The Easter Vigil readings sweep through the epic panorama of God’s saving work toward its climax in Jesus’ self-offering. They proclaim the victory of hope over dismay with trumpet blasts. In contrast, the following readings during the Easter season give close-ups of that hope in people’s lives accompanied by tender violin strings. [For the young, it’s the difference between playlists of Coldplay and Ed Sheeran.]
Today’s Gospel zeroes in on the beloved disciple, often wrongly identified with John the Gospel author. Informed by Mary of Magdala about the empty tomb and accompanied by the older Peter, the younger and presumably more fit disciple ran to the burial place, and upon seeing Jesus’ burial garments laid out, he “saw and believed,” even before Peter did.
We can only imagine what memories of Jesus quickened his pace and heartbeat. These memories perhaps include how they met, how Jesus called him by name and how he responded, how he watched Jesus in awe, healing the sick and feeding the poor, how their friendship aroused not envy but warmth among the disciples. Fondest among them were laying his head by Jesus’ side at the Last Supper, and Jesus entrusting his mother Mary and him to each other at the foot of the Cross.
With these memories in his heart, the disciple whom Jesus loved and who loved Jesus in return saw in the empty tomb the presence of the Lord, and believed.
Love does many things. In the words of the Song of Songs from the Hebrew Bible, “love is stronger than death.” Jesus died out of love. God raised him out of love. The beloved disciple saw and believed out of love.
Dear friends in Christ, to see is indeed to believe, but love is not blind. Love is what sharpens our eyes to see. Because of Easter, we are invited like the beloved disciple, with hearts filled with memories of Jesus, to look at the empty spaces in our lives and our world, and there to see the presence of the Risen Lord. Love then is nothing but the endearing nickname for hope, yours and mine.