Each of us has studied history in some form or fashion in our lives as students. For the most part, we have been exposed to the history of the Western World. Others who specialized in history as they pursued college degrees may have been exposed to the history of other parts of the world. One thing is common in all of them. History is usually written by the victor, by the conqueror.
As Peter and the Beloved Disciple ran to the tomb on that first Easter Sunday morning, neither of them could have possibly realized that they were about to experience something totally new. The history of Christianity would not be written not by the one who conquered. Rather it would be written by the one who was vanquished. Jesus was condemned to death by the people who wanted to maintain their control of their lives and of those whom they governed. His death would be a small footnote in the history of the Middle East if it had not been for the fact that Mary Magdalene, Peter and the Beloved Disciple found an empty tomb three days after his death, just as he had told them. From that moment on, the history of Christianity was written by the one who had been vanquished. By giving himself over to the powers of the day, he seized that power himself. The cross has turned the world and its history upside down.
It did not end with Jesus’ resurrection. The Roman Empire the chief priests and elders of Judaism continued to believe that they were in control, that they would have the last word. They tried to blot out the news of Jesus’ dying and rising. Rome eventually arrested, tortured and executed thousands of Christians in the vain hope of clinging to their control of the world. However, the more people they killed, the stronger the Christian faith became. Indeed, history has been rewritten by the those who, like Jesus, lost their lives.
The mystery of the empty tomb still stands before us today. With Peter and the Beloved Disciple we peer into the shadows of the tomb looking for the crucified. They see the burial shroud of Jesus and the cloth that had covered his bloodied face neatly folded nearby. Him they do not find. Peter enters the tomb unafraid of what he might find there. His actions spur his companion to join him. They see and they believe.
There were no eyewitnesses to the Resurrection. It is impossible to prove that it happened. Each of the Gospels gives us a different version of the story with conflicting details. The first to discover the tomb were women, unable because of their gender to give any testimony in a court of law. While we may wish that this was not the case, it is impossible to prove this foundation of our faith. One must believe. Only through faith can we understand today’s feast.
The world is still struggling under the power of men and women who are trying to control their own destinies. They want to be the winners, the victors. They want to write history from their perspective. However, just as it was over two thousand years ago, so it is today. Only those who submit to God’s will can ever hope to be victorious in this world. Surrendering to God’s will is victory. The cross has turned our world upside down and only those who believe will ever understand what can be accomplished by those who believe in Jesus, our crucified Savior.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator