Gospel Lectio Divina, Easter Sunday The Resurrection of the Lord
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.
O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.
On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning
When I wake up early, I discover things I wouldn’t have discovered if I had slept in. The slowness with which the world begins illuminates truths I would have otherwise overlooked. I try to wake up early as often as possible to have the chance to greet the world instead of having it greet me–which it often does with a rude awakening. Mary of Magdala discovered the empty tomb early in the morning. Free from the distractions of the world, the early morning is often the best time to discover God’s miracles. The worries of our day haven’t caught up to us as much yet. Early in the morning, we can have time to ourselves to discover the deep and honest realities that dwell deep in our hearts. Jesus knows this. If you do not already, make an attempt to get up early–while it is still dark–and greet God. That may be the only time we can recognize him in this world that does all it can to draw us away from him.
the other disciple
It’s interesting that John refers to himself in the third person and doesn’t even give himself a name. First person narrative literature was very uncommon–if not nonexistent–in the first century. In fact, it is said that St. Augustine–three centuries later–wrote the first autobiography when he wrote his Confessions. Also, in John’s time the Christians were under great persecution. While the rest of the disciples were martyred for their faith, John survived and died in prison. Was he hiding the fact that the “other disciple” or “the beloved disciple” was him to elude persecution and martyrdom? Well, apparently, God had plans for him. He wrote the book of Revelation, a Gospel, and three letters in the Bible. Would we have these books if he were martyred? This is just one possibility for why John refers to himself as “the other disciple”. Another would be simply that John was being humble. He wanted to take himself out of the picture and focus on the story of Jesus, much like John the Baptist taught when he said, “I must decrease and (Christ) must increase”. Then again, I suppose all three interpretations could be true. John could have referred to himself in the third person simply because that was the common narrative writing style of the time; he could have done so because he felt God telling him to keep a low profile for now, and he could have written that way out of humility–all at the same time. The motives behind many parts of Scripture are hard to tell this side of heaven–but meditating on the possibilities could help us gain a deeper understanding of the realities surrounding the Gospel stories.
(They) … saw the burial cloths there
There was no indication that Jesus had left the area. I wonder if he saw them discover that he was gone. Imagine for a moment that he was still in the garden, looking on as John and Peter came to the empty tomb. He might have laughed a little, not at them but just in pure joy. He had cheated death once and for all. On that Easter morning, he pulled off the ultimate April Fool’s joke, the one that would top them all forever. He made everyone think he was gone forever. The Shroud of Turin is unlike any other burial shroud. The markings show negatives of Jesus’ bodily impression on the cloth, kind of like how light passes through film and creates a negative impression of the image from a camera lens. For centuries, the Shroud has been a source of belief for people like John, those who just need a little something to help them believe.
he saw and believed
Jesus would later say to Thomas, “You saw because you believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet still believe.” Seeing is not a condition of believing, but it helps. The popular expression, “Seeing is believing” is not always true. One can believe without seeing the object of their belief, and one can refuse to believe even after seeing what they refuse to believe. In fact, upon seeing something that’s hard to believe, we sometimes even say, “Unbelievable!” or “I can’t believe it!” We are ready to deny any reality that does not match our impression of reality. We can look the other way, interpret what we see in a way that fits what we already know, and so on. But John merely saw the empty burial cloths and believed. He could have believed someone stole the body of Jesus, but the empty tomb gave him just the nudge he needed. Perhaps this faith was the fruit of staying at the foot of the cross. As Jesus hung on the cross, John hung on to faith. Now, upon seeing the empty burial cloths, his strengthened faith–which recently endured great hardship by watching Jesus die–pulled through when he needed it most.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.
Jesus talked about what was going to happen throughout his ministry. He said “tear down this temple and in three days I will build it again.” He talked about being born again, and said unless a seed dies it remains but a seed and doesn’t bring forth new life. Time and again he alluded to the fact that he had to die and rise again. I suppose the disciples took much of that in the figurative sense. But upon seeing the burial cloths, they were like, “Ah, now I get it.” This goes to show that the most potent enlightenments we have about the Faith do not come from learning and studying–even though doing these things can help. The strongest validations of our faith will always come from our experiences. One can go on all day about who Jesus is historically, theologically, metaphysically, or whatever. But ultimately, the way we have experienced him first hand in our own lives is what is going to bring it all together. This is why Pope Francis speaks so emphatically about the power of encounter. The encounter with Jesus is where our own evangelization happens. And if we do not help others personally encounter Christ, our evangelization efforts will fail. If we do not lead them to the empty burial cloths, our words are like clashing gongs. How can we help others encounter Jesus, to see and believe as Peter and John did on the first Easter morning?
Dear Resurrected Jesus,
I can see you smiling in the shadows this year as Peter and John discovered the empty tomb. The time to reveal yourself to them in your resurrected body had not yet come. That time would come later. Nonetheless, you never abandoned them. This is where the waters of faith run deepest. When things seem most bleak, you’re still right beside me and in fact you are preparing the way for something greater. So when times are toughest, I ask for the strength to realize that these are just growing pains. You are teaching me to endure so I could experience better times ahead in paradise. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Not only did the disciples just have their dear friend and leader taken from them through brutal murder. Now there’s the possibility that his body was stolen. At this time they are dodging their persecutors, running and hiding in fear. Through it all, Jesus is telling them to take a deep breath. Take a step back and notice what is happening. When times are darkest, the light penetrates it all the more. We can’t notice this if we let the din of our fears fill our heads, though. We have to quiet our minds and hearts, free them of all our worry, listen closely for God in the silence, and see things the way they really are. When we do that we see that God’s got this. He has it all under control. He knew dark times had to come, but he prepared the way to paradise for us if we could just endure it all and keep our eyes on him. Let’s keep a positive attitude this Easter season and notice that death–and all hardships–are not endings but new beginnings.
Kilby is a freelance writer from New Jersey and managing editor of Catholic World Report.