Many things were written about the meaning of Christ’s empty tomb. The first time I meditated on it I caught the strange paradox of the disciples missing the dead Jesus but finding instead a Jesus that lives forever. Christ threads a trail ahead of us. That road we cannot imagine because our minds and souls cannot remove that heavy stone blocking the entrance to the hardest reality of them all. We lack the courage to know that we are immortal, that we must leave life and death behind us diving headlong into something we cannot even fathom. Faith demands nothing less than that. It is apparently a fool’s bargain and we must waste our “real” treasure to buy something that looks like an illusion.
That was the case for the young disciple John until that morning when he reached the empty tomb. He peeked in to see the headrest cloth folded and put aside in a familiar way. He had traveled the land with Jesus many times and often they had to spend the night away from home. John remembered waking up to find that Jesus was already up and praying outside. Perhaps John remembered the times he had found Jesus’ empty bed with the smallest sheet carefully folded in a certain way. The scene repeated now but this time Jesus was not waking up from a night of rest, He had risen from the terrible depths of death. All those Sunday mornings on the road were just training the disciple for this moment. The delight of knowing that Jesus was up and about must have hit his heart like a bolt. “He has risen indeed” he surely thought as overwhelming joy invaded him.
This Sunday, Christians find themselves one more time before the mystery of the Resurrection. The Church is definitely in the same state of confusion that the disciples experienced after the Crucifixion. The ground we tread is treacherously uneven, the old security is gone. In times like these, we need to refocus on the Resurrection and learn the lesson as John did. He was the only disciple who followed Jesus all the way to the Cross; he kept close to Mary and Jesus through thick and thin, even when the whole Church abandoned the Master, a bishop betrayed Him with a kiss, and His Pope denied Him three times. The powers of the Heavens were shaken before John’s unshakeable faith. His reward was firstly the company of Our Blessed Mother, and secondly to see the empty tomb. The certainty of the Resurrection was there for him in a familiar sign: a piece of cloth folded and put aside in the manner Jesus must always have done, every morning since childhood when His mother taught Him the daily routines of their simple life.
Out of breath and some distance behind him, Peter was trying to catch up while John respectfully waited for him to enter the tomb first. In Jerusalem, ten bishops were cowering behind closed doors. Outside the city walls, the traitor was about to hang himself.
It is obvious that the years ahead are going to be tough for all believers. Some will deny Him again; some will try to accommodate to the ways of the world trying to “stay in the middle” as they cowardly try to survive; some will take the money and seal their perdition with an unfaithful kiss … but we must strive to be like John. We are already familiar with the ways of Christ and know His every move just like the bride knows all about the groom. If God gives us the grace we will be there to see the light of even a more glorious Sunday morning and laugh as we shout joyfully: Christ has Risen! He has risen indeed!