The love that overcomes death

Fr Eduardo Emilio Agüero, SCJ

The war in Ukraine and the Middle East threatens to spread. There are thousands of families destroyed by the violence of a world that increasingly forgets that we are all brothers and sisters. Pope Francis’ words about solidarity in his encyclicals “Fratelli Tutti” and “Laudato Si” seem like a cry in the desert….

Europe seems to have renounced its Christian roots, betting on what Saint John Paul II called the culture of death. It was the Pope himself who, on his first visit to France in 1980, prophetically asked: “France, eldest daughter of the Church, what did you do with your baptism?” In that same country, the right to abortion has just been incorporated into its constitution; That is, the genocide of anonymous creatures sacrificed to the idols of comfort, pleasure and individualism.

Faced with such a situation of indifference and selfishness, what attitude should we, the followers of Jesus, members of the body of Christ, the Church that he built, have?

Something similar happened to the first disciples of Jesus. They had to face a hostile and even cruel world: His teacher had suffered a humiliating and terrible death!

John begins the story by indicating “On the first day of the week…” It is because with the resurrection of Jesus, a creation begins! It is Sunday when we celebrate this great event that changed the course of human history.

Like Mary Magdalene, the community of disciples was in darkness: “it was still dark” (Jn 20:1). Darkness symbolizes a fatalistic ideology contrary to life. We, too, the pilgrim Church, sometimes doubt that the author of life is alive in this world full of hatred, resentment, violence and impunity.

The woman who loved Jesus so dearly goes to the tomb very early and when she arrives she finds that the heavy stone that had sealed the master’s death had been removed! How many times is the tomb named in this passage! But it is an empty tomb, the first evidence of the resurrection of the Lord that the disciples did not know how to interpret (Lk 24, 22).

Mary represents the community of disciples who feels heartbroken: the absence of her Lord leaves her totally helpless! The nascent Church cries out like the bride of the Song of Songs: “At night I sought the love of my soul…and I did not find it” (Song 3:1). Instead of encouraging hope, Ella thinks that hostile forces have stolen the corpse of someone who was alive. How pessimistic we are when we see ourselves persecuted and defeated in our testimony of life as the Church of Christ! When we see many young people abandon their faith and the consecrated people cause scandals that discourage so many…

And we may think that we have no choice but to run in terror like Mary Magdalene. She ran first to Simon Peter, but then also to tell the other disciple that she lived with the mother of Jesus (cf. 19:27). The two also ran, now in the direction of the tomb. The disciple friend of Jesus, driven by a purer love, runs faster (cf. Ps 119:32), and although he arrives first, he knows how to wait. He does not allow himself to be carried away by emotion nor does he dare to judge Peter for having denied the Lord. On the contrary, he has the deference to recognize him as a leader and let him enter first. “Love is patient and kind, it is not envious or arrogant” as Saint Paul says in 1 Cor 13:4.

Peter entered and saw the bandages and the shroud rolled up in a separate place. It is exactly the same thing that Jesus’ friend saw when he entered, but he saw and believed!

What is the difference with Peter? Whoever has learned to love like Jesus has the sensitivity to read the signs of the loved one’s presence. Unlike Lazarus who came out of the tomb “dead” “with his feet and hands bound with bandages and his face wrapped in a shroud” (Jn 11:44), Jesus left the tomb freely, leaving behind the bonds of death. When the Lord resurrected, he would have left the sheets on the bed where he had lain and when he stood up, he would have left the shroud that he had on his head in another place. The body theft theory postulated by Mary Magdalene was no longer plausible. It seems simple and too little, but that was enough for the beloved disciple to believe.

As a community of disciples, in the Church we are called to renew our faith in Him who is alive and who with his resurrection renews our existence. It is faith that, as Saint Paul says, “works through love” (Gal 5:6); Love for our Lord opens our eyes to discover his living presence through simple and poor signs.

Christ’s victory over sin and death is also our triumph! This Easter Sunday in Macau, dozens of catechumens who have prepared for months, thanks to the dedication of their catechists, are baptized. They are families that join the community of witnesses of the resurrection in a world thirsty for God.

Happy Easter!