Gospel Jn 20: 1-9. It was still dark when she came to the tomb
It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb.
The Magdalene’s true significance among the disciples has been reassessed in recent years. We understand how her closeness to Jesus might have become a problem for the members of the boys’ club. One way of diminishing her role was to identify her with the reformed prostitute from whom from Jesus casts out devils although there is no basis for this. But even in today’s gospel account she has an eminence even though she is not a cardinal. She is the first to arrive at the empty tomb and then becomes the apostle to the Apostles. If the Resurrection is to turn the world inside out and expose its false value system, it is appropriate that a member of an under-privileged group, as women were, should be the first, as Mary was, to say ‘I have seen the Lord’. It is still dark when Mary arrives at the tomb. She comes as soon as she is allowed. Are the other disciples still sleeping? The recognition and understanding of the Resurrection starts here but is still far from completed. It takes us time, too, to see. We are still in the dark when the light begins to dawn.
She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb
The heavy stones blocking the tomb entrance symbolise the separation of the dead and the living and also keep them safe from each other. In ourselves too there are blocks and repressions that we do not have the strength by ourselves to move.
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 don’t know where they have put him.’
We run when we are energised by an urgency or hope we cannot feel until something triggers it, a departing train or the arrival of a friend. She tells them what she knew at that moment and no more. Something vast may be about to appear but it should not - and cannot yet - be put into words until the external evidence is validated by inner experience. This knowledge born from a new dimension of our selves has a long way to travel before it is born.
So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first;
Peter, the leader of the twelve and John, the disciple personally closest to Jesus at a human level. We don’t know how they filled these roles but it makes the story more convincing that they should exist in the community. The roles go together, here the two run together. John runs faster - because he is younger or because he is energised more by stronger love?
he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground, 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.
Mentioning the cloths addresses later claims that the body had been taken away. That John allowed Peter to go in first perhaps shows his respect for his position. Even at the most momentous of life’s moments momentary impressions and lesser concerns are at work.
Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed. Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
John believed first but still not fully understand what he believed. Like us. The light of the new dawn is growing stronger.
The two men leave. Mary stays at the tomb weeping and becomes the first to meet, see and above all to recognise the risen Jesus. She stayed in her grief, in the dark, but brings the light to the others.
Let’s say it together: “The Lord is Risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia”!
Thank you for your company in these reflections through the desert of Lent. Thank you for your many comments which helped keep me at my daily task. And thank you very especially to the teams of translators for their patience with my sometimes last minute deliveries and the faithful gift of their skills and for helping deepen the community of pilgrims we have formed for the past six weeks.
Lenten Reflections 2021