Easter Morning Mass – 2014
Easter Morning Mass by Br. Dominique Nelson: 4-20-2014
In the Gospel pericope which you have just heard, did you notice that St. John does not take this occasion to offer a description of Jesus? There is no reference to the dazzling whiteness of his clothing as encountered at the Transfiguration, nor is there any reference to his commonplace appearance, allowing himself to be mistaken for a gardener. We are presented with simple facts about his apparel: “the linen cloths lying there”. The Greek participle translated as “lying there” seems to indicate that the cloths were flattened, deflated, as if they were emptied when the body of Jesus rose and disappeared, as if it had come out of the clots and bandages without their being unrolled, passing right through them (just as later he entered the Cenacle when the doors were shut). This would explain the clots being “fallen”, “flat”, “lying” which is how the Greek literally translates, after Jesus’ body, which had filled them, left them.
“The napkin…rolled up in a place by itself”: the first point to note is that the napkin, which had been wrapped round the head, was not on top of the clots, but placed to one side. The second, even more surprising thing is that, like the clots, it was still rolled up but, unlike the clots, it still had a certain volume, like a container, possibly due to the stiffness given it by the ointment: this is what the Greek participle, here translated as “rolled”, seems to indicate.
The homilist last week spoke of us journeying with Our Lord from Jerusalem to Calvary. The empty tomb and the other facts were perceptible to the senses; but Christ’s resurrection from the dead, even though it has effects that can be tested by experience, requires of us a further journey, the journey of faith, if it is to be accepted. Christ’s resurrection is a real, historic fact: His body and soul were reunited. But since his was a glorious resurrection unlike that of Lazarus, far beyond our capacity in this life to understand what happened, and outside the scope of sense experience, a special gift of God is required, the gift of faith, to know and accept as a certainty this fact which, while it is historical, is also supernatural. Therefore, St. Thomas Aquinas can say that “the individual arguments taken alone are not sufficient proof of Christ’s resurrection, but taken together, in a cumulative way, they manifest it perfectly. Particularly important in this regard are the spiritual proofs (cf. Lk 24:25-27), the angelic testimony, and Christ’s own post-resurrection word confirmed by miracles.”
St. Paul tells us: “if Christ is not raised from the dead, my faith is in vain.” Thus the Resurrection is at the very heart and soul of Christianity. Without It, Christianity collapses, like the burial cloths found in the empty tomb. It’s the point on which our faith either stands or falls. Therefore, to deny the Resurrection is to cease to be Christian. One might pick up bits and pieces of Christianity here and there, and one might follow Jesus as a wise spiritual teacher, but without the Resurrection the whole affair falls apart, disintegrates.
In short, we might say, the Resurrection is key to spiritual detachment. If God has a life for us beyond this life, one not so much opposed to this earthly life but inclusive of and beyond it, then we are able to wear this world much more lightly. One is not as obsessed with finding joy here below.
Those who are not convinced of the Resurrection, who believe they’ll just die and that’s it, naturally chase after wealth, pleasure, power, and honor. But once one is convinced of the Resurrection, we know this world isn’t ultimate. We can let go of those earthly pursuits, stop chasing them, and aspire toward a life on high with God, which is a life of love. St. John, the author is our gospel this morning also authored 3 epistles. In the 1st Epistle he states quite plainly: God is love and he who abides in love abides in God and God in him.” We have been blessed with the abiding presence of Love Himself in our Eucharist. The celebration of the Eucharist is a celebration of love. Becoming a person of love thus becomes our central goal.
+ Br. Dominique Nelson