Easter Sunday - 21st April, 2019

Liturgical Reflection

Acts 10:34, 37-43; Letter to the Colossians 3:1-4; Gospel - John 20:1-9

 

If Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain (1 Cor 15: 14).

In reflecting on St. Paul’s declaration, Benedict XVI reminds us that the Christian faith stands or falls with the truth of the testimony that Christ is risen from the dead (Jesus of Nazareth, Part Two, ch.9).

In today’s liturgy we read of the origins of this testimony. The Gospel presents John’s account of the events at the tomb on the first day of the week and describes different reactions to the discovery of the empty tomb. Mary Magdalene initially concludes they have taken the Lord from the tomb (Jn 20:2). It requires the appearance of Jesus to convince her that he has risen (Jn 20:16). Both Peter and the ‘other disciple’ (Jn 20:2) saw the linen cloths ... and also the cloth that had been over his head… rolled up in a place by itself (Jn 20:6-7). Peter’s reaction is not recorded; but his testimony in today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles suggests that he too only accepted Jesus’ resurrection after being a witness when God allowed him to be seen (Acts 10:40). The reaction of the ‘other disciple’ is radically different – he saw and he believed (Jn 20:8)!

Brendan Byrne SJ suggests that it was the condition and the separate location of the face veil that sparked the disciple's faith. Here was not grave robbery or hostile activity. Here was a sign of the defeat of death, a divine reclaiming of life (Life Abounding, p.330).

 

He also suggests that the disciple's faith provides an example for us. Whereas most of the disciples will come to faith in the resurrection only after they have physically seen the risen Lord, the ‘other disciple’ believes on the basis of the 'sign’ constituted by the grave clothes; he has not needed to see Jesus. In this he foreshadows the faith of all subsequent generations of believers, upon whom Jesus pronounces a blessing following his interaction with Thomas (Jn 20:29). Like him, they (we!) also do not "see" Jesus but believe on the basis of the "many signs" recorded in the Gospel (Jn 20:30-31) (Life Abounding, p.331).

Benedict XVI reminds us that Jesus’ resurrection is not an instance of a resuscitated corpse. Rather an ontological leap occurred, one that touches being itself, opening up a dimension that affects us all, creating for all of us a new space of life, a new space of being in union with God (Jesus of Nazareth, Part Two, ch.9).

Jim Wade, Dominican Laity, Canberra.