March 26, 2008

Easter People

Easter Sunday
John 20:1-9 : “Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went
inside. He saw and believed.”

Peter and John are twins. Peter is a pessimist and John is an optimist. Peter is a gloomy person and sees all things negatively while John is a very happy and confident person. On the eve of their 10th birthday, their father thought of giving them something that will make Peter happy and John sad. So the father gifted Peter with expensive toys, hoping that the toys will make him happy; but Peter said, “What will I do with these toys? Which one will I play first? Where will I keep them?” And so Peter remained a pessimist. For John, in his father’s desire to break John’s heart, the father scattered horse feces in his room. But when John smelled and saw the horse feces, he jumped out of joy, hugged his father and said, “Thank you father! Thank you father for the horse! I love riding horse!” And John remained a happy person.

Easter people are happy people! They see possibilities, fresh opportunities and joy in everything they do. They have the spirit of the youth, zest for life, and love-empowered faith. Easter people are believers of the risen Christ who promised, “I will be with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)!

But not all Christians are Easter people. Some of us are tomb people - living in sadness, hopelessness, and doubt. They are always hiding in fear and languishing in tears. Jesus is no longer in the tomb. He has risen from the dead but some of us want to stay in the tomb.

Our gospel for today speaks of three classes of Christians: Mary Magdalene (Tearful Christians), Simon-Peter (Fearful Christians), and John (Easter Christian). This Easter Season, let’s return to the tomb and see if we are Mary, Peter, or John.

In our gospel, it was Mary Magdalene, who loved Jesus much, who was first at the tomb. But Mary’s tears and sadness for the death of Jesus blinded her from seeing Jesus. The empty tomb became the source of sadness and hopelessness. The promised resurrection of Jesus never came to her memory. Tears blinded her to see beyond the empty tomb. Some of us are like Mary Magdalene – a sobbing Christian. Our own frustrations, failures, and sadness blind us from seeing beyond. We continually blame ourselves for our mistakes and misgivings and become prisoners of our past. Moving on is not an option.

In the Gospel of John, the name of Peter keeps on changing, depending on his attitude in a given situation. His name before meeting Jesus was “Simon.” It was Jesus who changed his name and called him Cephas or Peter which means “the rock.” When he acted as an unbeliever, he was “Simon.” When he acted as a true disciple with genuine faith, “Peter” was used. He was “Peter” when he said, “I will lay down my life for you.” (13:37) But when he was hesitant, indecisive, and reluctant, he was “Simon Peter”- when he betrayed Jesus (18:25), during the washing of the feet (13:6) and when he struck Malchus’ ear (18:10).

In our gospel for today, the name “Peter” and “Simon Peter” were interchangeably used. While hiding in fear, “Simon Peter” was his name when he received the news from Mary (20:2) and instantly changed to “Peter” when he courageously left his hiding place and run towards the tomb. But he was “Simon Peter” again when he entered the tomb and failed to believe. Sometimes, we are like Peter, committed and ever willing to follow the will of God; but we suddenly become “Simon Peter” – a sinker, doubter and unbeliever, when storms comes and things get tough.

When Mary Magdala announced the wrong news that the body of Jesus was stolen, Peter and John ran to the tomb to confirm the things in their minds. Like Mary Magdala, Peter just wanted to confirm the theft. But John wanted to confirm something deeper – something that is life giving - the promised resurrection of Jesus. John was younger, faster, and more willing on getting to the tomb, perhaps more hopeful and more devoted to Jesus. He first arrived at the tomb but waited for Simon Peter. Love – with its power, youthfulness, humility and faith, always get there first, come to belief first, and always wait for the others. Competition is not in the vocabulary of those who loves. Love knows how to wait and does not mind if somebody is ahead of him or her.

When Peter caught up with John, he ran straight into the tomb without waiting for John. Peter saw the empty tomb and the folded linen. Bewilderment, dismay and unbelief blinded Simon Peter. He failed to believe (20:9). But when John entered the tomb, he saw the folded cloth. Robbers don’t fold things they leave behind; and so John believed! Love is the great interpreter. Love can see something beautiful in the folded cloth in an empty tomb. Love sees hope in anything, even in the tomb. Love can grasp the truth when intellect failed to understand.

Mary saw the empty tomb and assumed the worst – the body was stolen. Simon Peter went into the tomb and saw the cloth …but nothing made sense. John, the beloved heard, ran, waited for Simon Peter, entered the tomb and saw everything … and he immediately believed (20:8).

Love gave John eyes to read the signs and a heart to understand. If you’re like John, then you are an Easter Person!

What about you? What kind of Christian are you?
We can come up with many possibilities and combinations of our personalities, depending on our attitudes with regard to our faith and our relationship with God. Here are some possibilities…

Christian 1 … ½ Mary Magdalene, ½ John
Christian 2 … ½ Peter, ½ Mary Magdalene
Christian 3 … ½ Simon Peter, ½ John
Christian 4 … ¼ Simon, ¼ Simon Peter, ¼ Mary, ¼ John
Christian 5 … _________________ you … fill the blank

But in the end, we hope and pray to become a genuine Easter people like John.

Easter People … 100% John.

- Fr.Willy M. Samson,SJ
Ateneo de Zamboanga

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