Gospel Reflection 01 Apr - SVD INM - India Mumbai Province

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Gospel Reflection 01 Apr

Easter Sunday Year B [Jn 20:1-9]

01 April 2018

The Discovery of the Empty Tomb and Faith in the Resurrection

Readings: (1) Acts 10:34.37-43 (2) Col 3:1-4

1. Theme in brief:

Looking for the Risen Lord with an intensity of love and faith

2.  Focus Statement:

Each one of us can become the beloved disciple of the Risen Lord by the intensity of our love for him, which enables us to run faster for him than before, and recognize his powerful presence promptly in all situations.

3.  Explanation of the text

Mary Magdalene’s discovery of the empty tomb and her observation of removal of the stone symbolize Jesus’
victory over the power of death and darkness (evil or satanic forces, 20:1). She who is in darkness (= one who lacks faith in the resurrection) goes in search of the One who is the Light of the world. According to John a disciple is the one who constantly looks for or is in search of the Master (1:38). That is why later on when Jesus appears to her he asks her: "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for" (20:15)? Hence, Mary Magdalene, being a woman disciple goes to the tomb not to anoint the body of Jesus (as Synoptic Gospels say), but in search of the One whom she loved most. Her lovingdevotion will be rewarded later on with the gift of a special appearance (20:14-15).

We need to carefully notice in today’s gospel text the characteristics of "the other disciple" or "the one whom Jesus loves" (20:2-4). He is called the
Beloved Disciple of the Lord. When he and Simon Peter hear the word from Mary Magdalene about the empty tomb, they run towards it. But the Beloved Disciple manages to outrun Peter in the race.  His exemplary love for Jesus motivates him to run faster for Jesus and his cause. As soon as he reaches the tomb, he peeps into it and sees the linen cloths lying on the ground without the body. He waits for Peter and allows him to go into the tomb first. When Peter sees the same thing there is no immediate response or reaction from him. But when the Beloved Disciple goes in, he sees and believes promptly that Jesus has risen from the dead (20:9). Both of them see the same thing in the tomb (the linen wrappings lying there), but the Beloved Disciple sees the same thing with the eyes of faith and believes first ((20:8). The intensity of his love towards Jesus stimulates faith instantly.
The evangelist here may be contrasting Peter’s denial (unfaithfulness) during Jesus’ passion to thefaithfulness of the Beloved Disciple who stood by the cross till the last moment. By staying close to Jesus in his suffering he proves to be really the Beloved Disciple. Though many of us presume that this disciple is John himself, nowhere he is clearly identified. This Beloved Disciple seems to symbolize all the disciples of Jesus who are invited to become his beloved. This Beloved Disciple is presented as a model for all believers so that they can be first to love, first to believe (that is, recognize the Risen Lord in faith) and first to remain faithful to him. He is also a model of arriving at faith in the resurrection without looking for physical proofs or spectacular miracles. Thus he is contrasted with Thomas who doubted about the truth of resurrection and demanded dramatic proofs. There also the Risen Lord will re-emphasize the necessity of faith without seeking for miracles and visions, and declare people who arrive at such faith as "blessed" (20:29).

4.  Application to life                     

From today’s gospel text we come to know how three disciples of Jesus (Mary Magdalene, Simon Peter and the Beloved Disciple) respond to the reality of the resurrection in three different ways. Mary Magdalene is presented as a faithful disciple who is constantly looking for (seeking after) the Master even after his death. She must have been shattered by the shameful death of her Master on the cross and must have felt emptiness within herself at such a loss. Not only that she experiences physical separation from Jesus who has touched her life so much, but also spiritual darkness – because she has not yet come to faith in the resurrection by which she can ‘see’ the presence of the Risen Lord in every dark moment of life. The discovery of the empty tomb symbolizes her own loss and emptiness first at the death of her Master which is now doubled at the loss of his body from the tomb. Like her, whenever we experience emptiness or meaninglessness of life we resemble that empty tomb. We expect God to take away our emptiness miraculously without any effort such as faithful and constant search for the Lord in faith after her example. When that does not happen we lose patience and dilute our faith in the Lord.

