1 John 1:1-4
John 20:1a, 2-8
It is just a few days after Christmas. The tree is still aglow with twinkle lights, the kiddies have barely tired of their new toys, and the brave among us may have already ventured out to the sales in hopes of getting a jump on next year’s decorations. But just as we may still be celebrating the birth of the Newborn King, we are reminded today exactly why such celebration is in order; Christ is Risen! The tiny babe, born of such humble beginnings, is destined to be the Savior of the world.
We learn from John’s gospel that Mary Magdalene is first to discover that Jesus is gone from the tomb. (And for those who sometimes question the prominence of women in the Church, take note that it is Mary Magdalene who is first to witness Jesus’ Resurrection.) I can’t help but think of the despair that she must be feeling. It has been just a few days since Jesus was crucified. Mary can’t even wait for the sun to come up before she heads off to grieve at the burial site of her friend and teacher.
When she sees the stone has been rolled away, her first reaction is to run to the other disciples. But her message is not one of joy and salvation. She believes Christ’s body has been stolen. Perhaps we should take some comfort from the fact that even those closest to Jesus-those who left their lives behind to follow him-could not even have fully imagined the possibility of the Resurrection. Let us be assured that our Lord understands too our doubt and disbelief at his living presence in our lives. But we can aspire to the faith of the beloved disciple John, for he saw the empty tomb and believed.
John begins his first letter by assuring the reader that not only has he seen with his own eyes, but has heard and even touched what he is about to tell them about. In this way, John bears witness to the Word of Life as a concrete reality. He tells us that the purpose of his letter is, first, "fellowship." So it seems that sharing the knowledge of Christ’s victory over death brings us into communion with others.
Secondly, he says that he is writing "that our joy may be complete." This is quite a concept-complete joy! It doesn’t seem like much of a reality in today’s world, does it? Bills may be piling up, lay-offs are widespread and many American men and women are thousands of miles from home in harm’s way. Perhaps then the simplicity of this message is even more pertinent.
Acknowledging Christ as our Savior brings complete joy. More specifically, in sharing God’s love, we can find this peace and contentment of complete and utter joy. Now, this doesn’t mean that we go through life skipping and singing with a song in our heart, as we will all no doubt experience suffering and tragedy. What John tells us is that, for the Christian, true inner peace does not fluctuate based on the goings on around us. Rather, we must find this joy within ourselves. And this joy-of Christ as our Savior-is ever true, unchanging and transformative in our lives.
Marlo Serritella is on staff at the Passionist Development Office in Chicago, Illinois.