Easter is first and foremost an event centered on Jesus of Nazareth. He is raised in glory from the dead, we believe. Death has no power over Him. But what about the apostles? How did the Resurrection affect them? Let’s consider two of them – Peter and John.
At the beginning of His public ministry, Jesus calls to Himself the Twelve. The Gospels indicate clearly enough that these men are called by name. Interestingly, though, just one has his name changed – Simon whom the Lord names Peter. (cf. Mk 3:16) With his name change, Peter takes on a mission that is unique. He is the rock upon whom Christ will build His church. (cf. Matt 16:18) This charge to Peter comes after he has correctly identified Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the living God. (cf. Matt 16:16) Peter is the only apostle to have identified Jesus this way.
Peter is a wise man despite his impetuosity. He gets to things quicker than the others. He is the one who realizes that the apostles cannot just walk away from Jesus as some do when Jesus proclaims Himself to be the Bread of Life. (cf. Jn 6:66) Jesus has the words of eternal life (cf. Jn 6:68), Peter realizes before the others. There is no one else to whom they can go. (cf. Jn 6:68) But even Peter fails to stay with the Lord. He denies even knowing Jesus (cf. Jn 18:25-27) at one point in the Lord’s Passion. Still, even with his cowardice, Peter’s wisdom is not in question.
Tradition has it that John is the youngest of the apostles. His youthfulness, though, does not work against him when he is invited along with Peter and James to the top of Mount Tabor to witness the Transfiguration. (cf. Mk 9:2) However, the special stature John enjoys among Christians is not traceable to his youth, nor is it owing to the fact that he is just one of three apostles to see the transfigured Lord. The esteem we have for him is tied to his position as the Beloved Disciple (cf. Jn 13:23) To the Beloved Disciple, a dying Jesus commends His mother. (cf. Jn 19:26) Continuing his love for the Lord, John takes Mary into his home. (cf. Jn 19:27)
In the gospel for Easter Sunday, the evangelist reports that Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb first. (cf. Jn 20:1) Astonished at what she sees, she runs off to tell Peter and John. (cf. Jn 20:2) With great haste, Peter and John make their way to the empty tomb. (cf. Jn 20:4) The evangelist indicates here that the younger apostle arrives first. (Jn 20:4) Peter, although he arrives on the scene after John, is the first to enter the tomb and sees the burial cloths there. (cf. Jn 20:6) After Peter sees the burial cloth for the head in a different place than the other cloths (Jn 20:7), John then enters. (cf. Jn 20:8) The evangelist writes next: He saw and believed. (cf. Jn 20:8)
Obviously, Peter and John see the same thing. What they see is not at all in dispute. Yet, all the account indicates is that John believes. Why is that?
Love claims an affinity for believing. It makes the apostle John ready to accept immediately what he sees. He is not duped, nor is he substituting his own version of reality for what has actually happened.
Love is definitely not blind. It sees with an uncanny accuracy. It tells the difference between what is and what is not. This seeing into things, this insight we might say, is how we distinguish between true love and what only seems like love. A false pretender like infatuation never yields insight – until it is too late, of course.
Saint Paul says in his First Letter to the Corinthians that knowledge passes away. (cf. 1 Cor. 13:8) Not so with love. Love remains. (cf. 1 Cor. 13:13) It is the more excellent way (1 Cor. 12:31), Paul insists.
To show our love for others, we have meals together. We celebrate birthdays with lunches or dinners. We do the same for weddings and retirements. Over food and drink, we reminisce and rue; we laugh and we cry. With food and drink, we hold others close if even for a short while as we savor accomplishments or confront the uncertainty of the future. When the eating and drinking are finished, we often go our separate ways. Later on, we may remember the words, but what we miss most of all is the presence.
At the Last Supper, the evangelist, Saint John, describes Jesus as having loved His own in the world to the end. (cf. Jn 13:1) So great is the love that the Lord has for us that He conceives a way to be present to us always. He institutes the Holy Eucharist that not even death can separate us from Him. (cf. Rom 8:38-39)
The Risen Lord Whom we adore and worship on Easter Sunday holds out the prospect of prevailing over death to each one of us. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has life eternal, and I will raise him on the last day,” Jesus promises (Jn 6:54). Born of love, the Holy Eucharist carries in it a guarantee of death’s defeat.
Those who love under any and all conditions recognize death’s defeat before anyone else. It explains why John sees and believes right away on the first Easter Sunday morning. It also explains why the two disciples on the way to Emmaus don’t recognize the Risen Christ until they break bread with Him. (cf. Lk 24:31)
On this Easter Sunday, the Eucharist is how we are touched by the Lord’s risen life. May we receive this gift with joy, knowing that our love helps to remove the stones of hatred and indifference from our midst.
Msgr Robert Batule
If you make a purchase via a link on this site, we may receive a small commission. There will be no added cost to you. Thank you!