Christ has risen from the dead and invites us to step into the hope of…
Opening the Word: The bewildering climax of the Resurrection
After supper, he bent down to wash the feet of his disciples. He fervently prayed in the garden that this cup might pass. His disciples slept. He was arrested, and the disciples scattered. Peter denied him. They all denied him, except the beloved disciple and Mary, his mother.
He was tried before Pilate, condemned and sentenced to death. He was mocked, beaten and crucified. He died, breathing out his spirit over the creation that had rejected him.
On the first day of the week, on the morning of the third day since his death, Mary comes to a tomb shrouded in darkness. Her face is bloated from a constant stream of tears. Is the one who we called the Messiah, the one who gave us hope, the one who gave me hope really dead?
Mary doesn’t receive an easy answer to her heart’s anxious questioning. She encounters an empty tomb. In the Gospel of John, there is no angelic host there to explain what happened. No glorious light. There is nothing but the all-consuming darkness of the tomb.
|April 12 – Easter Sunday: The Resurrection of the Lord|
Acts 10:34, 37-43
Ps 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23
She brings along Peter and the beloved disciple, John. The tomb is vacant, except for the burial cloths of the Lord who Peter denied.
And yet, there is a strangeness to the position of these cloths. They’re not haphazardly placed in the tomb, thrown about by a thief who came to steal a body. They’re folded up. The headcloth is placed separately from the rest.
The beloved disciple comes into the tomb, sees nothing but this burial cloth. He believes.
After the drama of the Passion, we’d expect more from a Resurrection narrative. Eventually, the disciples do awaken to what has happened. In Acts, Peter proclaims that Jesus Christ is Lord, anointed by the Father, crucified by humanity, and now risen from the dead. He is the redeemer, the one who comes to save us from the dreadful darkness of death’s despair.
He is the stone rejected by the builders, who has become the keystone for the redemption of the world (cf. Ps 118:22).
And yet that first Easter morning in the Gospel of John, there’s nothing but a burial cloth.
This dizzying, bewildering climax to the Gospel of John is something that many of us can relate to. The world that Christ came to save through his death and resurrection is in turmoil.
COVID-19 has caused sickness and death, economic turmoil and a pervading sense of loneliness as we long to be in the presence of our family and neighbors. Likely, most of us this Easter morn are not present in church to adore the risen Lord. We’re watching from home, a bit afraid of what comes next.
On the one hand, this puts us in the very space the disciples were in on Easter. They were bewildered, unsure of what the empty tomb meant. Their world was still shattered, and it took a certain amount of faith — the faith of the beloved disciple — to see what a tossed ahead headcloth could mean.
On the other hand, we know the rest of the story. We know that the tossed aside headcloth manifests the greatest hope. Death has been trampled down. Christ, the Lord, Our Lord, is not just risen this day but every day.
The resurrection of the God-man, of our beloved Jesus, gives us new eyes to see everything. So many hidden acts of love have been offered to our neighbors this day, the kind of love that our resurrected Lord makes possible.
So rejoice this day, dear Christian. Our Lord is risen. Hope reigns over the dreadful, dizzying, disease of death.
Over the next glorious 50 days, we’ll see what a thrown aside burial cloth really means.
Timothy P. O’Malley, Ph.D., is the director of education at the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame.