April 16, 2006 - Year B - Easter Sunday
John 20:1-18 or Mark 16:1-8
20 • 1 Now, on the first day after the Sabbath, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark and she saw that the stone blocking the tomb had been moved away. 2 She ran to Peter and the other disciple whom Jesus loved. And she said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don't know where they have laid him."
3 Peter then set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. 4 They ran together but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down and saw the linen cloths lying flat, but he did not enter.
6 Then Simon Peter came following him and entered the tomb; he, too, saw the linen cloths lying flat. 7 The napkin, which had been around his head was not lying flat like the other linen cloths but lay rolled up in its place. 8 Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and believed. 9 Scripture clearly said that he must rise from the dead, but they had not yet understood that.
10 The disciples then went home again.
• 11 Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she bent down to look inside; 12 she saw two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head, and the other at the feet. 13 They said, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She answered, "Because they have taken my Lord and I don't know where they have put him."
14 As she said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not recognize him. 15 Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?" She thought it was the gardener and answered him, "Lord, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him."
16 Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned and said to him, "Rabboni" which means, Master. 17 Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to me; you see I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them: I am ascending to my Father, who is your Father, to my God, who is your God."
18 So Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord, and this is what he said to me."
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• 20.1 On the second day after the burial it appeared that Jesus was alive and had gone from the tomb. The resurrection took place on the first day of the week, which henceforth would be called the Day of the Lord, that is, Sunday.
In Luke's Gospel, after Jesus' resurrection he helps his disciples revive their faith and hope. Here instead we see the believers silently contemplating the risen Lord. Christ appears to Mary, who does not recognize him. When he stands in the midst of his disciples, he has to show his wounds to prove that it is he himself, he who had died. Jesus is among them, but his appearance is that of a stranger, and his spiritually transformed body radiates the victory over sin and death.
Then Peter arrived. Several texts record that Peter was both a witness to the empty tomb and of Jesus risen from the dead (Lk 24:12 and 24:24; 1 Cor 15:5). Our faith is supported primarily by the testimony of the apostles, and especially by the testimony of the head of the apostles.
He saw the linen cloths lying flat. The linens designate the sheet, about 4 meters long, spread under the body from the feet to the head and then, above the body, from the head to the feet; they also refer to the bands that tied the two ends of the sheet. The dead person's face was wrapped with a separate cloth, the napkin that was tied under the chin and over the head.
The sheet and the bands were lying where the body had been but were flat, for the body inside them had dematerialized. The napkin, which was rolled in the other direction, stayed as it was.
Jesus had not returned to life with his earthly body. This had dematerialized, so when we speak of the risen body of Jesus, we refer to something we have never experienced on earth. Those who have had dreams and visions of Jesus have only seen images of him, but have not actually seen him, except for a few of the most eminent saints.
• 11. Do not cling to me, you see I have not yet ascended to the Father (v. 17). Before his death, Jesus did not disapprove of the passionate feelings and actions of Mary. Now this familiar gesture to take possession of her loved Master is no longer appropriate.
He is now the Risen One, and though he lets himself be seen by his disciples for a few days, he is in the Glory of the Father. His disciples must relinquish the physical presence of Jesus with which they felt so much at ease. From now on the followers or the brothers and lovers of Jesus will embrace him in a secret and marvelous way, when they are given gifts of prayer and faith. It is then that the contemplative spirit, who is represented by Mary, may enjoy the whole of Christ (see Song 3:4)
I have not yet ascended to the Father. Jesus is revealing the great desire that filled his life. He came from God and must return to the Father. This is "the greatest love in the world." All the love that Jesus has for us is but a manifestation of that other love, because God the Father is the fountain and the goal of all love. See the commentary on Matthew 19:16 in this regard.
It is not by chance that the word Lord is again repeated seven times, the last time by Thomas: "You are my Lord and my God." This expresses the faith of the Church.
Let us remark that the persons concerned in this event did in fact call Jesus, "the Master." However, John puts on their lips the word Lord. Why? From the first days of the Church, the believers had to find words to express their faith in Jesus, Son of God. Being the Son, he was not the same person as God, but he was one with him. How to express this divine condition?
