Reflection by Tom Cummins, a parishioner
Today’s gospel reading leaves me a little disoriented. This Feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist - with the passage from John’s Gospel about finding the tomb empty - is stuck between the Feast of Saint Stephen, Martyr, and the Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs. We have the feast day of the one “Jesus loved” surrounded by martyrs. A grim setting in the lectionary cycle.
But that is not what has me disoriented. It’s that just two days ago we celebrated the birth of the baby Jesus. Just two days ago! The scrap of wrapping paper behind the couch remains undiscovered. A tin of fudge from the neighbor has a couple of pieces left … still there but not forgotten. Christmas lights throughout the neighborhood will glow in the night for several more days.
But in today’s reading, the tomb is empty! And, therefore, so is the manger. Our salvation story – Jesus’ birth and Resurrection - collapsed into two days.
Why are we so quickly reminded of these things to come? That the heavenly host and the adoring shepherds are to be replaced by jeering soldiers. The magi bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh for the newborn baby become Nicodemus bringing great quantities of myrrh and aloes for the burial of the King of Kings. Swaddling clothes are now burial cloths. Mary and Joseph in adoring awe and wonder, become a few disciples staring in awe and fear into Jesus’ empty tomb.
Abrupt. Why? What’s the point now?
I’m most assuredly off base, but I feel this: It’s because we are a Resurrection people. The tomb is always empty. No matter what the feast day, liturgical memorial, or simply a day in ordinary time, the tomb is empty – He is Risen! We need the reminder.
We need the reminder because we can become so mesmerized by the grandness we have placed upon the Christmas season. Don’t we wish that the Holy Family could spend many peaceful days posing for our Christmas cards while the cattle shift around in their straw bedding, and visitors keep dropping by with their gifts? It’s not to be. This is only the beginning of a story that is, at once, sorrowful yet joyful
I’m probably making more of this reading’s placement than is necessary. But in my reflection I find myself looking away from our lovely crèche at the left-front of our church and directing my attention to the body of Jesus on the cross above the altar. That is what was started with birth of the Christ Child. Jesus on the cross is the enduring symbol of our forgiveness and redemption.
Today I’m being asked to put down my eggnog for a moment and kneel in prayer, a prayer of gratitude and thanksgiving.
+In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.