After our time in proceeding through the season of Lent seeking to unburden ourselves of sin and growing closer to the Passion, Suffering and Death of our Lord, we now come to the joyous celebration of the Resurrection, Jesus rising from the dead and rising to life again. In our Gospel on Easter morning we hear the recounting of Mary Magdalene and the Apostles encountering the first aspect of the rising of Jesus, the empty tomb.
“Early in the morning on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away, so she ran off to Simon Peter and the other disciple and told them, ‘The Lord has been taken from the tomb! We don’t know where they have put Him!’ At that Peter and the other disciple started out on their way toward the tomb. They were running side by side, but then the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He did not enter but bent down to peer in, and saw the wrappings lying on the ground. Presently, Simon Peter came along behind him and entered the tomb. He observed the wrappings on the ground and saw the piece of cloth which had covered the head not lying with the wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the disciple who had arrived first at the tomb went in. He saw and believed.” (John 20:1-8)
Although found among different people within the Gospel, we see a progression in the encounters of Mary Magdalene and the Apostles. Mary comes to the tomb, sees the stone moved and concludes a rational answer, that the body has been stolen. She goes to tell the Apostles, concerned that something has happened. Peter and John then run to the tomb. John sees the wrappings and immediately does not make any conclusion. Peter comes and enters the tomb to investigate. Even with investigation, no conclusion is made by him. It is when John enters the tomb and takes some time in reflection that a conclusion is made, “He saw and believed.”
This is not the conclusion of a rational decision, but rather it is the conclusion of faith and trust. John had heard the teachings of Jesus throughout His entire ministry. He had seen the miracles of our Lord throughout His ministry. He stood at the foot of the cross reflecting on the predictions that Jesus gave regarding the sort of death He had to bear. In the short time since the crucifixion, John may also have reflected on our Lord saying that after three days He would rise.
It was with this background and with this faith that John approached the tomb, so when he saw the wrappings and the cloth which covered the head, he could say with faith and trust that Jesus had been raised. He said this with the faith and trust that he had gained walking with Jesus in his daily life.
In the many weeks that are to come in the Easter season we will encounter the appearances of the risen Jesus to the disciples. He will come to them in the Upper Room on the evening of the resurrection and again the following week to encounter Thomas. He will meet them near the Sea of Galilee. And during the weekday readings at Holy Mass in the times after Easter we will encounter each and every appearance of the risen Christ. But we must remember that it all begins in the faith and trust of John at the empty tomb.
So as we now reflect on the journey that each one of us is on as well we find ourselves in a similar position. We too have walked with Jesus hearing His teachings, through the celebration of Holy Mass, through the catechetical teachings we have received, through the living examples of the faithful Christians around us. We have encountered the miracles and blessings of our Lord as well. Again we have encountered them at Holy Mass and within homilies, but even further in our very lives as God’s blessings have been showered upon us in the possibility to receive Jesus present in the Eucharist and to accomplish His work together within the body of Christ.
Just as John had sat close to Jesus during the celebration of the Last Supper, we too have had the opportunity to be ever close to Jesus during the celebration of Holy Mass especially as we have received His presence in the Holy Eucharist. So we see within our religious journey we have walked in the same way of John the Apostle, so then we must come to the moment of the Resurrection of Jesus on Easter morning with exactly the same faith and trust: we must see and believe.
On Easter morning at Holy Mass within our parish churches, we have a representation of the empty tomb where there will be wrappings. But we also see, with the eyes of our heart, the wrappings of sin and selfishness that Jesus has wiped away from our lives as well. The cloth which covered the head of Jesus is cast aside as well. Within our lives the covering which blinds us by our seeking to put our trust in any place other than Jesus, is also removed. It is He alone upon Whom we can count. He is the author of life; He is the One Who accomplished our salvation.
During the joyous Easter season that will unfold for us over the next many weeks, as we encounter again and again the Risen Jesus, let us realize that our relationship with that Risen Christ will continue to deepen and strengthen as we continue to be Eucharistic people who worship Him during Holy Mass. We will experience His presence within our lives as did the Apostles following the Resurrection. And if we fully embrace this presence of our Lord, we will be changed by it. We will become configured to Christ.
The Apostles changed drastically with the encounter of the Risen Christ. Before then they were afraid for their own lives, but afterward then lived only for Jesus, His way and His work in the world. As Eucharistic people, this too can be our experience if we put that same faith and trust in Jesus. When we receive Jesus present in the Holy Eucharist, when we hear His teachings and experience His presence, we will live our lives less for ourselves and more for Jesus and for others. Like St. John we will “see and believe.”
But this “belief” will go much further than a mere assent of the mind, it is a belief which penetrates every aspect of our lives. It is not just for the moments of worship on a Sunday, but every moment of our lives become eucharistic, where thanks is given to God in our service to Him and to others, given in our love, given in our commitment to Christ’s way in the world. We become Resurrection people who show forth in our thoughts, words and deeds the love and the life of Jesus.
To my brother Bishops, to the Very Rev. and Rev. Fathers, the Deacons and all of the faithful of our Polish National Catholic Church, as well as to the Bishops, clergy and members of the Union of Scranton, I extend my blessings and pray that the Risen Jesus will bless you all profoundly. May the power of His Resurrection show forth in your lives of love and service to Christ and His Church.
Christ is Risen! He is Risen, Indeed!