299. Son Rise (John 20:1-10)
“So on Sunday we all come together. This is the first day, on which God transformed darkness and matter and made the world; the day on which Jesus Christ our Savior rose from the dead.” – St. Justin Martyr
John 20:1-10: It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb,” she said, “and we don’t know where they have put him.” So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first; he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed. Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead. The disciples then went home again.
Christ the Lord: Easter Sunday, when the Liturgy presents this passage to the Church, brings Holy Week to its glorious climax. Indeed, this week, which ranks highest among the periods of the liturgical year, is made “holy” precisely by the Lord’s resurrection. Imagine how a Good Friday without Easter Sunday would alter the Christian message: Jesus would be no more than another Socrates. His teaching would perhaps be remembered, but his outlandish claims to be the Messiah, the Son of God, and the Light of the World would be invalidated. The apostles would have remained passive and frightened, and the Church would never have come into existence. The Eucharist would be, at best, a mere myth, an empty ritual. The martyrs, virgins, and other saints who have flooded these last twenty centuries with such revolutionary holiness would have remained mere citizens of the earth!
Jesus Christ was Lord of heaven. By his resurrection, he has conquered this fallen world’s reigning powers of death. Now he is Lord of heaven and earth; the Kingdom of God is close at hand: among us, in fact, through the Church, which is the Risen Lord’s body. There is only one Lord, Jesus Christ, crucified for our sins, risen for our redemption, and present through his Church. If now we embrace him there, he will make sure that we rise to embrace him forever in heaven.
Christ the Teacher: St. John’s attention to detail is meaningful. He records how he himself ran to the empty tomb faster than St. Peter, but waited for Peter to go in first. His reward: “he saw and believed”: faith. What could these minutiae have to teach us? Peter was the leader of the Twelve Apostles. Christ had dubbed him the rock upon which he would build his Church. At the Last Supper, he had commanded him to strengthen his brethren in the faith. Soon after his Resurrection, he specially commissioned him to feed and tend his sheep. St. John, the “beloved disciple,” follows Peter into the empty tomb instead of rushing in ahead of him, and he receives the gift of faith; he comes to believe in the risen Lord.
The Church is not a conglomerate of individual believers all living out their own inspirations from the Holy Spirit. The Church is the unified Body of Christ and the organized people of God. It is the New Israel, and like the old Israel, it has a structure, and God has chosen to work through that structure. When we responsibly live out our membership in the Body of Christ, we stay in step with the Church, under the guidance of Peter’s successor, the pope. We neither lag behind nor run too far ahead, and in that way, Christ pours out upon us a strong and vibrant faith, just as he did for his beloved disciple, John.
Christ the Friend: He rose for us. He came to earth for us, he suffered for us, and he rose for us. Nothing in Christ was for himself. Nothing. He is all love, all self-giving, all obedience to the Father’s will for the sake of our salvation. He rose so that we might rise with him. In his Resurrection, we see what he is preparing for us. How eagerly he looks forward to that day when he will “wipe away every tear” (Revelation 7:17) from our eyes and welcome us into the fullness of life that is his eternal kingdom! The more faithful we are to him now, the more we will share in his glory when he raises us from the dead. Good friends fill our lives on earth with joy and comfort; only Christ can offer a joy that will keep growing forever.
Christ: I know it’s hard for you to feel the power and the joy of my Resurrection. You still need to grow in your faith and humility to be able to feel it. But you don’t need to feel it in order to believe in me. Think of my Resurrection often. The more you turn the eyes of your heart towards it, the more its light will illumine and warm your heart, until your whole life is gradually bathed in its power and joy. And I have given you a reminder: the sunrise. Each day, the sun comes up and brings light to the world, just as I rose from the darkness of death in order to conquer it forever with the light of my life.
Christ in My Life: I believe that you have risen from the dead, Lord, though I still tend to live as if this life were all there is; but you know that in my heart I am seeking your will and your Kingdom. Help me to seek them as I ought. Why do I keep thinking that the broken shards of happiness that sparkle in this fallen world can have any meaning “for me or anyone” apart from a living friendship with you?
Have mercy on your Church, Lord. In this day and age, it is so hard to trust in authority, even in your divinely established authority. But I want to. Teach me to discern your presence and your will in the words and indications of the pope, as all the saints have done. Teach me to see you in him, and to love you by serving the Church through obeying him. May I too become a saint!
I know that you lived your life for my sake, for my salvation, and for my instruction – and to comfort me, so that I never have to suffer alone. I want to live my life for your sake, building up your Kingdom, obeying your will, making you known and loved by everyone around me. What else would be a worthy response to all that you have done for me? With the love of your heart, inflame my heart!
PS: This is just one of 303 units of Fr. John’s fantastic book The Better Part. To learn more about The Better Part or to purchase in print, Kindle or iPhone editions, click here. Also, please help us get these resources to people who do not have the funds or ability to acquire them by clicking here.
Art: Cover of The Better Part used with permission. Les disciples Jean et Pierre accourant au sépulcre le matin de la résurrection (The Disciples John and Peter Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection), Eugène Burnand, 1898, Restored Traditions, used with permission.
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