John 20:1-9
Christ Is Risen by Rev. Paul Grankauskus
Cycle B

Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb.  So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, "They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don't know where they put him."  So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.  They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.  When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.  Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed.  For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.

It is probably not difficult for a Christian to believe that Jesus died.  We are all too familiar with death.  We have experienced the death of loved ones, and we know that one day we, too, will be called from this life.  When that will be, what suffering we may experience before that moment, we do not know.  All we know is that we will be called home.  Therefore, we do not find it difficult for us to say that Christ died.

It is a far bolder thing for the Christian to proclaim that Christ is risen.  The Gospel account of Mary Magdalene, Peter and John seeing the empty tomb and later encountering the risen Christ seems too fantastic to believe.  Such things are not a part of our everyday experience.  Perhaps that is why many attempts are made to explain away the Resurrection, to make the whole thing more comfortable and familiar.  We can say the Apostles were hallucinating or lying: or that Jesus is resurrected not in reality, but in the teaching and faith of the Apostles and early Christians.  But, that is not what the Gospels tell us that is not what the Church teaches.

The Church unabashedly, unashamedly, faithfully and joyfully proclaims not a myth or fantasy, but a truth: Christ is risen!  The Gospel seems to indicate that Mary Magdalene and the Apostles were not expecting the Resurrection.  In fact, where are the Apostles on Easter morning?  They are hiding away in fear in the upper room.  Soon they will go out and preach Christ crucified and risen from the dead and meet with persecution.  Soon many of them will shed their blood in witness to their faith in the risen Christ.  These are not the actions of men dreaming or hallucinating. And they were transformed not by seeing just an empty tomb, but by seeing the risen Jesus.  They not only saw the risen Jesus, they spoke with Him, they ate with Him - and touched Him.

The Apostles proclaimed that Christ is risen, not as some myth or fantasy, but as a truth on which they were willing to stake their very lives.  The 21st century Church lends her voice to the first century Church in proclaiming a truth that indeed shatters the very order of the world.

And still there is more to the story.  The Easter mystery fills us with joy and hope.  Our Lord's resurrection is the hope of our own resurrection, for this same Jesus who suffered, died, was buried and rose again, has told us, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.  Do you believe this?" (Jn 11:25-26). 

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