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Fernando Armellini - Sat, Apr 8th 2023

The words with which John begins his letter are moving: “What we have heard and what we have seen with our own eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, I mean the Word who is Life … we proclaim also to you” (1 Jn 1:1-3). His is an enviable experience but unrepeatable. However, to become ‘witnesses’ of Christ, it is not necessary to have walked with Jesus of Nazareth on the roads of Palestine.

Paul—who also did not know Jesus personally—is deemed a witness of the things he saw (Acts 26:16) and receives this task from the Lord: “As you have borne witness to me here in Jerusalem, so must you do in Rome” (Acts 23:11). To be a witness, it is enough to have seen the Lord alive, beyond death.

Witnessing is not to give a good example. This is undoubtedly useful, but the testimony is something else. This can only be provided by one who passed from death to life; one who can confirm that his existence is changed and acquired new meaning when the light of Easter illuminated it; one who has had the experience of faith in Christ, gives that meaning to the joys and sorrows of life, illuminating both the joyful and sad moments.

Let’s ask ourselves: is Christ’s resurrection a constant point of reference in all the projects we undertake, when we buy, sell, dialogue, divide an inheritance, choose to have another child? Or do we believe that the reality of this world has nothing to do with Easter? Anyone who has seen the Lord will do nothing more without him.

• To internalize the message, we repeat: “If our heart opens itself to the understanding of the Scriptures, we will see the Lord.”


First Reading: Acts 10:34,37-43

Peter proceeded to speak and said: “You know what has happened all over Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree. This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.” 


This reading is taken from the fifth of the eight speeches delivered by Peter in the Acts of the Apostles. The scene takes place in Caesarea, in Cornelius’ house. It is there that he joins a group of pagans who are to be baptized. This passage is a valuable piece because, in short, it presents the preaching of the early Christian communities. Placing it in the mouth of Peter, the author intends to confer on it the authority and guarantee of officialdom. Let us see what the main points of this preaching are.

Foremost, it refers to the life of Jesus. “He went about doing good and healing all who were under the devil’s power, because God was with him” (vv. 37-38). It also indicates the place and the time when the activity began. It all started in Galilee after the baptism John preached. That which happened before—his childhood and youth spent in Nazareth—spurs our curiosity but does not constitute a reference point for our faith.

Peter emphasizes concrete, verifiable facts known to all because the Christian faith is not based on esoteric rumination or a mythological character but references a concrete person who lived in a specific place at a precise time. We would expect Peter to at least hint at proclaiming the Good News. Instead, he merely highlights the concrete transformation of the world made by Jesus. It is enough to prove that a new reality has started.

The second point of the preaching is what people have done: They have not recognized in Jesus, the messenger of God. They killed him, nailing him to the cross (v. 39).

And how did God react? Peter said: He could not abandon his ‘faithful servant’ as a prisoner of death. For this, God raised him to life. His work is opposed to that of men, which ends in death, leading to the tomb. God is the one who uplifts and leads to life. This is the fundamental article of our faith (v. 40).

Finally, the disciples' mission is given; they witness these things (vv. 39,41) and are sent to proclaim and testify that Jesus is the one appointed by God to judge the living and the dead (v. 42). This truth is part of the ‘Creed’ and is not a threat but a happy message. The apostles must tell everyone that Jesus is not a judge who condemns, but the model with which God compares every person's life, declaring it a success or failure. There is not a higher authority. The Jews cannot invoke their faith in God or the observance of the law. The point of reference established by God is not the law, tradition, nor any other human standard, but Jesus and only Jesus.

The apostles are his witnesses because they were with him. They ate and drank with him; they heard his teachings and saw the signs he made. There are no witnesses to their exemplary lives, but they had a unique experience to relate to anyone who will listen to them with honesty and purity of heart. 

Second Reading: Colossians 3:1-4

Brothers and sisters: If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.  


Writing to the Christians of Colossae, Paul reminds them that they were born to a new life on the day of baptism, a life that has its fulfillment, not in this world but the word of God. Faith in this new life differentiates believers from atheists, who are convinced that a human being, relying only on their own strength, manages to attain salvation in this world.

It is not difficult to realize that, even if all material problems are solved, there would be food for all, pain and disease overcome, yet unresolved questions would remain in the depths of the human heart: why do I live and why do I die? Where do I come from, and where am I going? Only Christ, who died and rose from the dead, can answer these questions satisfactorily.

Paul does not say that Christians should not concern themselves with the reality of this world. They work and are committed to others. However, they are not convinced that the fullness of life cannot be achieved in this world (v. 2). Good works are not wanting—says the reading. They are a manifestation of the new life. They are signs of his presence. They are like fruit that can sprout and grow only on a living and thriving tree.


Gospel: John 20:1-9

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. 


"Now, on the first day after the Sabbath, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning while it was still dark …” (v. 1). In these first words of the Gospel of Easter day, we can sense, almost breathe the signs of death's victory. On earth, it is all silence, immobility and quiet. A woman, alone and frightened, moves in the darkness of the night. Death seems to dominate unchallenged while silence and darkness celebrate the triumph. Power, the principle of force, discrimination, injustice, and the yeast of cunning seem to have decisively bettered the forces of life.

