cleophas.  She would be in the story of Jesus early on, even to His infancy. She would be in the story of the Mary, too.  Whether she sojourned to Africa with the Holy Family for safety isn’t known, but she was there to know it.  In the end, as Jesus goes to the Cross, this sister to Joseph is faithfully there.  She is a steadfast witness, maybe a model for cradle Catholics.

As sister-in-law to Mary, this other Mary was a very good, faith-filled, supportive person to her family, and a great co-believer in Jesus as Lord.

Now I think it’s amazing that anyone went up to Calvary to witness Jesus’ death.  It must have been wrenching and horrific and devastating.  Even if Mary, Jesus’ Mother, went there in confidence of her Son’s rising, and fulfilling the Father’s will—it had to be just unbelievably hard for her to be there watching, and even at the end, to be beneath His feet, and then receiving Him down off the cross.   But this “other Mary” was also there.   Probably she was borrowing off of Mary’s great faith and courage, and came along.   I have done that myself: borrow off of Mary.  There are things in life I wouldn’t have taken on, but for Mary’s assistance besides me.  (The priesthood may be one.)

Mary of Cleophas, was also there on Calvary’s hill to support Mary.  Someone needed to be besides her, as she kept near with Jesus to the end, at Golgotha.  This Mary also had the obvious reason of her co-wanting to show her great love for Jesus, going to Him to offer compassion and prayer in His time of most need.  Jesus would have deeply appreciated it from his aunt.

Of the leading men followers of Jesus, only John got up to Calvary among the Twelve.   So, we can’t underscore how hard it was to do this. thhhh

It was the same above reasons that this “other Mary” went to the tomb at the first morning light of Sunday’s dawn.  She courageously loved Jesus. Her compassion led her to the tomb, and it put her in place to be an early witness to the Resurrection of Christ.  This Mary, along with Mary of Magdala, and Salome, came to the Sepulchre. They were expecting a guard to still be posted there, to chase them off, but they came anyway with their spices, to see if they could put them on the shroud of Jesus.  With the boulder expected to be in front of the tomb, too, what were the chances?  Yet, they came, and in haste at morning light.   Love and courage does such things.

I think you and I know of some times that we found the love and courage to be somewhere or with someone.   An internal strength, supplied by God’s grace, just moved us to be where God wanted us to be, and where we hoped we could be in great love and give support out from our hearts.

That’s our other Mary.  She found that inner drive, the inspiration on that first day of the week, in Jerusalem.  It would put her in place to witness first the most amazing site of all time, the Risen Jesus.  Seeing the angel was stupefying enough, but then these women saw the Risen Lord.  “Do not fear, it is I.”    They recognized Him—though in great awe.   They immediately went into worship before Him.

You and I as Catholics, or related and supporting believers, know of the importance of worship of the Lord.   We are here this night to do it.   Coming just a little earlier than this “other Mary” did, but it was her first opportunity of when Sabbath was over.   We have the Easter Vigil come as a Saturday, it is day’s end now.   It’s sundown.  We begin our Easter praises.   We don’t wait for Sunday morn.   It can begin tonight.   And we’ll celebrate big tomorrow, too.

Let us be worship-ful and in awe of the Lord, Who is here among us, not as obviously, but just as real.  Faith believes and receives.    ###

Hardly anybody really ever goes far to explain who all the brothers, sisters, cousins and such are to Jesus—but from John the Baptist to Mary of Cleophas—He had some family in His ministry.  We do not hear of Cleophas or Joseph (Jesus’ adopted father) in the Gospels during Jesus’ adult life. We can imagine that after their deaths, the two families—deprived of their protectors and heads—came together under one roof. This would further strengthen their ties: the two Marys as “sisters” and Jesus and His cousins as “brothers”. Gospel and tradition kept these names without denying Mary’s perpetual virginity.

To end this whole study, we can see is that Jesus had dedicated followers to Him, and some were family.  Yet what was important about them was emphasized once by Jesus when, of praising His mother Mary, He said:  “Blessed is she who has listened to the Word of God and kept to it.”   It could be also said of Mary of Cleophas. Hopefully, it will be said of us, too.   Amen.    ###


Extra info/

We borrow info above from Hegesippus. A native of Palestine, Hegesippus finished his Memoirs in the reign of Pope Eleutherius (AD 175-189) when he was an old man. He draws his information from personal sources, as he was able to question some surviving members of Jesus’ family. Hegesippus can tell us that: “After the martyrdom of James, it was unanimously decided that Simeon, son of Clopas, was worthy to occupy the see of Jerusalem. He was, it is said, a cousin of the Saviour;” Hegesippus recounts in fact that Clopas was a brother of Joseph.    To research more, see Prat, Ferdinand. Jesus Christ: His Life, His Teaching, and His Work, 2 vols. (Milwaukee, 1950).

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