Saint John the Evangelist, the Beloved Disciple
and the Centenary of Richard Meux Benson (1824-1915)
The emptiness of the tomb marks a caesura, a break, in the story of Jesus. There was his life of ministry, then his passion and death, and then…. The empty tomb. Now what? Then the encounters with the Risen Christ began. The accounts of those meetings have a spooky air about them, rather like Elvis sightings. Is it him or is it not? Immediately following this Gospel, Mary turns and sees a man she presumes to be a gardener. He asks why she is weeping, and she tells him why, begging him to give her the body of her crucified Teacher. The gardener then calls her by name, “Mary,” and she knows it’s Jesus: “Rabbouni.” Her instinct is to reach out, to embrace, but he tells her no. Things have changed: between them, between him and all the disciples.
We see that change in other stories about the Risen Lord. We meet a curiously learned stranger on the road. Only after hours spent together does he pick up a loaf of bread, bless and break it, and suddenly we know: it is Jesus. And just as we recognize him, he is gone.
We’ve been fishing all night, catching nothing, and a guy on the shore shouts a fishing tip at us. We’re desperate, so we give it a try, and are amazed: the fish really are on the right side of the boat. And then we know…. it is the Lord.
I found a real spiritual home at SSJE in 1984, after graduating from college. I’d taught math for a year at the Taft School, then moved back to Boston to work for an actuarial consulting company, designing pension plans. I loved my job, I had a fabulous apartment in the North End, and I loved going to SSJE for the weeknight Eucharist. But at the time I was wrestling with discerning a call to the priesthood: Am I called, am I not called? Do I say yes? When do I say yes? I had all these checklists in my head and I kept making deals with myself: “Once I turn this age… once I accomplish that goal… then I’ll say yes to the priesthood.”