On retreat this week, Fr. Guckin posed a challenge: “show me how you would convince someone you love that Jesus really rose from the dead.” The Resurrection, he said, is what it’s all about. It’s where we must start in the New Evangelization.
When I was growing up, “Jesus died for your sins” was the cornerstone of our gospel. But that’s a hard sell when people don’t believe in sin. It’s a hard sell when people think Jesus was a good man who lived a long time ago, who is no longer relevant.
If he’s alive, he’s relevant. More to the point – if he did rise, and if there’s a way to conquer death like he did, he’s not just relevant, he’s Good News we can be excited to share.
Father Guckin gave us each a Gospel account to use for our proof, and I got John 20:1-10. Take a moment to read it: John tells how Mary Magdalene makes her way in the dark hours of the early morning to the tomb, only to find it open and empty. Vandalized, she thinks. On learning of this fresh horror, Peter and “the other disciple” (probably John) race to see for themselves. In the tomb lay the linen cloths that once bound the Lord’s dead body. And away from them, rolled up by itself, was the napkin that had covered his head. Seeing them, the disciple believes.
Here’s what stood out to me:
- Like many today, the disciples think that Jesus is dead.
- Curious about the empty tomb, they assume the worst: he was stolen away.
- Vandals might steal valuable linen and leave a corpse, but leave the linen behind and carry out a mutilated body? Not likely. And who, stealing a body, would stop to roll up the head cloth? Clearly he has risen.
- It is in the darkness of their sorrow, fear and doubt that the disciples come to understand that he’s alive
- What they saw helped them understand what they had heard
Do you find it curious, like I do, that Jesus didn’t spare his disciples the horror of the open tomb? On rising from the dead, he did not rush to reassure them. Instead, he allowed their love and pain to draw them through the darkness to the place where he was buried. Why, unless because they too would one day die and rise again?
Jesus must have wanted them to know, without a tinge of doubt, that terrible things like cold, dark graves and sealed-up tombs; like heavy stones and armed guards, shrouds and mummy wraps – NONE of these has power over God or those who love him.
It’s all about the resurrection! His and ours.
Yes, we must die. We may even suffer. All the horrors that spill from our news feeds, books and movies may come true for us or for our children. But if we die with Christ, we will be raised with him. The gospel accounts of the empty tomb are proof that nothing the world can throw at us, has any holding power. Even the worst the devil can do has backfired in the glory of resurrection.
Read John 20:1-10 again and enter the tomb with the disciples. Use your imagination. Read until you can feel yourself there. It is a dark place, and could be full of horror – but look at what is left of the crucified man: grave clothes in a corner. A neatly folded face cloth. The Lord is not there. He is alive!
Before you leave to find him or tell others, think:
You were baptized into his death. Now you live in his new life. Where are your “grave clothes”? What trappings of your old life cling to you and keep you, as it were, with a foot still in the grave?
Follow Jesus. Take off those soiled linens and fold them up. Leave them for others to find: evidence that you, too, now are full of life.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,[a] 2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
If you like this post, you might like this on Lazarus from my blog on BibleStudyforCatholics.com: Christ: Tomb Raider