Gospel Reading: John 20:1-10
vs.1 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
vs.2 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.”
vs.3 So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb.
vs.4 They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first;
vs.5 he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go it.
vs.6 Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground,
vs.7 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.
vs.8 then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed.
vs.9 Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
vs.10 The disciples then went home again.
We have three commentators available from whom you may wish to choose .
Click on the name of the commentator required.
Michel DeVerteuil: a Trinidadian Holy Ghost Priest, director of the Centre of Biblical renewal
Thomas O’Loughlin: Professor of Historical Theology, University of Wales, Lampitor
Sean Goan: Studied scripture in Rome, Jerusalem and Chicago and teaches at Blackrock College and part time at Milltown Institute
Lectio Divina with the Sunday Gospels
John’s account of the resurrection is in two stages:
– verses 1-2 are about Mary of Magdala’s experience;
– verses 3 to 10 tell us about the experience of the two disciples.
In verses 1 and 2 you might like to focus on the symbolism of it being “still dark” and yet a “first day” of a new time. The large stone symbolizes all the forces, human and other, that keep God’s grace in the bondage of the tomb.
Your experience will help you interpret how Mary responded. Did she run in confusion? Or in fear?
The story of Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved can be read from various points of view. You can take them together as experiencing the resurrection, focusing on the details, especially the cloths lying on the ground, useless now since Jesus was alive, but also on the fact that until they saw the empty tomb they did not believe the teaching of the scriptures.
St John makes a point of contrasting the two apostles. If you would like to meditate on this aspect of the story, see Peter as symbol of the Church leader, while “the other disciple” is the one who, while having no position of authority, is specially loved by Jesus and, perhaps as a result, is first in faith.
Lord, we thank you for moment of grace.
We had been in a situation of death
– a relationship that meant a lot to us seemed dead
– an addiction held us in its grip
– our country was locked in civil strife.
Then the day came that would turn out to be the first of a new era.
We were mourning as usual,
Like Mary of Magdala making a routine visit to the tomb of Jesus,
But saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb.
Naturally, we looked for some simple explanation,
“they have taken the Lord our of the tomb and we don’t know where they have put him,”
but it wasn’t anything like that,
it was what the scriptures teach us, that your work must always rise again.
“They can kill a bishop, but they cannot kill the Church which is the people.” Archbishop Romero, some days before he was martyred
Lord, we thank you for people of faith.
They believe the teaching of the scriptures
That your work may lie in the tomb for some days
But it must rise again.
“When the underprivileged unite and struggle for justice, is that not a sign
of the presence and action of God in our time?” Musumi Kanyaro, Committee of Women in Church and Society, Lutheran World Federation
Lord, as we look around the world today
we see what Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved saw
as they entered his tomb.
Cloths are lying on the ground that we can recognize for what they are
– attitudes of passivity that look like fine linen
but in fact kept your chosen ones in the tomb.
Whereas you have once more fulfilled what you taught us in all the scriptures
and we had not really believed until this moment:
that you will always raise up your chosen ones
when the world imprisons them in a tomb.
Lord, we pray today for those who were baptized last night:
today they have enthusiasm, for them you are alive and present;
but there will certainly come a time when they will experience you absent,
when prayer will be like Mary of Magdala going in the gloom of early morning
to visit the tomb of Jesus.
In fact, they will be like people who mourn for a spouse or a child
without even having the comfort of the dead body to look at.
This is the way they will have to pass
because until they have had experiences like this they will not really believe
the teaching of the scriptures that your grace cannot be overpowered by evil
and that your presence within us must always, like Jesus,
rise again from the tomb.
Lord, we like to feel that we have you within our grasp:
– that our prayers are always answered;
– that we are living in a way that is pleasing to you;
– that the times, gestures and words of our prayers are just right.
Teach us that we must be prepared to lose that security
and experience being abandoned, until we live in trust only
and see all those things that we considered important
like the cloths in the empty tomb of Jesus –
fine linen cloths, but they were keeping him in the tomb.
Now we see them on the ground and also the cloth that had been over his head
not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself.
1. The resurrection is the source of Christian hope: our lives are not circumscribed by life as we know it now, but can open onto a new life in the presence of God. This is the mystery beyond words, yet somehow today it has to be the subject of our preaching. However, there are two widely held misconceptions which prevent people hearing what the liturgy says about the resurrection today in its symbols, prayers, and readings. A useful task in the homily is to draw attention to these mistaken ideas. The first is that it was some sort of resuscitation, a trick to prove that Jesus was right, an event which you either believe happened or did not happen back then. This misconception distracts from a hope in our resurrection in the future. The resurrection is not about resuscitation, but our future transformation. The second, and far more widespread notion, is that resurrection is just a fancy terms for a belief in an afterlife of some sort or other — the number of practising Christians who think that re-incarnation can be squared with Christian faith is an indication of this confusion’s prevalence. Our faith is not about some kind of postmortem survival, but in God’s gift of the fullness of life.
