The folded Napkin meant, 'I am coming back.'
Easter Sunday (LEasterB), April 12, 2009
By Fr. Orly Sapuay
A line from Joe Bayley is full of insight. "Don't forget in the darkness what you have seen in the darkness". Yet there are times when darkness so overwhelm us that we hardly remember the light. Apparently this was what happened to the disciples of Jesus. So crushed were they that they were totally unprepared for the dazzling light of Easter.
When Mary of Magdala informed Simon and Peter and the Beloved Disciple about the empty tomb, their first thought was that some people must have stolen the body of Jesus. Only after they have seen the burial clothes could they open their minds to the possibility that Jesus could have risen. The Beloved Disciple, in particular, started to believe. Let us walk through this momentous and glorious event.
The puzzlement, confusion, and fear that the women experienced in Mark's account and the disorientation of Mary Magdalene in John's account, reveal a tangled web of emotions and thoughts. The trauma of the execution of Jesus is still fresh in their minds. His burial has been hasty. And now nothing is as it should be: a shock upon a shock.
The tomb is open. The body is gone. It is like being thrown off balance by shifting sands. Even though Jesus was taken away from them, the tomb was at least the place where the women could come to give focus to their feelings of loss. But even that has been taken away from them. The tomb itself has been violated. They stone has been rolled back. The tomb is empty. Rather than being a place where they can mourn their loss, the tomb become a sign of absence.
The empty tomb confronts us with a yawning abyss of absence. It is not absence in the sense of a lack of presence. Rather, it is an absence that threatens to swallow us up into nothingness, to annihilate our own existence. One may compare it with those black holes which astronomers tell us in outer space. They are dense concentrations of matter that swallow up and annihilate anything that comes close to them. Even light, which illumines darkness, disappears in the black hole.
Mary runs to Simon Peter and the Beloved Disciple and tells them that the Body of Jesus has been stolen. They run and the beloved disciple stops by the entrance and waits for peter. He pauses and Peter, impulsive as ever enters the tomb first. Love waits on authority even if it does not understand because the leader has sinned. Peter entered the tomb and just saw. The Beloved Disciple who paused by the entrance of the open tomb saw and more than that, believed.
With Mary, Peter and the Beloved disciple (never named for it is to be for each of us), let us run to the empty tomb, pause and consider what we see so that we can see and believe. We see "the linen cloths lying flat. The napkin, which has been around His head was not lying flat like the other linen cloths but lay rolled up on its place". The gospel vividly points out and describe this little detail which seems to be insignificant.
Why did Jesus fold the Napkin? Actually, I never noticed this before until recently, when a friend forwarded me the following.
Was it important? Assolutely!
Is it significant? Yes!
In order to understand the significance of the folded napkin, you have to understand a little bit about Hebrew tradition of that day.. The folded napkin had something to do with the Master and Servant, and every Jewish boy knew this tradition.
When the servant set the dinner table for the master, he made sure that it was exactly the way the master wanted it. The table was furnished perfectly, and then the servant would wait, just out of sight, until the master had finished eating, and the servant would not dare touch that table, until the master was finished.
Now if the master were done eating, he would rise from the table, wipe his fingers, his mouth, and clean his beard, and would wad up that napkin and toss it onto the table. The servant would then know to clear the table. For in those days, the wadded napkin meant, 'I'm done'.
But if the master got up from the table, and folded his napkin, and laid it beside his plate, the servant would not dare touch the table, because..........
The folded Napkin meant, 'I will be back.......I am coming back'.
And He will keep coming back to set up a table of His Presence......a table love and mercy ...a table of forgiveness and healing in order to break bread with the hungry, the lonely, the sinner, the outcasts, the sick . And we are the Easter people called to set up this table of His Presence in our homes and communities..........in the marketplace and work place to break bread with our brothers and sisters. This is the very heart of our faith:
CHRIST HAS DIED CHRIST IS RISEN CHRIST WILL COME AGAIN ALLELUIA !