Easter Sunday: Begin to understand

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When Mark opened his gospel with the words “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ”, he was telling us the title of the whole work: the “beginning of the gospel” applies to Mark 1 : 1 to 16: 8. Mark’s final verse challenges the reader to undertake the task of continuing the work begun by Jesus.

According to Mark, the last part of this most important story in history begins with a small group of women taking on an impossible task. They were carrying spices to anoint a body they didn’t expect to be able to see or touch. But that’s just a small detail in this symbolic tale. Mark’s gospel usually sounds very simple and straightforward, but it fills this narrative with symbolic ideas and gestures so that we can hear the story again and again, understanding it more deeply each time.

Mark writes that when they arrived at Jesus ‘tomb, the main concern of the women who had witnessed Jesus’ death was the gigantic stone that separated his body from the land of the living. The only words we hear from them are asking who could move this rock.

From the way Mark tells the story, it appears the women were talking to each other near the sealed tomb when they looked up to find that the stone had been rolled away as if from within. The place of death had been opened, and terrifying as it was, they entered and encountered a messenger who told them that Jesus the crucified had been resurrected and could not be found in the kingdom of death. The messenger then instructed them to send Jesus’ disciples to Galilee where they would see him as he had told them.

This is where the Easter Sunday Gospel ends. It ends much as Mark finished his gospel, telling the disciples to go back to where it all began and retrace their journey as disciples, this time a little better prepared to understand what it was all about.

More than any other evangelist, Mark is aware of the fragility of the disciples. He knows that they are stubborn and slow of heart and that it takes more than one vision to come to active belief – which is why he told two stories of Jesus healing a blind person and sandwiched three. predictions of Jesus of his passion between them. . It is not a simple thing to allow Jesus to open our eyes.

This stone which concerned women, the barrier between them and Jesus, turned out not to be what they thought. The fact that they were going to anoint him indicated that they had accepted his death; the fact that they expected the stone to block their path indicated that they did not understand it.

The stone which sealed the tomb signified the absolute finality of death, the end of the relationship and the burial of hope. It was the symbol of the tragedy of mortality and the women who witnessed Jesus’ execution faced and accepted it. They had done more than their male companions who had changed the subject when Jesus spoke of his death and fled when he confronted her.

Like most Christians, women took the plunge without knowing what it meant. They entered the tomb. With this step, they went beyond witnessing the death of Jesus. Now they were participating symbolically.

This step made up for their sharing the cup with him at the Last Supper, but they still did not understand it. The world had been turned upside down, nothing meant what it had before, and they were rightly terrified.

The messenger of God in the tomb told the women to announce that Jesus had been lifted up to the disciples. They were to tell the disciples to start all over again so that they could understand that everything Jesus did was, as Mark said in the first verse of his gospel, only the beginning.

The entry of women into the tomb, like our baptism into the death of Jesus, was the first step in a process that lasted a lifetime. Paul’s letter to the Colossians reminds us that through baptism we died and rose again with Christ and this brings us into a new kingdom of existence. But it is not magic. It takes a long process of going back to the beginning and understanding again and again who Christ is and what it means to be his disciple.

Easter Sunday marks the beginning of a 50-day period of celebration and meditation on the Christian mystery. Today we are invited to travel with these faithful women who were ready to attempt an ultimate act of impossible love, only to find that nothing was as it had seemed. This is the beginning, not the end.

[Mary M. McGlone, a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet, is writing the history of the St. Joseph sisters in the U.S.]

Editor’s Note: This Sunday scripture commentary appears in full in NCR’s sister publication Celebration, a worship and homily resource. Request a sample issue at CelebrationPublications.org. Sign up to receive email newsletters every time Spiritual Reflections is published.


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