20 April 2014

THE HEART OF THE RESURRECTION

Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection
Jn 20:1-9 (Acts 10:34a, 37-43 / Ps 118 / Col 3:1-4)


When someone we love dies, we greatly feel an unspeakable loss.  The death of a loved one maps out for us a future where there will always be a large absence. Oftentimes the finality of the loss is so immense that there is a denial of death itself. People have their own stories to tell about how they “hear” the footsteps of their departed loved ones on the pathway or their key being turned in the lock although their loved ones have already died.  Some even claim they received a telephone call or a personal visit from someone who has recently died.  The greater the love for the departed the greater the loss.  The greater the loss, the greater the denial.  Sometimes the denial even takes the form of searching for the dead.

Mary Magdalene was no different.  She loved Jesus.  Jesus died.  Mary Magdalene faced an unspeakable loss.  With the death of Jesus, Mary Magdalene saw a future where there would always be a large absence.  She could not bring herself to accept her loss.  But she nonetheless went to the tomb of Jesus and expected a rendezvous with death.  In the Gospel today, John paints for us the scene of Mary Magdalene’s visit to the tomb: “It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark….” The darkness of that early Sunday morning was nothing compared with the darkness that shrouded her grieving heart.  And as an empty tomb welcomed her, her heart became heavier.  She ran and went to Simon Peter and John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, and, most probably, frantic, told them: “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put Him.”

Mary Magdalene’s reaction to the empty tomb was not immense relief that Jesus was not dead.  She did not cheat herself with that mad groundless hope.  The only conclusion she could come to was that some unknown people – perhaps, His enemies – must have stolen the dead body of Jesus.  She must have thought that even in death His enemies would not allow Jesus to rest in peace.  However, little did she know that she was actually seeking the living among the dead.  Later on, the risen Jesus showed Himself to her and made her recognize Him by calling out her name.  Then she would come to faith that Jesus has truly risen from the dead.

When Simon Peter and the Beloved Disciple heard Mary’s story about the empty tomb, they ran to see for themselves the veracity of another woman’s tale.  John, the Beloved Disciple, outran Peter and reached the tomb first.  John did not enter but waited at the entrance of the tomb, for although he was the beloved among the Twelve, he respected the first in authority.  Peter was the first in authority.  When Peter entered the tomb, he saw the burial clothes, and the Gospel today tells us nothing more about Peter than this.  But the same Gospel tells us something more about John: when the Beloved Disciple entered the tomb he saw and he believed.

Why?  Because the John the Beloved reached not only the tomb first.  He also reached the heart of the matter faster.  He saw and believed that Jesus has risen from  the dead.  Beloved disciples always reach the heart of the matter.  And the heart of the resurrection is love.

The urgency of his love made John arrive at the tomb first.  The sensitivity of his love also made him the first to believe.  And later when Jesus would stand unrecognized on the shore of Lake Tiberias after the resurrection, it would also be John the Beloved who would tell Peter: “It is the Lord.”

If Peter enjoyed the primacy of authority, the Beloved Disciple enjoyed the primacy of love.  This takes nothing away from Peter: it only means that, in the words of St. Paul, “If love can persuade” it can get you to the point quicker!

The heart of the Resurrection is love, it is the Father’s liberating love for Jesus, His Beloved Son.  Resurrection is the Father’s response to the cross, His defiant answer to a world that hoped violence could silence Jesus and keep Him in its hold.  In raising Jesus from the dead, the Father raised every value that Jesus stood for, every story that Jesus told, every preference that Jesus made, and every purpose that Jesus pursued.  All this is given new life and new meaning with the Father raising His Beloved Son from the dead.  Death can never be the last word about Jesus.  By the sheer energy of His Father’s love and by the Father’s resounding appreciation for the humble obedience of Jesus, Jesus was wakened to new life by His Father’s applause.  The dead Jesus had no choice but to rise to the occasion.

Love makes us rise.  Love boosts us.  It was love that lifted up the face of the weeping Mary Magdalene beside the empty tomb and recognized Jesus whom she first thought to be a gardener.  It was love that called out her name, “Mary”.

John the Beloved was truly favored even more.  He was present in all the great miracles of Jesus, including His transfiguration on Mount Tabor.  He was allowed by Jesus to recline on His chest during the Last Supper.  He stood at the foot of the cross when Jesus was dying.  Jesus entrusted his dear mother to him.  Thus, because John was showered with so much affection and trust, he saw not only the emptiness of Jesus’ tomb on Easter morning but also Jesus’ rising from the dead.  As the Gospel today puts it, “He saw and believed.”

Simon Peter would later have his chance to experience the forgiving love of Jesus.  Jesus would let him make up for his three denials with his three confession of love: “Lord, Thou knowest everything.  Thou knowest that I love Thee.”  And with his confession of love made Simon Peter’s mandate was renewed by the Lord: “Feed My sheep.  Tend My lambs. Follow Me.”

It is love that begets faith.  It is love that makes us see.  It is love that heals.  It is love that redeems.  If we truly believe that Jesus is risen, then let us love in words and in deeds.  For the heart of the resurrection is love.

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