Being loved and loving in return
Acts 10:34, 37-43; Psalm 118 (117); 1 Corinthian's 5:6-8; John 20:1-9/18
Coming to Easter faith is not easy for everyone, perhaps for anyone. The writer of the Fourth Gospel is aware of this, as illustrated so memorably in the story of doubting Thomas. Accordingly, the Gospel of John not only receives the story of the empty tomb but adjusts it to help us understand the journey to faith in Christ, risen from the dead. He does this in three ways, each of which merits meditation and further exposition.
1. The detail of the grave cloths is insisted upon in this Gospel only and is intriguing. The reader is reminded immediately of the story of Lazarus which also features grave clothes and specifically the cloth which was around his head. The writer wants us to connect the two stories and to distinguish them. The connection is easy: Jesus is portrayed as raising Lazarus because he loves him. Thus, resurrection is the deepest expression of the love of God. At the same time, we distinguish the two events. Lazarus is resuscitated but Jesus is resurrected, that is, he shares in God's gracious faithfulness to be revealed at the end of time.
2. The presence of the Beloved Disciple is unique to this Gospel. Both he and Peter run to the tomb, with the former arriving first. Nevertheless, he yields to Peter and allows him to be the first to go in…but nothing happens. In a powerful contrast, we read of the beloved disciple: “he saw and he believed.” The institutional (“Petrine”) takes you only so far; to penetrate the mystery you need the heart, the charismatic, the grace-filled (“Johannine”). The Beloved Disciple makes the journey to Easter faith because he is beloved and because he loves. The question is not “do I believe what happened?”, a kind of logical question, but rather “can I believe that I am loved to this astonishing degree?”, a more existential question.
3. Finally, the story of Mary Magdalene becomes in this writers hand a quest story, like the woman at the well or the man born blind. Jesus asks question which echos an early enquiry on lips of Jesus.
Whom are you looking for?” (John 20:15)
Cf. “What are you looking for?”(John 1:38)
The move from “what” (a doctrine or a teaching) to “whom” (a person) is the key. To make that clear, Jesus calls out “Mary” and she turns for the second time. This second “turning” must be interior, otherwise she would not have her back to him!
In a word, relationship is an intrinsic part of coming to faith — being loved and loving in return, as the song puts it. There is indeed a journey to be made in coming to Easter faith, but it is not a journey of the feet (running!) or even the mind but rather a journey of the heart.
A meditation written by Kieran J. O'Mahony OSA of the Irish Province of Augustinians, Co-ordinator of Biblical Studies for the Archdiocese of Dublin
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