Running Like St. JohnBy Omar F. A. Gutierrez
APRIL 9, 2011 (www.regnumnovum.com
) - Sitting there at Easter Morning Mass – having small children has for the time being made attending the Easter Vigil next to impossible – I was struck deeply by the line in the reading that went:
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.”
Before I knew it, I was overcome with emotion. First of all, both men were running. St. Peter, who was no spring chicken mind you, was running. Having lived only a short while in the Mediterranean world, I find it strange that men would be running in the first place, much less a man of relatively advanced years. I have little children and am younger than St. Peter would have been, but even I rarely run.
Second, what must have St. John been thinking as he ran? It’s early in the day yet. Mary of Magdala has said that “They have taken the Lord from the tomb.” As the crisp morning air still pregnant with the dew of that Easter morning brushes by his hot cheeks, is there dread in his heart? Where have they taken Him?
But maybe there is still hope in his heart. Perhaps the young John is running as hard as he is not because he is in dread fear that the Jews or Romans have stolen the body, but that their Master is still alive. Perhaps the Master has risen as He had alluded.
Either way, St. John is driven on like a champion horse striving for the finish line. But the goading is not in the switch of a rider but in the spurs of love. I must see Him. I must be with Him. Anticipation fills St. John’s heart, so he runs.
As those words came to my imagination, I could not help but think the same thought. Oh, my Jesus, I do so love you. Give me the grace to pursue you as honestly, as heatedly, as passionately. I imagined the youthful St. John leaning forward as he ran… led not so much by his head but by his heart, chest thrust forward, legs struggling to stay somewhat underneath him so that he didn’t fall flat on his face. I adore you, oh Christ, and I love you.
My pastor, the inestimable Fr. Damien Cook [and by the bye – if you should ever find yourself in Omaha, Nebraska, do stop by St. Peter’s Parish, it is a wondrous place] told us in his homily that this time of Easter is a special time for us to take stock of the calculus of Easter and the Christian faith.
I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I am often caught up in Lent… what with the trappings of trying to please my God. Sacrifices are offered, yes, to improve my habits and make myself somewhat more of a better servant to Him. But the truth is that it is all Mercy. He suffered and died despite my inadequate pining for perfection. Dearest Lord, you love me because I am yours to begin with. You’ve chosen me… not the other way around. Once this is grasped, everything else is response. Everything else in the Christian life, particularly in this time of Easter, is to accept that God loves me… and He desires me all the more even now.
To all of this, of course… I say of course because I always fall back to the question of teaching, of pedagogy… to all of this I come back to the question of the social doctrine. For, you see, this attitude of the running of St. John is the attitude which I hope to have throughout my life.
The social doctrine of the Church, or the social justice teaching of the Church leaves the average Catholic cold with fear that they shall be asked to give up something one has a right to. We are always so afraid that I will be asked to give up something perfectly good and right and just for ME. But if we are running for Christ and running with the attitude of St. John… well then… we cannot help but to give of ourselves for the sake of the other.
Because He, the Master, our beloved is in the poor, the downtrodden, the alien, the forgotten ones of our society. He is in the grumpy co-worker, the prickly boss, the sad cell-mate who just wants to find love in the midst of all the various trysts in which they find themselves.
He is risen. Indeed He is risen. Alleluia. And we need not fear the road to which He calls us. Embrace it dear friends. Take it up. Run to it like St. John… not with dread – though that’s natural. Rather, run to the calling of Christ even now in this very moment with the hope and trust that the Master is there, waiting for you in your neighbor.
Don’t you see Him? Flee to Him, because He is all that matters.
Happy Easter, thank God Lent is over. Now let’s get to the business of love.