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Do not forget John the Apostle at the tomb

Easter is moving along swiftly — too swiftly — as we follow the Church’s liturgical practice of the scripture passages relative to the Resurrection of the Christ.  We have already heard of Mary Magdalene, Peter and John, etc. and we shall hear of them more in the future, but today let us go back to Easter morning and the account of the empty tomb from the Gospel of John and take a second look at the faith of John himself.

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.

John may be the forgotten believer in all this. He is the disciple whom Jesus loved. He is the author of this Gospel passage. He is the one who received the gift of the Holy Spirit for close to 70 years to grow in the Christian faith and handed it on to us. He is well worth listening to. Even though the words are few, his message can have a profound influence on our faith lives. His faith and love gave him an understanding of the God’s plan, brought to perfection through Jesus Christ and his Paschal Mystery.

John gave us two comments: 1) he saw and believed; 2) the disciples as yet did not understand that the Messiah had to rise from the dead.  What did he see? A tomb without a body and the burial cloths in an unusual pattern. Remember his intense love of Christ. He spent three years in close company with Jesus. John was privileged to be called along with Peter and James to witness the Transfiguration and the final prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane. John was bound to sense things that others missed. There is something there in the empty tomb that John recognized as peculiarly Jesus. I offer this possibility. John tells us of the face cloth was in a neatly rolled up fashion (strange?). Was this something Jesus did on other occasions, e.g. rolling up his dinner napkin in this way? Recall that the disciples on the Road to Emmaus recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread — they knew it was Jesus’ habit. So with John here at the tomb. It would go something like this. John right away picked out that the face cloth was rolled up by Jesus, who must have been alive to do it. Dead men cannot do such a thing. It was signature of the living Christ. Only God’s power could nullify the effects of dying. So the power and plan of the Father was at work here or as the scriptures say: the Father raised Jesus from the dead. Peter put it that way in his Pentecost sermon: God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death (Acts 2:24).

John was quick to realize what the Father had done in fulfilling his plan of salvation in Christ Jesus. It came to him so soon because he had accepted the love and mercy of Christ, who called him and us: Come, follow me.

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