He Saw and He Believed

Empty tomb with stone rolled to one side

Just over a year ago the first stay-at-home instruction came into force and a lot has changed in our lives since then. Many have experienced the loneliness and frustration of isolation, the fear of illness and we’ve seen on our screens the selfless dedication of front line workers putting their lives at risk to save others.  The adjustment to a different way of life continues to be a heavy burden for many to bear.  For some who themselves have tasted the bitter cup of suffering that is the virus, or have been left with Long Covid or have lost a loved one, the anguish is unbearable.

But those days of isolation gifted us with a keener sense of our need for one another, our need to belong. How much more we now value the phone call from afar or knock on our door from a neighbour.

Now that there is some easing of restrictions in sight, deep within us flow feelings of aspiration and hope springing up to new life, helped by lighter evenings and Springtime being upon us.  Easter Day is not just a comfort to soften the hard truth of human frailty and the profound sorrow in the nature of things, but it is the lens for reading the human story. Today’s Gospel text is from John but echoes something common to all the resurrection accounts:  “Till this moment they had failed to understand” (Jn 20:9).  An insightful moment when perspective is completely altered and what has been painful is experienced now as redemptive.  We know that God is in the suffering.  But today, the Crucified one is risen.

To watch Pope Francis recently, in an inter-religious and ecumenical moment, praying for the revival of life, of trust, of community and of faith among the ruins of Mosul on the banks of the Tigris (from the cradle of God’s people) was an Easter moment of our time. An image that changed perspective and enabled for a moment the world to imagine transformed life, resurrection!

John is clearly the model of Easter faith in this Sunday’s Gospel…. “He saw and he believed”. (Jn 20:8). But Mary and Peter are inspiring as well. Mary rushes to judge the facts of a scene that shocks her.  Her heart is set on finding Jesus’ dead body, but the rolled-away stone scuppers her plans. How often have we been so attached to a plan or an idea that we react to a crisis rashly and want to immediately share with others our story or outrage?  Mary’s response is so rash and passionate because it reflects her passionate grief and love!  It leads others to investigate further.  Peter on the other hand is a seeker. He needs more details than those Mary can give him. Maybe the news is so astounding that it suspends his belief so he wants to see for himself. When he eventually enters the tomb and sees the burial cloths, we can imagine him standing there numb with shock. Have we not been numbed by many things we’ve seen this past year as well?  Things so astonishing that they are hard to believe have happened?

But then the beloved disciple joins Peter and also notices the neatly rolled up cloth. He takes the leap of faith, amazing though the implication is, that Jesus has risen by his own power and that death and chaos have been defeated. In our lives and service, may we love like Mary, seek like Peter and believe like John.