The Lord has risen indeed. Hallelujah!
Today we celebrate the greatest feast of the Church. Jesus has risen from the dead. He has won over death and he gives us hope that we too will one day rise from the dead and enjoy eternal life in heaven. It is a pity that the current pandemic, may dampen this hope. In other years, Easter meant family and friend gatherings, church celebrations and processions with the statue of the risen Lord, family lunch, shopping for gifts and baking of figolli and easter eggs. This year however, restrictions are in place. Yet it is worth remembering that the reason for our celebration has not changed. Jesus is the central message and no pandemic can change this. The pandemic has also a positive side. In some way, it is true that we do not have to live through the normal and quite hectic rythm of life. Lent may have turned out to be more significant so that today we are celebrating Easter with renewed faith.
Today’s Gospel is according to St John. We witness the disappointment of Mary of Magdala, Peter and the beloved disciple (tradition says that this is St John). Jesus often spoke with them about his death and resurrection but they did not understand. Had they understood, when they went and found the empty tomb, their shouts of joy would have echoed throughout Jerusalem. Instead, they were confused. They saw the burial cloths and the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head. What could have happened? Had someone stolen Jesus’ body, would they have stopped to remove the burial cloths and fold the cloth which had covered his face? The Gospel says that the other disciple “saw and believed.” What did he believe?
In the readings of the coming weeks, we will see that even if the apostles were at first confused and did not believe that Jesus had risen from the dead, Jesus met them several times and removed all doubts that they might have had. This gives hope to us too. Faith is a gift. If we want our faith to increase and be strengthened, we need to get to know Jesus better and also become more familiar with the teachings of the Church. The apostles came to believe that Jesus rose from the dead, not when they found the empty tomb but after meeting him again after his resurrection. In the same way, our personal meetings with Jesus will increase our faith. In this way, we will believe not because we listened to the witness given by others but because we personally have faith in Jesus and his promises become truth to us. If the last part of today’s Gospel, referring to the other disciple, is interpreted as belief in Jesus’ resurrection, then it was love which made him believe. It was his love for Jesus which made him run faster than the others and arrive first at the tomb, love helped him see and believe that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead.
If, we are feeling that our faith is weak, Jesus is again giving us this opportunity. In the coming weeks, he is again inviting us to walk with him, to allow him into our lives, to allow him to give us hope. During the coming weeks, let us join the father whose son had a mute spirit, and tell Jesus: “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mk 9, 24) Let us also accept Pope Francis’ request, “I invite all Christians, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord”. (Evangelii Gaudium, 3)