After the numbing senselessness and cruelty of Friday afternoon and the bleak despair of the day and night which followed we come to the experience of Sunday morning – when life, unexpectedly, once again takes on meaning.
Although the tomb is empty this is no proof that Christ is risen. Mary of Magdala saw the empty tomb and says: They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have put him.
Peter went into the tomb and ‘saw’ the linen cloths …
Before the bewildering reality of the empty tomb neither Peter nor Mary profess faith in the resurrection.
John the Beloved Disciple did believe and this was because he saw the empty tomb and understood the teaching of scripture …
As is always the case, the realities of life can only be properly understood in the light of the word of God. In this light everything makes immediate sense, even, and especially, those confusing and seemingly meaningless circumstances which come unannounced into human lives.
John saw and he believed: Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
The First Reading presents a picture of Peter at work – preaching. By this time he too believes, his sermon bears adequate testimony to that fact. Peter is now confident of his faith and full of the Holy Spirit of fearless readiness to speak the name of Jesus.
Again it is interesting to note the same formula in action which made John a believer in the resurrection. Peter saw (now I, and those with me, can witness to everything) and he recalled the scripture (it is to him that all the prophets bear this witness).
The message here is very clear for our own lives. With monotonous regularity I meet people who seem to be able to make no sense of what is happening in their lives. They are so angry with God or puzzled by God, as they imagine him to be, they are so frustrated and confused with their life situation and they so often teeter on the brink of a despair which would rob them of any hope that life could ever recover some meaning.
How fortunate we are, those of us who have received the gift of love for the word of God, the Sacred Scripture, and who allow it to tell us the meaning of our lives and of the painful circumstances that inevitably arise!
Just recently I had a conversation with a woman who had been raised a Catholic but left and came back to the Church later in life told me she came back because she missed the silence.
She said that in the protestant denomination she joined they had everything from red hot preaching to red hot singing to sharing and fellowship, but they had no silence.
She was referring to those moments of stillness and peace with which our liturgy abounds. Like on a Good Friday when priest prostrate himself and prays in silence or periods of silence between the readings or before and after communion. Particularly she mentioned that mysterious moment of silence when the priest speaks the words of Consecration and then holds up the Sacred Host to the people and they look up in faith.
There is no silence like that moment and it happens every time, even if there is a screaming baby or two. At that moment we look up at the Host and our minds struggle to come to terms with the miracle: This is Jesus!
She said there is nothing like that silence anywhere in any of the other churches she attended and sometimes, she said, she wished the priest would just go on and hold the Host there for much longer so that this silence would be prolonged and have time to sink into her soul.
It’s not just about an absence of noise, but a being face to face with a deeper reality, an infinite meaning which puts us all in our place, which tells us who we are, which establishes a proper order in our lives.
The priest now shows the Sacred Host to the people. What do we usually do when someone shows us something? We look at it. So as the Scripture says, we might see.
What did the angel tell the women at the tomb to do in last night’s reading? Come and see … come and see the place where he lay, and then go quickly and tell his disciples.
We look at the Sacred Host and at the Chalice in deep silence and wonderment and say: I believe, or as the Irish do: My Lord and my God.
This silence of the Consecration can be a part of our daily prayer time with the Lord and from there a part of our daily life. Some people call their time of prayer quiet time and its goal is to reach this silence.
It is in this silence that we learn to believe.
There are a number of special moments such as this in the Sacred Scripture. Mary Magdalene at the tomb hears the risen Lord say her name: Mary. One can imagine the microsecond of silence, of hearing, of seeing, of believing – and she exclaims: Rabbuni!
Then there is the special moment, it was just an instant, described in the Gospel this morning .… then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed…
What went on in the mind and heart of the disciple John we do not know but it was a moment of seeing which suddenly became a moment of believing – and the specific content of that believing was – He is risen!
The word of God, meditated upon and absorbed, gradually, day by day, so structures our inner world that we truly begin to live in the Easter faith of God’s people. When this comes to some sort of maturity in us there is little that can unseat or take away the happiness which is the unfailing fruit of trust in God’s word.
John and Peter and the rest of the disciples came to believe in the resurrection and to understand its meaning to the extent that they understood the Scriptures. For them knowledge of the Scriptures was knowledge of Christ – and so it is for each one of us.
St Paul speaks of looking for the things that are in heaven and these are the very things of which the Scriptures speak. They can infallibly direct our lives to the road which is Jesus, the way, the truth and the life.
Our life is hidden with him in God and all that the Scriptures say of him will be true for us also, so that as Jesus rose, in accordance with the scriptures, so too will we rise with him, in accordance with the scriptures, and in him, our glory too will be revealed. Alleluia,