They Began to Understand

Homily of Fr. Herbert Nicholls, Diocese of Fall River, bi-ritual faculties in the Maronite Church, and chaplain at our Mother of the Light Convent.

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb.  So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned home. Gospel John 20: 1 – 10
Following the Octave of Easter, Holy Church presents through the next six weeks a catechesis on the mysteries of Baptism, Chrismation and Eucharist. Today’s passage from 1 Peter (cf 1 Pet 1: 1 – 9) is an ancient liturgical hymn of praise and gratitude which develops more explicitly the role and action of each Person of the Trinity.
By making His choice of Christians, the Father has destined us to a marvelous heritage in heaven. To attain this we need to love and believe in His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Empowered to do so by the Holy Spirit, who earlier proclaimed salvation through the mouths of the Old Testament prophets, and now through those who preach that salvation has arrived through faith in the Gospel.
God brought about the work of His Redemption by His great mercy. For God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which He has loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, has made us alive again together with Christ.
Through the resurrection of Christ from the dead, the resurrection of the Lord marks the climax of His salvific work, for it assures men of their redemption and their own resurrection.
Hope of obtaining this inheritance of heaven gives us joy in the midst of trials which test our faith. St. Peter says that it is good to suffer trials because eternal joys cannot be obtained except through the afflictions and sorrows of this passing world.
St. Bede the Venerable says:
You should realize that God wants us to be happy and if you do all that you can, you will be happy, very happy, very, very, happy; although you will never be a moment without the cross…The cross is no longer a gallows. The Cross is now the throne from which Christi reigns..
I want to return briefly to the final verses of 8-9 from the above Gospel. Mary Magdalene and the others had not at this point witnessed the risen Jesus. Mary was convinced that someone had stolen His Body. The Apostles, Peter and John, not believing a robbery, but not yet ready to accept a miracle rushed to the tomb where they found the burial linens, folded neatly in place, and began to understand what Jesus had so often said during His ministry: concerning His death and resurrection.

The Apostles began to grasp the true meaning of the resurrection particularly after they had received the Holy Spirit who fully enlightens their minds to the revelation of the Covenant. Is it easy to imagine the surprise and elation of the other Apostles when Peter and John tell them what they found in the empty tomb? If you think it is easy, go back and read the reaction of Thomas in the gospels.