Someone I respect greatly prays for an hour early every morning. Now in his late seventies, he has done this faithfully since his early twenties. It speaks of a firm, ever-deepening faith. Today’s gospel is about faith, especially growth in faith. Last night at the Easter Vigil service, here and worldwide, Mark’s gospel proclaimed of Jesus of Nazareth, crucified three days ago: “He has risen. He is not here”. The Vigil service proclaims the resurrection. Today’s liturgy restates that: “the Lord has risen indeed, Alleluia”. However, the gospel highlights the as yet meagre faith of Jesus disciples, as Mary Magdalene, Peter and the other disciple scramble around trying to make sense of the empty tomb.
Mary Magdalene is confused. Her explanation of the empty tomb is that there has been a robbery. The body has gone. She foists this conclusion on Peter and the other disciple. “We don’t know where they have put him”. When Peter gets to the tomb, he notices something strange. The head cloth has been rolled up and put in a place by itself. These are remarkably tidy robbers. Did he begin to wonder, “Does the empty tomb have another explanation?” When the other disciple went into the tomb, he came to a deeper conclusion. Putting the evidence together and, relying on his close relationship with Jesus, as the one who was close to Jesus at the last supper, “he saw and believed”. The gospel reminds us that the faith of individual believers can be at different levels.
Today we might ask ourselves about our own faith. Not that we need be too critical. Perhaps we might ask ourselves, “Do I desire a deeper relationship with Jesus?” If the desire is there, Jesus will seek it out. After today’s gospel, the risen Jesus seeks out Mary and Peter. He consoles them and brings them to a deeper faith in himself. The first reading today shows Peter proclaiming to his pagan convert Cornelius that he and the other apostles were witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection; they even ate and drank with the risen Jesus. I can remember moments of growth in faith in my own life. Years ago abroad I attended an early morning Mass, beautifully celebrated, in a language I didn’t understand – I came away convinced more than ever before of Jesus’ presence in the bread and wine; the conviction of that moment still stays with me. Not too long ago I suggested in confession to a man in his thirties that he pray to Jesus “as a friend talks to a friend”. This simple suggestion overwhelmed him even to tears. As a community we proclaim the Risen Lord. As individuals we remember that “our lives are hidden with Christ in God”. So perhaps this is a moment of grace to ask the risen Lord to lead us into a deeper friendship.