Last Sunday we all played a bit part in the reading of Christ’s Passion—and it wasn’t a very sympathetic role, either. We were the angry rabble, and our big line of dialog was easy to memorize: “Crucify him!” The good news is we are actually understudies in that production. We were created to play a co-starring role in it and perform it every day, with the world as our audience.
As St. Paul tells the Colossians in our second reading, our motivation needs to be out of this world.
“Think of what is above, not of what is on earth,” he writes. “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.”
During last week’s reading of the Passion we got a foreshadowing of what was in store for us.
When Simon of Cyrene was ordered to carry Christ’s cross for him, it taught us what we must do every day if we want to be like Jesus.
When the Roman soldier speared Jesus in the side, then came to the realization that this really was the son of God, it taught us there’s hope for the worst sinner among us (in fact he later became St. Longinus).
And when the good thief who was crucified at Christ’s side asked to be remembered as Jesus entered Paradise, he became the first of all souls to follow him there. If that honor could go to a thief, there’s hope for anyone looking to follow Jesus in this life.
Today’s gospel gives us a clear vision of what happens when our role as a Christ Reenactor comes to an earthly end. Our destiny is an empty grave. It was that scene that finally convinced Peter what his role must be as the first Christ reenactor.
“When Simon Peter … went into the tomb he saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.”
Like the soldier who made the wound in Christ’s side, and like Thomas who would later put his hand in that wound, Peter and all the lives he touched throughout the succeeding centuries were blessed with a moment of truth to help make sense of the part we must all play in this life. We must be Jesus Christ to everyone we meet. His 2000-plus-year survival in the hearts of humanity is a miracle we are called to perform and witness daily.