• Easter Sunday

    Posted on March 30, 2018 by in Reflections on Sunday Gospels

    Out of darkness into the Light

        This Easter Sunday I would like to focus on the experience of three

    people, Mary Magdalene, Thomas, and Peter.  They each have something to

    teach us about ourselves, Jesus and the Resurrection.  We will look at

    their individual reaction to the death of Jesus, Jesus’ individual

    reaction to each of them, and the individual mission which was entrusted

    to each. Each of them has a particular darkness: Mary Magdalene, sorrow;

    Thomas, doubt; Peter, remorse.


         Her reaction to the death of Jesus: she is preoccupied with getting

    the spices needed to anoint the body of Jesus.  She does observe the

    Sabbath rest, maybe because of what others would think.  She comes to

    the tomb with her programmed expectations.  She is busy responding to

    her loss by doing something.  Her words are repeated three times almost

    like a lament, “They have taken his body and I don’t know where they

    have laid him.”  She is so disoriented by this unexpected turn that she

    doesn’t recognize Jesus when he is present to her.  She thinks he is the


         Jesus deals with Mary by calling her by name.  He leads her out of

    the darkness of her sorrow.  In this calling she receives recognition

    and again moves into action.  She clings to Jesus.  He then tells her,

    “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the father.”

    Sandra Schneider’s discussion of this is most enlightening.  She says the

    literal translation would be: “Not me (emphatic) continue to touch but

    “go to my brothers and sisters.” The emphatic placement of the “me”

    at the beginning of the command and closest to the negative, which thus

    seems to govern the pronoun “me” rather than the verb “touch,” suggests

    that what Jesus is forbidding is not so much the touching itself but Mary’s

    selection of the object to touch, namely, Jesus who stands before her as an

    individual. …In other words, I would suggest that what Jesus is really

    doing is redirecting Mary’s desire for union with himself from his physical

    or earthly body (which in any case no longer exists because it is the

    glorified Lord who stands before her in an appearance which is temporary)

    to the new locus of his presence in the world, that is, the community of his

    brothers and sisters, the disciples.”

         Jesus then missions her with the words, “But go to my brothers and

    tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your

    God.'”   The writer of the fourth Gospel states:  “Mary of Magdala went

    and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord,’ and what he told

    her.”  Jesus had progressively led her from the darkness of sorrow to

    the light of joy.  This joy she could now share.  Her witness to Jesus

    would be different because she was different.


        Thomas reacts to the death of Jesus by going off by himself alone to

    deal with his loss.  He probably went over his contacts with Jesus to

    see where he (Thomas) had been wrong.  This Jesus whom he thought had

    the key that would tie all his searching and synthesizing together now

    had died ignominiously on a Cross.  He needed time alone to process his

    thoughts, to regroup. He was dealing with the darkness of doubt. When he

    does rejoin the group he is presented with the information that they

    have seen the Lord.  He thinks that this must be some kind of delusional

    thinking.  He must have his own personal proof, put his finger in the

    wounds of the hand and his hand into the side.

        Jesus comes to Thomas.  Jesus particularizes his approach to Thomas.

    There is nothing of the don’t touch words directed to Mary Magdalene.

    In fact Jesus tells him just the opposite, come and touch.

        Thomas is overwhelmed and bursts forth his own, My Lord and My God.

    His profession of faith must have enriched the others.  Thomas was the

    one who gathered so much information, he was always perceiving things,

    even things that others missed.  Doubting Thomas became believing Thomas

    and inspired the others to greater depths of belief. Tradition has Thomas

    bringing the Gospel as far away as India.


        Peter responds to the death of Jesus by returning to his familiar

    home and task, fishing in Galilee.  He was overwhelmed by all that had

    happened to Jesus and how it had all affected him.  He obsessed about

    his own protests,his taking a sword in the garden, his denials, his flight,

    his going out and weeping bitterly.  It was all too much for him.  He was

    overwhelmed by the darkness of his own powerful emotions. He was in a fog.

        So when Jesus comes to them on the shore, Peter doesn’t recognize

    Jesus but John does.  But upon recognition he does the impulsive thing

    (Peter always seemed to be doing the impulsive thing) and jumps into the


        Jesus takes Peter by himself and questions him, “Simon, son of John

    do you love me?” The Greek is important to understand the meaning of

     these questions and Peter’s  response.

         Jesus’ first two questions are with the word agapas Peter

     responds, “Yes Lord you know that I love (philo) you.”

     Jesus is asking about “self sacrificing love”.  Peter is responding

    with the “love of friendship”. It would seem that Peter’s heart wasn’t in it.

     Maybe he was still dealing with the fact that he had denied Jesus.

        A second time Jesus questions him:  “Simon son of John

    do you love (agapas) me.”  Peter’s response was the same (philo)

    a second time.  Now he was probably preoccupied with the

    fact that he had denied knowing Jesus not once but three times.

        A third time Jesus questions (now Jesus switches to the word phileis)

    Peter, and this time the emotional Peter comes through.  The Gospel

    writer tells us: “Peter was distressed that he had said to him

    a third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and he said to him, Lord you know

    everything;  you know that I love (philo)you.” Peter could now hear

    Jesus’ question. Jesus finding Peter incapable at this moment

    of agape, Jesus settles for phileo.

    Peter is to feed and shepherd. Now  Peter has expressed his

    “friendship love” for Jesus. Jesus goes on to tell him more.

    Peter would have to surrender.  “…when you were younger, you used to

    dress yourself and go where you wanted;  but when you grow old,

    you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and

    lead you where you do not want to go.” Peter will eventually lose

    his life over Jesus??but he will do it unwillingly.  Wes Howard?Brook, “The fisherman

    who has, for better or worse, been in charge of his own destiny

    throughout the narrative will, in the end, find his fate determined

    by another. Is this “another” simply the Romans or is it God?”  The text

    leaves it open. In Peter’s surrender Jesus could say to Simon son of John,

    now Peter again, “Follow me.”

         Jesus uses images, symbols in dealing with Peter, feeder

    of lambs and sheep, shepherd of sheep,  bound for the Lord.

        But Peter was preoccupied about the Beloved Disciple that was

    following:  “Lord what about him?”  Peter is to incarnate the laying down

    of life, the Beloved Disciple will model remaining in Jesus’ love. The

    Beloved Disciple apparently was not martyred. The different perspectives of the

    ultimate ecclesial authority of the martyred Peter and his successors raises

    the question of what is Jesus’ will for the different band of disciples,

    the Johannine community.

    The content of Jesus’ words to Peter is :don’t worry about him,

    just do what I want of you.  Peter did this.


        One of the aspects that stands out so clearly in these stories is

    that the three persons are very different.  They are treated very

    differently by Jesus and they are missioned differently by Jesus.

    Easter lessons for us would be:  we are different people, one from the

    other, we experience different darkness.  Jesus comes to us and treats

    each of us differently but offers us life and light.  He also has a

    particular expression of the Gospel that he wants you and I to live.  Be

    the Easter life of Jesus for yourself, for others, for the world.

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