The Necessary Passion of the Lord
As we follow the Scriptures during the fifty days of Easter we can see a great contrast between John’s Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. For John coming to believe is gradual, for the author of Acts (Luke) it can be instantaneous. But for both, John and Acts, the mystery of the Cross is indispensable in coming to believe in Jesus as Lord.
In John’s Gospel, the first believer is the beloved disciple who runs to the tomb with Peter. He looks into the tomb and believes, Peter is only amazed. John is the disciple closest to the act of Jesus’ life-giving love, with Mary he stands by the Cross. Could that be why he can believe? Could this also be why we do not hear of Mary in the resurrection stories of John’s gospel? Mary is the disciple who does not need this gradual growth in God’s love to come to believe. She is there already!
Mary Magdalene, first to the tomb to care for the body of Jesus with spices and perfume, comes back again looking for Our Lord. She asks the supposed gardener if he has taken the body to please tell her where it is so she can care for it. Mary does not yet believe, cannot see, Jesus is her Lord. The Good Shepherd who will not lose any of his beloved flock calls her by name, ‘Mary’, and like the Apostles at their first meeting with Jesus calls him “Rabbi”. Mary is like the woman at the well, Martha, the blind man of Siloam and Nicodemus. They all come to name Jesus the Lord gradually. Finally, Mary says, “My Master,” and goes to tell the others that she has seen, “the Lord”.
Mary Magdalene shared the Passion. She now can recognize the Lord.
In the Acts of the Apostles, we see immediate professions of faith and baptisms: the lame man who sat by the Beautiful Gate of the temple and the crowds who are added to the community of believers. The Passion is around them in the apostles who are being punished, in Stephen, and in those whom Saul will persecute.
Today we see another class of people represented by the Ethiopian Eunuch, who is also like the Apostles on the road to Emmaus. They meet the suffering Messiah through the Scriptures. The Emmaus disciples and the Eunuch have their hearts set on fire as they learn the Messiah must suffer and so come to glory. The disciples of Emmaus end up in Jerusalem that first Easter night united with the apostles as believers. The Eunuch enters into water of baptism, he believes, as the Spirit takes Philip off to announce the Good News elsewhere.
May the Word of the Scriptures continue to keep before us the Passion of Jesus through which we come to know the Lord. It is the unspoken word of the wounds that Jesus so often shows his disciples. It is the necessary step that reveals Jesus’ love and that he is the Messiah and Lord.
Fr. William Murphy, CP is the pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Jamaica, New York.