In the Bible two names were given to God: God and Yahweh. At that time the Jews no longer pronounced the name of Yahweh and instead said: "the Lord." Moreover, in the Greek bible used by the apostles and the Church, Yahweh was also translated as "the Lord." So the apostles decided very soon to retain the term God when speaking of God the Father, and to call Jesus "the Lord," by this affirming that he was not inferior to the Father.
The risen Jesus' apparitions to his disciples, besides fostering their hope and making them qualified witnesses of his resurrection, were necessary for their spiritual formation. The disciples had to learn to recognize Jesus no longer through their senses but through faith. Likewise, we have to learn to recognize and follow Jesus in the dim light of faith, in desolation as well as in consolation, thus we too will be among those whom Jesus blesses: Happy are those who believe without seeing me (v. 29).
16 • 1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go and anoint the body. 2 And very early in the morning on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they came to the tomb.
3 They were saying to one another, "Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?" 4 But as they looked up, they noticed that the stone had already been rolled away. It was a very big stone.
5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man in a white robe seated on the right, and they were amazed. 6 But he said to them, "Don't be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified; he has been raised and is not here. This is, however, the place where they laid him. 7 Now go and tell his disciples and Peter: Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see him there just as he told you." 8 The women went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them. And they were so afraid that they said nothing to anyone.
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• 16.1 JESUS HAS BEEN RAISED FROM THE DEAD
Jesus' history comes to an end with the discovery of the empty tomb. In the last pages of the Gospel we find a brief account of the most important apparitions of Jesus after his death. He is no longer the earthly Jesus but the resurrected one, born again of the Father and never to die again, as Psalm 2 says: "You are my son and on this very day I have given you life."
Jesus has risen. The Gospel narrates events that took place after his death and mentions the names of those who saw the resurrected Jesus. Can we believe them? We would like more details to support our faith, but if even thousands of interviews with eye-witnesses were published, with pictures in full color to support the statements, there would always be room for doubt. We do not see him, we cannot find him. Where is he?
Actually it is not important whether there are few or many witnesses. This is a matter of faith and faith is something personal.
We doubt, not because there is not enough evidence, but because the event overwhelms us. How can we believe in a resurrection? The evidence, nevertheless, is there and has withstood recurring criticisms and even modern studies.
Finally, who will believe? Those whose own experience has prepared them to accept the most fundamental truth: the living God loves people and restores them to life. Some persons are predisposed to believe because they have experienced that God himself walks with them in their trials and gives them hope when everything seems lost. Because of this, they recognize in Christ the ideal human being and understand that he had to suffer before reaching his glory. They have learned the ways of God and that is why they believe the witnesses of the resurrected Christ.
It is not more difficult to believe in Christ's resurrection than to believe in his words, for both go together. "Those who believe have overcome the world," John the apostle says (1 Jn 5:5). This means overcoming the false meaning that most people give to their existence due to their ignorance of God. Whoever believes has overcome the fears each of us has when we have to pass through uncharted paths, when we have to set reason aside and entrust ourselves to God's hands.
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1. Beginning with endings is always intriguing. If you picked up to books and read the last page to get a feel for the book, would you purchase the book by John, with Mary M. running off to tell her news, or by Mark, with Mary M. and others running off scared?
2. Here it might be helpful to identify the story you have made up to explain the difference between the female and male disciples and their response to the crucifixion of Jesus. In looking at this explanation you will find out a great deal about yourself and how you interact with the communities of which you are part.
3. In our clock and daylight-savings time frames it is difficult to get our heads around sunrise. Suffice it to say they got to the tomb at the earliest possible moment.
In our American Christian burial practices it is difficult to get our heads around such a quick burial and where post burial anointing fits into things.
So all of this becomes symbolic and we don't listen in to the energy and importance of specific actions. Easter becomes a parade or an excuse for a sale. Consider again the horror of the tomb before jumping too quickly to a ritualized good time. This scene would be played entirely differently by folks in the original moment and those who have had it be part of our family and meal planning.
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