In John’s gospel Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb of Jesus “while it was still dark.” In that gospel darkness is the realm of Satan, the enemy of human nature. Recall the first words “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” But, for Mary Magdalene and the other disciples of Jesus, darkness had overcome it. They were in the dark, the realm where fear holds sway. The disciples were locked in the upper room, cowering in fear. And when fear takes over, anger and hate are not far behind. We reach for the nearest sword or gun to protect oneself. This kind of darkness leads to gated communities, armed guards, bigger armies, nuclear arsenals, etc. So, in spite of what we often think, we are no less in the dark than those first disciples.
But, into their darkness and ours comes Jesus, in spite of the locked doors, and says “Peace be with you” and shows them and us his wounds. They could hardly believe their eyes or their hearts. Not only is he alive, but he holds no grudges against them or us. With the disciples fear melted in his presence, and with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit they went out among their enemies without any weapons, with only their own testimony of what had happened to Jesus and the offer of the same forgiveness they had received to the very ones who had killed Jesus. Like Jesus himself they spoke boldly and without fear and relied on love, forgiveness, and compassion as the only way to convince others of who God is. They finally had learned, through bitter failure and loss, what it means to be an image of God, to be a real human being. This is the lesson of this Easter season for us too. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” “I believe, help my unbelief.”
William A. Barry, S.J., IVC reflector
Fr. Bill Barry, SJ is a Spiritual Reflector for IVC New England. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1950 and was ordained in 1962. He earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Michigan in 1968. He has taught at the University of Michigan, Weston Jesuit School of Theology, and Boston College. Presently he resides at Campion Center where he is co-director of a nine month Jesuit Tertianship Program and gives retreats and spiritual direction. He is the author or co-author of 15 books, including The Practice of Spiritual Direction, God and You, Finding God in All Things, Spiritual Direction and the Encounter with God, Who Do You Say I Am?, With An Everlasting Love, and Contemplatives in Action with Fr. Robert Doherty. For more on his writing please visit Loyola Press.