When I first looked at today’s Gospel reading, I was momentarily confused, since the reading is John’s account of Peter and John (“the other disciple whom Jesus loved”) finding the empty tomb after Mary Magdalene ran to tell them that someone had taken Jesus from the tomb. “Wait a minute,” I thought – “Christmas Day was two days ago and we are still celebrating Jesus’ birth. What are we doing we are at the resurrection!”
It is true that today is the feast of St. John the Evangelist, so both Mass readings come from John: a beautiful passage from the First Letter of John as the first reading, and this Gospel reading from the penultimate chapter of John’s Gospel.
More than that, however, it is actually fitting that we hear the story of the empty tomb two days after Christmas. Today’s Gospel is an important reminder that the Christian story is a unitary one: A story that begins with Incarnation and ends with death and resurrection. Our beautiful Nativity scenes are merely Act I of a play that cannot be fully appreciated unless we apprehend it in its entirety. God’s taking human form in the world inevitably leads to the cross. From the moment of his birth, Jesus is destined to die. But then, when all hope seems lost, the tomb is empty. Jesus rises from the dead, making resurrection a reality for us.
The story whose beginning we celebrate in this Christmas season ends with victory over death. That is the Christian story. And we who know the entirety of the story are tasked with sharing it with others – with bringing the hope of resurrection to a wounded and suffering world.
[Cross-posted from University of St. Thomas Office for Spirituality Advent/Christmas Reflections.]