John 20: 2-8
So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
How is it that St. John’s feast comes so close to Christmas? There are surely interesting historical reasons. But here let us consider the opening of John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word . . . and the Word was made flesh.” John teaches us so marvelously about the Incarnation, about the identity of this Christ child, about the divine love that shines forth in Him. Liturgically, it is interesting to note that the Gospel for this Mass, coming only two days after Christmas, is actually a story of the Resurrection. This may seem very incongruous, an abrupt change. But it reminds us of two things:
First, that the life of Jesus is a mysterious unity. The life of Christ was not accidental, heaven forbid. The end is present in the beginning, and the beginning at the end. The Incarnation of God is the salvation, and so is the Cross and Resurrection. Thus there is a mysterious unity here. Second, the Gospel tells us an important truth about St. John. As John and Peter run to the empty tomb, it seems that St. John was the better runner, since he arrived first. (This also shows us how eager he was to get there, running as fast as he could and not just traipsing along.) But John waited to go into the tomb, thinking that Peter ought to be the one to go in first.
The theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar saw in these figures a certain key to some perennial aspects of Christian life. John represents the mystics, the visionaries, but also, in a way, our own more mundane yet deeply personal sensibilities—our own spiritual lives, our own way of responding to Christ, perhaps even our own opinions. Peter represents the hierarchical ministry, the authority of the Church, given by God to govern and shape, to guide and protect, to nourish and heal the flock.
John, although he was “the beloved disciple,” so clearly possessing such great spiritual insight, knew that Christ desired him to be obedient to Peter. This is also the spirituality of St. Ignatius: a great mystic with great experiences of his own, but obedient in his very core. It is also a spirituality for all Christians, since we are often tempted to leave Peter behind and run along with only our own personal opinions. St John shows us a better way.
—Timothy Kieras, S.J.
Lord, to the unbeliever, the empty tomb symbolizes a world orphaned, drifting aimlessly, ruled by greed, power, and an ever-present evil. If indeed the unbeliever is right, nothing matters. Nothing! Lord, we stand before the tomb. With John we move inside. And we see “the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.” And we see and believe.
Now that which seems pointless has purpose; that which seems impossible has potential; and no suffering, no disappointment, no struggle is meaningless. Life with all its warts and worries will one day be transcended because of the empty tomb, because of your Resurrection!
—The Jesuit Prayer Team