Let’s see what happens when Mary sees the empty tomb: the scene changes as if by magic. Caught in a sudden thrill, all the characters are shaken from their slumber and move quickly. “Mary of Magdala runs to Simon Peter ... who rushes out with the other disciple ... They run together, but the other disciple, outrun him ...” (vv. 2-4). Taking everyone by surprise, the day after the Sabbath, life explodes in all its force. God intervened and opened the tomb, but Mary of Magdala does not know that. She thinks that the corpse was stolen. It is a natural and spontaneous reaction. It is the first thought that would cross the mind of anyone running into an empty tomb.

We can stop at this first finding or continue searching for the meaning of what we observe. In the face of death, we can be resigned, cry, or open our hearts to the light from above. Magdalene exits the scene momentarily as if passing the baton in the race toward the faith to two other disciples. One is well-known, Peter, the other has no name. It is generally believed to be the Evangelist, John. But this was identified much later, about a hundred years after the apostle had died. It may have been him, the disciple that Jesus loved. However, in the Gospel of John, this figure certainly has a symbolic character who should be dwelt upon.

This unnamed disciple is always connected in some way to Peter:

– He enters the scene next to Andrew. One day the two see Jesus passing by. They ask him where he lives. They follow and stay with him all night. What about Peter? He enters because the nameless disciple reaches Jesus before him (Jn 1:35-40).

– This disciple is not spoken about again until the last supper when Jesus declares that among the twelve, there is also a traitor. Who finds him out? Those who can recognize who is on the side of Jesus and who instead is against him? It is not Peter, but the unnamed disciple who reclines his head on the breast of the Lord (Jn 13:23-26).

– During the passion, Peter stalls and denies the Master. The unnamed disciple dares tofollow him into the high priest's house and is close to Jesus during the process (Jn 18:15-27).

– Peter is not on Calvary. He escaped. The disciple whom Jesus loves is instead with the Master. He is at the foot of the cross with His mother (Jn 19:25-27).

– Then comes the passage where Peter is again beaten, both in the physical race and the spiritual one—as we shall see shortly (Jn 20:3-10).

– On the sea of Tiberias, it is still this disciple who recognizes the risen Christ in the man on the shore. Peter recognizes him only later (Jn 21:7).

– Finally, when Jesus invites him to follow him, Peter does not dare to do it alone. He feels the need to have at his side “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (Jn 21:20-25).

Who is he then? Why has he no name? He represents the authentic disciple, the one that just meets Jesus and does not hesitate. He immediately follows him and wants to know him. He even forgets to sleep just to be with him. Do you know him enough to immediately know who his friends and enemies are? He also follows him when it is necessary to offer his life. He has no name because everyone is invited to name themselves.

We see this pair of disciples run to the tomb. The unnamed disciple arrives first, bends, sees the linen cloths lying there, but does not enter. Simon Peter also arrives, enters, and sees the linen cloths lying flat, and the napkin was placed on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths, but rolled up in a place by itself. Nothing miraculous! There is no appearance of angels; everywhere, only the signs of death. Perhaps the two disciples have an intuition, the one formulated by John Chrysostom: ‘Whoever had taken the body, would not have stripped it before nor would have taken the trouble to remove and roll the napkin and leave it in a place by itself.’ His body has therefore not been stolen.

Peter stops, astonished and amazed. He observes but cannot go further. His thoughts are frozen before the evidence of death. Instead, the unnamed disciple steps forward: he sees and begins to believe (v. 8). It is the pivotal moment of his journey of faith in the risen Lord. In front of the signs of death (the grave, the bandages, the shroud...), he begins to sense the victory of life.

The following annotation unites the two disciples: “Scripture clearly said that Jesus must rise from the dead, but they had not yet understood that” (v. 9). It seems illogical, at least as regards the disciple without a name. But, at this point, the evangelist John is not compiling a cold chronicle of events but is pointing the Christians of his community to the route through which to come to faith. It starts from the signs—those documented in the Gospels (Jn 20:30-31). However, they remain mysterious and incomprehensible unless guided by the Word of God contained in the Holy Scriptures. These words open the mind and the heart and give the interior light that reveals the Risen One. The true disciple does not need further testing; he does not need Thomas's verification.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” Whoever does not believe considers even the free-gift of life an absurdity, a madness, because they only see signs of deathbehind this gift. But in the light of Easter, the authentic disciple ‘begins to understand’ that the life given for the brothers and sisters introduces one to the bliss of God.

The concluding verse of the episode: The two disciples “went back home again” (v. 10). It almost gives the impression that everything returns as before. But it is not so. The two have known Jesus; they have witnessed the same events and seen the same signs. Theycontinue to be discouraged and disappointed by simply resuming their daily lives, but their new lives are guided by a new light and supported by a new hope.


READ: Mary Magdalene finds the tomb empty. Peter and the Beloved Disciple run to the tomb. The Beloved Disciple arrives first and believes. Mary does not recognize Jesus until she calls her by name. She announces the risen Lord to the other disciples. Jesus appears twice to his friends in the upper room. The chapter closes with an apparent ending to the entire Gospel.

REFLECT: What is the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene? What is the relationship between Peter and the Beloved Disciple? Does Jesus know your name? Do you believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ? What does this mean to you?

PRAY: Faith needs constant support. Pray for an increase in the power of your faith. The Beloved Disciple saw the cloths and believed. Pray for people who struggle with faith.

ACT: Pay attention to the names of people, especially those who share your faith and belief.




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