15 April 2006

Christ Our Light!

The Rev. Kevin FitzGerald, SJ raises the Paschal Candle
and intones "Christ our Light!"

Easter A.D. 2006. Surrexit Dominus! Alleluia!

Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion of the Christ" leaves very little to the viewer's imagination. It is vivid, graphic and very historically accurate. The movie ends, appropriately, with the deposition from the cross. It might have been interesting, had the movie extended to Easter Sunday, to see how today's Gospel scene would have been recreated: the foot race between John and Peter.

There is something so realistic about today's Gospel. One can just see the cloud of dust arise as young John races ahead of Peter. In deference, he awaits the fisherman and allows him to enter the tomb first. Yet it is John who sees and believes. Why? What it is about the beloved disciple that allows him to believe at the sight of the empty tomb and the rolled-up shroud? Good Friday's Passion provides a clue.

In the Passion narrative read on Good Friday, we hear that in the high priest's courtyard there was a disciple with Jesus who was known to the temple officials. Peter, we recall, waited outside at first. Despite the best of his intentions, Peter, as foretold, denied Jesus while he was outside the courtyard. Someone else stayed with Jesus during his trial. Scholars would suggest that this unnamed disciple is the beloved disciple himself. John did not flee from Jesus in his suffering, persecution and crucifixion.

John's resurrection faith at the sight of the empty tomb was not a "bonus," per se, for sticking around when the other disciples were absent. Rather, John's faith was the grace that comes with obedience and adherence to the Lord's will -- be it persecution or prosperity. The natural reward for not avoiding the sufferings in our lives is the grace which allows us to believe that the Lord is at work -- even when we do not understand how it is possible. Such was John's gift. He could not explain what he saw. He simply believed. His was resurrection faith because he stayed with Christ in his suffering.

The same faith is offered to us. When we face suffering -- be it physical, spiritual, emotional, etc., -- we have an opportunity to embrace whatever circumstances the Lord has permitted for our growth. Like John, we too, are given the opportunity to stay with the Lord in the high priest's courtyard. And we pray that we, too, like John, will be rewarded with resurrection faith.

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