Fr. Ver Bust's Column:|
"Explaining the Gospel"
|Fr. Richard Ver Bust
The wonders of the newness of life
The disciples struggled to understand the mystery of the resurrection
By Fr. Richard Ver Bust
Our responsorial psalm sings of God's power and victory. It
celebrates God's mercy. It is a wonderful day, the climax of the
days we have been celebrating. The feast of Easter is the
highlight of our liturgical year. Romantically we pay more
attention to Christmas but when it comes to what it means to be a
Christian we realize that it is in Christ's rising from the dead
that we have come to the beginning of the story of our faith.
Each of the gospels tells of how Jesus' disciples came to know
that he had risen. The disciples struggle to appreciate what had
happened. While they probably all believed that there would be a
resurrection from the dead at the end of time, suddenly they
faced the fact that one person had risen from the dead now. They
searched to find ways of expressing what they had seen. The
resurrection stories confirm how they had been changed.
John tells us that Mary Magdalene went to visit the tomb early in
the morning of the first day of the week. It was still dark. She
saw that the stone, which covered the tomb, had been moved. She
probably thought someone had removed the body so she ran off to
tell the other disciples. She gives no indication that she
thought of Jesus' resurrection.
Peter is the leader of the disciples and we are told that he and
an unnamed disciple received the news. Who this other disciple is
we do not know for certain. It could be John but it also could be
simply the person known as the beloved disciple and not one of
the twelve. They both ran to the tomb. When the other disciple
arrived first he waited for Peter to enter first. There they
found the burial wrappings. When Lazarus had come out of the tomb
he was wearing these kinds of wrappings. Theologically the fact
that the wrappings remained might indicate that Jesus in his
resurrected body no longer had need for them. Unlike Lazarus he
has risen to a new life while Lazarus must live and die again.
We do not know what Peter thought but we are told that the other
disciple saw all this and believed. He seems to have been alone
among the disciples to accept what faith told him God had done.
Jesus probably had told them that God would vindicate him and his
ministry. The disciples most likely did not understand. But now
they had to face what seemed to be a deep mystery. They would
realize that God had this wonderful plan to save them and that
all of salvation history had been for this moment.
The other readings all underline the wonders of this event. Each
shows how this mystery still touches our lives. During the
succeeding years the Acts of the Apostles and the letters of Paul
all sought to explain the unexplainable. God had brought a new
type of life into focus and Jesus was the first to experience it.
If we still struggle to understand the reality of the
resurrection it is because resurrection from the dead is beyond
our limited human experiences. What words do we use to share this
belief? All of what we say barely touches the wonders of what God
Newness of life and a new life are our feeble ways of expressing
it. Since we are experiencing spring in our part of the world
maybe we can perceive something of the wonders of what new life
in the Lord is about.
(Fr. Ver Bust holds the title of professor emeritus in religious
studies at St. Norbert College, De Pere.)