‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb’

Easter Sunday

Today we read John’s account of the discovery of the empty tomb – he is convinced of the resurrection without even seeing the risen Jesus. Fr Adrian Graffy reflects.

John 20:1-9

1 It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb, 2 and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb,’ she said, ‘and we do not know where they have put him.’
3 So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. 4 They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first; 5 he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. 6 Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground, 7 and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed. 9 Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.

Other readings: Acts 10:34, 37-43 Psalm 117 (118) Colossians 3:1-4


Each one of our four canonical gospels ends with stories of the discovery of the empty tomb and accounts of appearances of the risen Jesus. Throughout the first week of the Easter period the gospel at Mass is taken from this material. Today we read John’s account of the discovery of the empty tomb. The account gives a prominent role to Mary Magdalene, who becomes known by Christians as ‘the apostle to the apostles’. It is she who discovers the empty tomb and passes on the news. Why is it empty? She will know why when Jesus appears to her later in the chapter.

The disciple whom Jesus loves, thought to be the author of the account, is convinced of the resurrection without even seeing the risen Jesus. It is sufficient for him to see that the body of Jesus no longer lies in the tomb. The later appearance of Jesus to the eleven disciples will confirm what he already knows.

Christian faith proclaims: ‘Christ has died! Christ is risen! Christ will come again!’ Without the resurrection, the real rising of Jesus to new life in a transformed and glorified body, there would be no good news to proclaim. The God of love is more powerful than death and sin, and God has shown this in raising Jesus, who became a victim of sin, to the life of the resurrection. The world is in dire need of news that is true, amid so many messages which are false, undermining and deceptive. True hope lies in the God who raised Jesus from the dead.

Do I appreciate the fundamental significance of the resurrection of Jesus?

Do I have the vision to see the wonders God works in each human life?

We pray for those baptised and those received into the Catholic Church this Easter.

We pray for Christians for whom the cross is a daily and painful reality, that they will know that the risen Christ is at their side.

INT-IMG_5349 Fr Adrian Graffy (3)Rev Dr Adrian Graffy is a member of the Vatican Commission that takes a lead in Bible scholarship, interpretation and promotion in the Catholic Church.

Rev Dr Graffy said of his five-year appointment by Pope Francis in 2014: “It is an honour to be nominated by Pope Francis as a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. I feel humbled and very much look forward to being of service to His Holiness and the Church.”

He added: “A great deal has been achieved in England and Wales in recent years by many co-workers to advance Biblical scholarship and the provision of easy-to-use resources. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and the Bishops’ Conference Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis for their efforts to promote understanding and love of the Bible, particularly through the publication of the teaching documents, The Gift of Scripture and the study guide to Verbum Domini, The Word of the Lord.”

Rev Dr Graffy received his doctorate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1983. He taught for over 20 years in St John’s Seminary in Wonersh, and is Chair of the National Scripture Working Group, which is an instrument of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Fr Graffy is a past director of Brentwood’s Commission for Evangelisation and Formation and parish priest of Christ the Eternal High Priest in Gidea Park, Essex. Among his publications are the Gospel of Mark and the Letter to the Romans (Alive Publishing).

Listen to BBC Essex interview with Fr Adrian Graffy