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Published: March 31 2013
As I read the beginning of the Gospel for the Mass of the Resurrection, the question comes to me: has Mary of Magdala had another restless night, following the traumatic experience of two days ago? She had remained faithfully at the foot of the Cross until her Beloved Master and Friend, Jesus, had breathed his last. It is not uncommon to get up early after a night of tossing and turning, while it is still dark but when the dawn is not far off. Many of us have done this, I am sure. The text tells us that Mary arrived at the tomb where she had so recently witnessed the burial of Jesus. Perhaps she wanted to revisit the awful reality of that first Good Friday, and to do her own private grieving. She found the stone had been removed. That sent her running ...first to Simon Peter, and then to the Beloved Disciple. One wonders if these two had already found each other after their very different responses to Jesus’ crucifixion, and whether the Beloved disciple had been able to console and support an anguished Simon Peter.
Mary’s information sent them running... and the younger man able to run faster than his older companion, arrived at the tomb first. But even amidst the soaring emotions that must have pounded his heart, the beloved Disciple is recorded as observing a great courtesy: he allowed the older Peter to enter first. Given the events described in John’s Passion narrative, this courtesy has for me an additional nuance and poignancy. Peter entered and saw, followed by the Beloved Disciple. One can only imagine their amazement. However, the two men did not linger at the empty tomb. In the verses following those of today’s Gospel, they made haste to get back and share the news with the rest of the brethren.
Sometimes the celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection seems to come too quickly after the dramatic events celebrated in the Liturgy of Holy Week. I often have a similar feeling at Christmas time, when we move so fast through Jesus’ childhood to his Baptism. Maybe I am missing something that the Resurrection is all about. Every dark and stormy night does have a morning at the end of it, even if an open and empty tomb is part of it and the shock of finding it perhaps even more traumatic than the turbulent night that preceded it. But, an empty tomb needs to be left behind, as we search for Who and What is alive and life-giving.
Our lives as Jesus’ followers today need to be marked with the same characteristics that marked those who discovered the empty tomb. They continued to search for and experience the Risen Jesus, in the ensuing 40 days, months, years of their lives. We have the next 6 weeks of the Easter season, as well as the rest of our lives, to deepen our understanding of what Jesus’ Resurrection means. May we share what we discover with one another! The little bit of the truth that I have experienced, added to yours, will be much more than the sum of the individual parts, as this is always the way of the Gospel.
This passage is very communitarian, despite the central and unique role played by three individuals. Mary shares her shock, Peter and the Beloved Disciple respond to it, and from shared shock and the resulting understanding, they run back to find the others. May we move through these Easter days to Resurrection with openness to one another’s particular and individual breakthroughs, to the dawns that come faithfully after each dark night. May we be open to the untold mysteries that are part of Jesus’ ongoing Resurrection in our own lives, and in the world around us.
A blessed Easter to all of us!