If our love and devotion for the Lord is as intense as Mary Magdalene, we get the strength to search for him even in
dark moments of our life. Surely, he will reward our love and faith by assuring his mysterious presence even during "the dark night of our souls". If we firmly believe that Jesus has risen indeed, we can see the presence of the One who is living everywhere and in every situation with the eyes of faith, even when we are walking in the valley of tears. The moment we allow evil forces (or forces of death) take control of us, we are cut off from our life’s source (God) and become a rudderless ship. The process of secularization that advances with greater speed makes us believe more in world’s standards like success, achievement, power, position and fame than in Christ’s standards of humble service, sacrifice, self-forgetfulness, self-emptying, etc. The Risen Lord has the power to remove these ‘stones’ (obstacle to faith) and give us the strength to win a decisive victory over the forces of death.  The celebration of the feast of Resurrection urges us to invoke the power of the Risen Lord over these forces so that we can win a victory of faith.

Secondly, we have Simon Peter who is presented as a disciple who is slower in believing than the Beloved Disciple. His relationship with the Master has undergone
ups and downs. He is very much shattered for another reason – his failure as a leader. His cowardice has led him to deny his Master. But he does not stop running for the Lord along with the Beloved Disciple until he reaches the height of faithfulness. Is this not our story too? In spite of our occasional failures and unfaithfulness we are called not to lose hope and not to stop running for the Lord’s mission. We must learn from our mistakes and failures of the past. In a way, "experience" is another name for lessons we learn from our past mistakes. We hope that one day we shall overcome like Peter…

Thirdly, we have an unnamed disciple called the
Beloved Disciple. It looks as if Simon Peter and this disciple were engaged in a running competition on first Easter morning. Of course, both of them were running for Jesus. But the Beloved Disciple was running faster than Peter. The reason is clear from his above-motioned failure. Though we too are running, we do not run with full vigour and passion. Sometimes we do not know actually whom are we running for.  Where is the cause and finishing line? Is God and his Kingdom our greatest treasure? Are we running for this treasure with intense zeal and passion? Do we hold on to this treasure or to God’s cause with total fidelity? Each one of us is called to become a beloved disciple of the Lord by loving him with such intensity day after day that we can run faster for him than before with passion and devotion. What it means is that we will be more enthusiastic, zealous and committed to the cause of Christ.

Like the Beloved Disciple, if we
love Jesus the most, we can recognize his glorious and powerful presencepromptly with the eyes of faith in all situations, places and persons. Our dedicated love will lead us to recognize his love at work everywhere; in our family, community and society. Sometimes we do not know actually whom are we running for. We need to question whether we toil and labour all the time only to build our own kingdom, for our own personal benefit or name and fame. While we do any dedicated service in family, society, workplace and the Church, if some opposition and criticism makes us give up our good work, then it is understood that we are not doing it for the Lord or out of love for him. It looks as if we are doing everything to please others and to get praise and honour for ourselves.
We normally believe and trust those people whom we love more. Similarly, if we love Jesus more than anything else, we shall trust him more and recognize his hidden presence even in unpleasant and bitter experiences. We trust that his presence is hidden in them because we love him. Loving him implies both intimacy with him through prayer, Word of God and sacraments, and also loving his values by practice. If there is love in our hearts, we do not require dramatic proofs or heavenly visions. We become blessedbecause we believe without seeing the Lord physically. We normally do not see the love of those who love us. However, we see the signs of love in their special concern for us. Through these signs we recognize their love only if we have a heart to see.

5.  Response to God's Word

Do we firmly believe that life can emerge from empty tomb, and light can shine out of darkness? Can we see the signs of the Risen Lord’s presence in our lives? Does our intense love for Him stimulate us to love those whom he loves, namely, the needy and the lost sheep? Do we look for the Risen Lord in all situations, especially in dark moments of our life? Does it lead us to a greater faith-commitment? Do we also recognize the signs of his love expressed through the sacraments, especially thee Eucharist? Does it stimulate greater faith in us? Today the Church invites us to be the beloved disciples of the Risen Lord by a deeper love-relationship and faith-commitment. What is our response?

6.   A prayer

Risen Lord, grant that like Mary Magdalene, our love and devotion for you lead us to search for you even in dark moments of our life. Reward our love and faith by assuring your mysterious presence even when we walk through the dark tunnel and meaninglessness of our life. Increase our faith that we may recognize your powerful presence promptly with the eyes of faith in all situations, places and persons. May we become your beloved disciples by loving you with such intensity day after day that we can look for you and work for you with more enthusiasm and commitment than before. Grant that this intensity of love may lead us to recognize your love at work in our family, community and society. Amen.

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