16 April [Easter Sunday]
Jn 20:1-9

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.  So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him."  Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb.  The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.  He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in.  Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.  Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.

Echoing an ancient homily, Meister Eckhart said that it was because Mary Magdalene had nothing else to lose that she dared approach the tomb; the apostles had run away because, by implication, they were still trying to save themselves, or trying to save something for themselves.  She had lost everything else, he said, "and so she was afraid that if she went away from the grave she would lose the grave as well.  For if she had lost the grave she would have nothing left at all."  In fact, she lost the grave as well, because it was no longer really a grave: it did not contain the body of Jesus.  Yet it was in this state of utter deprivation that the Resurrection took place.  It did not take place on the mountain-tops, or on a bright cloud, but in the heart of the grave, the 'degree zero' of human life.  It was because Mary Magdalene had the heart to stay by the grave that she became the first bearer of the news of the Resurrection; she was the first Christian preacher. 

At first she could not see Jesus anywhere.  Why?  "Because she kept looking further away than he was," said Eckhart.  She kept looking for a dead body, an object; but Jesus was alive and standing beside her.  We are at home with objects; they are at arm's length and we can deal with them.  We make this kind of knowledge-at-arm's-length the standard of all knowledge.  It is all right for dealing with objects, but the Risen Christ is nearer to us than any object.  "Why are you seeking the living among the dead?" (Luke 24:5). 

Christians through the centuries have focused a lot of reflection on that large stone laid to the mouth of the tomb.  When Mary Magdalene went to the tomb she found the stone removed.  That large material object – which might appear a convincing objection to faith –  was gone; and she was the first witness to this.  No tomb on earth can hold the Lord.  No material stone, however heavy, can imprison him.  But we should not imagine that material stones are the hardest and heaviest things in the world.  Who would have guessed that thoughts, which are made of nothing at all, could be heavier and harder than any stone?  But experience tells us it is so.  We are able to seal our minds and hearts with immovable stones of prejudice, hatred and fear.  "To behold the resurrection, the stone must first be rolled away from our hearts," said Peter Chrysologus (5th century). 


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This page gives a very brief commentary by Donagh O’Shea on the gospel reading for each day of the month. 


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