Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018
Fr. Forlano, St. Stanislaus Parish
When John the beloved disciple entered the tomb, the scripture says, “he saw and believed.” He believed in the resurrection without seeing the risen body of Jesus. How does this happen? It is important for us to reflect on this fact because it is the same way that we come to believe in the resurrection of Jesus – we who never have seen the physical risen body of Jesus. What is it that he saw and how did that bring him to belief? When Mary of Magdala came to the tomb, she saw the stone removed and thought the worst. She thinks the grave has been robbed and that the body of Jesus has been stolen. What John sees is the burial cloths there and the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. This is the first clue or sign of the resurrection. If someone stole the body, why would they remove the burial cloths first? It is not what grave robbers would do. Therefore, the body of Jesus wasn’t stolen. There is something about the burial cloths themselves that is another sign of the resurrection. We must remember that Jesus has spent the last three years with the disciples traveling all through Galilee and Judea and even in pagan territory. They would have often “camped” out in the wilderness together or shared a common space for sleeping. When John saw the burial cloths laying there and the head covering rolled up, it reminded him of how Jesus “made his bed” or rolled up his bedroll after waking up in the morning. It was a sign that Jesus did it. A sign that he was alive. There was something distinctive about the way the burial cloths and head covering were that pointed to the presence of Christ alive. All of know who made the bed or set the table even without seeing the person do it, if we spend enough time with them. There is a difference between how my mom would set the table or make the bed compared to my young nephew. The way things appear are signs of who has been there.
Why was John the first to believe? Why does he “see” what the others do not? Because he is the “disciple whom Jesus loved.” Not that he was loved more than the others, but that he more than the others had let the love of Jesus define him. “Beloved” becomes his “name” – his identity. Faith is a response to the love of God, accepting the love of God. Being love opens us up to receiving the truth. Faith is not the same as understanding. The Gospel today makes note that John believed, but they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead. Faith is not an intellectual exercise. We don’t get there through scripture study. You can’t explain how it is that your mother or you spouse loves you, but you know that she does, and that love changes the way you look at her. You believe her without question because of the love. You don’t have to prove or test everything she says.
The preaching of Peter that we hear in the Acts of the Apostles is a sign of the Resurrection. This same Peter who denied Jesus three times and was afraid of the cross, now filled with the Holy Spirit, shares the Good News without fear. The Holy Spirit fills him with new life and makes Jesus, the Risen Lord, present in his flesh. The change in Peter is the sign of the resurrection – a sign that Jesus is alive. You and me – the baptized are like Peter. We who come to the Eucharistic table, are those chosen by God who have ate and drank with him after he rose form the dead. He dwells in us and feeds us and continues to stay with us in the sacraments. The way we live is a sign of his resurrection. We believe not because of a text book, but because we have seen the signs of divine life in our brothers and sisters who love us as Christ has loved. Who have forgiven us and cared for us. We believe because of the surprising change or conversion we’ve seen in ourselves. In the the strength and grace we’ve received to forgive others and to face challenges we thought were impossible. In the fact that we have been given new life by his mercy and love. Let’s be attentive to the signs of Christ’s life among us. These are things that he has done, signs that he is with us, signs that he is risen. This is the day the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad! Happy Easter!