(Easter: Acts 10:34-43; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-9. Other options possible.)
In the first reading, Peter states that he and his companions were witnesses to three distinct realities: 1) Jesus’ public ministry; 2) the risen Christ; and 3) that Jesus has been appointed judge of the living and the dead.
Paul, in the second reading, bears witness to the resurrection of Jesus and, in a particular way, to its meaning for our Christian life.
Mary Magdalen, Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved also were witnesses, in the account we read today from John’s gospel. Witness to what, exactly? To nothing, to absence, to emptiness—or, more accurately, to mystery.
The mystery of Jesus’ resurrection is so fundamental that it is not easy to express in words what it means to us. In 1972, Easter fell on April 2. That day, the truth of Easter struck me in a way I cannot adequately describe. I can say, however, that it was the most life-changing spiritual experience of my life.
The beloved disciple, John, entered the tomb, saw, and believed. In that emptiness he experienced the deepest possible faith. His goal from then on was to help others to experience the same. Near the end of his Gospel, he writes: “These [signs] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.”
“Life in his name”—Mary at La Salette does not use those words, but that is the meaning of her message. Like Moses in Deuteronomy, she places before us life and death, and begs us to choose life. Those who do so become witnesses to the transforming mystery of what St. Paul calls a life “hidden with Christ in God.”
Not knowing, not understanding, is not necessarily a bad thing. Mélanie and Maximin did not know who was speaking to them, nor did they understand everything they heard; but at the Beautiful Lady’s invitation, they entered into that mystery, into what a 14th century spiritual classic calls the Cloud of Unknowing.
In telling others, like Peter, what they had seen and heard, the children were actually witnessing to what they did not know. They drew others into the mystery of Mary’s love, revealing the fathomless depths of God’s mercy, of which we too can be witnesses.