2. So, the first point is to avoid ‘explaining ‘ the mystery as if it were a series of ‘facts’ that can just be acknowledged as having happened so-and-so many years ago. In earlier times each item in the resurrection accounts was studied like the clues in a detective story with the aim of building an apologetic that would explain the ‘how’ of the resurrection and the ‘what’ of the risen body of Jesus. But the kerygma of the resurrection lies not in the details of ‘the first Easter,’ but in the reality that those who join their lives with the Christ shall share a fuller, glorious, transformed life as the gift of the Father. We can inherit the Father’s gift of glory as the final fulfilment of human life. It is worth pointing out that the disciple today must not be distracted by the ‘how’ and ‘what’ questions of ‘the first Easter’ from remembering that Christian faith strains onward to the future: the cost of discipleship now and tomorrow is worth it for the path of righteousness does not end with a grave. Many wonder whether or not they ‘can believe’ in the empty tomb, but this misses the point. Belief in the resurrection is seen when someone, even in the face of death, still follows the path of love with the confidence that the Father will ‘not abandon my soul to Hades, nor let his Holy One see corruption’ (Acts 2:27 [Ps 16:10]).
3. Second, belief in the resurrection is not some christianised version of a belief in the immortality of the soul. A belief in immortality is a human sense that a bit, some sort of spiritual
residue, can survive without a body. The belief in the resurrection is that we are each creatures willed by God, in whose histories God is interested as the loving Father, and into whose history he has sent his Son sharing our humanity, and therefore whose whole existence ‘spirit, soul, and body’ can be transformed to become part of his Son’s glorious body. Easter is not a celebration of a ‘survival factor’ in humanity, but of the Father’s love so that nothing good shall perish, but be given even fuller life.
4. To believe in the message of Easter is not a matter of tombs long ago in Palestine, but having the conviction that it is worthwhile to seek to bring light in darkness, to oppose lies with truth, to work for justice in the face of human corrup- tion, and to say that death does not have the last word.
5. When we profess our faith in the resurrection of Jesus we are not setting out something with the intention that our understandings should grasp it and comprehend it. Jesus has been transformed to a new kind of existence by the Father beyond our understanding and we can only express it in symbols such as that of the empty tomb — tombs, after all, are designed to hold their remains indefinitely. By contrast, the proclamationjesus is Risen’ is an invitation to share in a new way of seeing God and the universe, and it is only from within this new vision (faith) that it makes sense. Hence, the ancient theological dictum, based in Isaiah 7:9, ‘unless you believe, you will not understand.’ The message of Acts and the gospel is that we are invited to live, to live in a new way, to live in Christ — and that in living in this way we discover in the midst of suffering and death that the Father will raise us as he raised the Christ.
6. If we join with those who accept the invitation to new life in Christ, which is what we say we are doing in accepting bapcommits us to a way of living. The early followers were referred to as being on ‘The Way’ (see Acts 9:2; 18:26; 19:9 and 23; 22:4,14 and 22) and our oldest extant teaching manual (The Didache) begins by contrasting ‘The Way of Life’ (to be followed by disciples) with’The Way of Death.’
7. The thought of resurrection may fill us with joy, but the life-demands that accepting it makes on us can be great: we must do as we would be done to (cf Didache 1:2; Mt 7:12; Lk 6:31), we must practice the forgiveness we desire from the Father (cf the ‘Our Father’), and we must act with gentleness. Only in constant effort to live life in this way can we glimpse the truth of the empty tomb.
8. To live this life demands patience, a waiting for the good things to be revealed — the practice of the virtue of hope: we must always be of good courage … for we walk by faith, not by sight (cf 2 Cor 5:6f). Today is our day for rejoicing in the risen Christ, for thanking the Father for his love, and for reminding ourselves of that to which we have committed ourselves: The Way. Death has contended with Life, yet despite tombs and symbols of death all around us, we proceed to commit ourselves to life, confident that as the Father transformed the existence of Jesus, so he will transform the whole creation.
Let the reader understand
Gospel Comments : John 20:1-9
This account of the first Easter Sunday morning is significant in that it highlights how each of us as believers must come to terms with the mystery of the resurrection. Mary reports to Peter and the beloved disciple that the tomb is empty. They in turn run to investigate and, while the disciple reaches the tomb first, he holds back in deference to Peter, the leader of the twelve. It is only when the beloved disciple enters the tomb that we are told an appropriate response to the event –’He saw and he believed.’ The beloved disciple is unnamed but in John’s gospel he is present and close to Jesus at all the key moments: the Last Supper, Calvary and now the tomb. In a sense he symbolises where all true believers should be, for each of us is called to be a beloved disciple who accompanies Jesus on his way: ‘Where I am there also my servant will be.’ Jn 12:26
Our readings today bring home to us with tremendous enthusiasm and fervour how our faith life is meaningless if not rooted in the resurrection of Jesus. The gospel is not merely a story in which we are offered the good example of a man who lived a life of love. It is much more, for it shows us that God has renewed our life totally from within through the Spirit of the Risen Christ who now lives in us. In the world of the New Testament many doubted the resurrection and poured scorn on the idea. The same is true today and perhaps this is not an unreasonable response when confronted with the apparent finality of death. Yet the entire New Testament is a witness to the faith of those who affirmed the resurrection as much more than an historical fact. For them it was the ultimate transforming truth and it remains so for those who celebrate it today. This explains why, ‘We are an Easter people and alleluia is our song.’ (St Augustine)