The disciples were hidden away in a room with the doors locked. They were afraid. In so many ways, today, we are exactly like them. We too face the challenge of living resurrection life in a world opposed to God, a world full of doubt and unbelief. Some of us probably think that an appearance of Jesus would make all the difference. But today’s gospel paints a different picture. It took more than a post-resurrection appearance for Thomas to be convinced. Faith blossomed for Thomas when Jesus spoke to him personally: seeing and even touching, it seems, is no guarantee of faith! We too are challenged to make the leap of faith. What is needed is a personal encounter with the Living Christ, the Resurrection Lord. Faith comes from hearing the word of the Risen One and by extension from hearing gospel teaching proclaimed with integrity in the community of faith. May each of us hear the Risen One addressing us personally today, and may each of us embrace the Living Word of God with faithful love and true attention! Let faith blossom in the world! Embrace the power of resurrection!
Two different early traditions are at work in John’s account. The first is the tradition that Mary Magdalen, drawn there by her grief and her love, discovered the empty tomb. She reports this to Peter and the other disciple, the only men to show up at the empty tomb. Magdalen challenges all of us to see Christ and all reality with the eyes of the heart, with the eyes of love. She invites us to come to an ever-deepening faith in the transforming power of love. The second tradition concerns Peter’s visit to the tomb to which John adds the race between with the other disciple, noting the latter’s act of faith. At that point in time they still did not understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead. But the story is not finished. We need Ascension and Pentecost if we are to fully understand.
The unnamed woman’s anointing of Jesus might seem a little thing, but it is the most any of us can do: she recognizes Jesus, and gives all she has for him, not understanding completely that her actions helped to prepare the King, first for his death and then for his triumph, but knowing somehow that he is the Messiah. We, too, are called to recognize Jesus the Messiah in faith, not simply as a conquering hero but as a servant willing to give himself up to death for us.
Jesus tells the parable of a grain of wheat. When it is dropped into the earth, the seed “dies”. But in the warmth and moisture of the earth, new life breaks out. If we wish to follow Jesus, we must empty ourselves of self-centeredness, of the instinct for self-preservation at the expense of our sisters and brothers. From seeds buried in the warm love and service of others, and watered by fidelity to our baptismal commitment, the Christian community grows into the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus.