Deborah Beach Giordano
© April 9, 2018
Mark 16:1-8 ~ told by Deborah
After the sabbath, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, in order to anoint him.
Very early on the first day of the week, as the sun was starting to light the sky, they set off for the tomb. Along the way they began to worry, “How will we reach him?” “Who will remove the stone from the entrance to the tomb?”
But when they got there, they saw that the stone, which was massive, had already been set aside.
As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were shocked.
But he said to them, “Don’t be afraid; you’re looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he isn’t here. See,” he pointed to the rock shelf, “That’s where they put him. Now, go and tell his disciples and Peter that he is headed for Galilee; that’s where you will see him, just as he told you.”
So they went out and ran from the tomb, terrified and bewildered; and they said nothing to any one, because they were frightened.
They Went to the Tomb at Dawn
The image that comes to me is of midwives, these women who went to Jesus’ tomb that early morning — and who came away from that place in awe, carrying their incredible knowledge with them.
They are witnesses to a new birth, a redemption from death; Jesus is “the firstborn of all creation,” as a later apostle will say. Life is reborn, renewed: hope is born out of despair, joy is born from sorrow.
and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the former things have passed away. ~ Revelation 21:4
It is a precious, sacred message they are carrying, these midwives to the Gospel, and they are terrified and confused by what they have seen, despite the angel’s reassurance. “Don’t be afraid”? Is he kidding? Who wouldn’t be overwhelmed and alarmed by such an awesome responsibility?
They Said Nothing to Anyone
Most scholars believe that Mark’s gospel originally ended with the women’s hurried departure from the tomb, the Story yet untold. Later editors “helpfully” added material to explain how things worked out.
I prefer this incomplete version. The women’s silence is more believable and, I think, gives greater honor and respect to the Message they were carrying. This wasn’t simply a pretty sunrise, a lost coin that had been found, or even a minor earthquake — nothing that could be easily described or readily comprehended. This was a divine revelation which will only be understood by those with ears to hear.
If we were in their sandals, what would we say? They had been in the presence of absolute holiness revealed; a place where God had acted, definitively. They had stood in the portal between all that had gone before and A New Revelation; between non-being and the fullness of life. Explain that, if you can. What happened there? What did you see? Tell me about this “Jesus who was crucified and has been raised.” Who was he…. Who is he?
Sometimes what is true is far beyond mere words.
I have stood in the presence of birth and of death and, as strange as this may sound, the two share a similar essence — if you will. Again, as with certain events and experiences, it is difficult to describe what that “essence” is. There is a kind of shimmering; a sort of “bright darkness,” an energy field, a sense of profound depth; a powerful, overwhelming silence — even as monitors beep, alarms sound, cries and moans and prayers are raised.
At such times there truly is a holy breath — a Spirit that speaks for us and to us, with sighs too deep for words. It is there, in the deep silence, beyond description, beyond explanation. Midwives and hospice chaplains know this Holy Land, this liminal space where this world and the other mingle gently, softly, deeply; where an unseen, powerful Presence keeps watch; where there is no fear or sorrow, only peace.
How do you talk about the Utterly Divine; the Alpha and the Omega, the Absolutely True? What words could be adequate? What language shall I borrow?
So they went out and ran from the tomb, terrified and bewildered; and they said nothing to any one…
Perhaps because there was nothing they could say.
Go and Tell
Although the women initially remained silent, the word got out. They safely delivered the Message entrusted to them, and the other disciples were able to go and see the Lord Christ — just as He had said.
Overcoming their fear and confusion, the women found a way to share what they had witnessed. They had to find the right words, and the right time, and the right people to tell. It had to be done carefully, thoughtfully, gently; like carrying a newborn child: far too precious to be handed over to just anybody.
“Carry tenderly the Virgin’s Son.”
~ St. Giles of Assisi
I came across the word “entrust” as I was composing this reflection, and saw it with new eyes. What is entrusted to us is of great value: emotionally, spiritually, or physically; if we are good stewards, we will take special care of this en-trust-ment; ensuring that it is kept safe and secure. If I entrust to you the pearl necklace that belonged to my mom, I have faith/hope that you will treat it gently and care-fully — and not mislay it or mistreat it or cast it to swine.
Our Easter morning midwives were entrusted with the infant Gospel, which they carried away with them in silence, in awe and trembling. They held and beheld this precious trust, this awesome responsibility, and treated it accordingly.
And I wonder.
What about us? How careful are we? Like those women at the tomb, we Christians have been entrusted with a precious Gift: the good news of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. Do we tremble in awe of this sacred responsibility? Do we carry it tenderly? Do we carry it at all?
Temptations along the Way
Those holy women were faced with great temptation as they ran away from the Sacred Mystery. They could have kept on running and never looked back; they could have remained silent, never telling what they knew. They could have succumbed to fear: fear of ridicule, of public opinion; fear of being thought of as liars or foolish or insane.
After all, it is a pretty extraordinary Story. Not the sort of thing you can tell to just anybody.
So how, then, are we to carry the ever-newborn Gospel that has been entrusted to us? How can we bring the Good News to those who do not yet know it?
As our Easter midwives demonstrated, the Message is to be delivered with awe and tender care. We are called to honor the gift and the Giver — with grateful praise and astonished hearts singing “Hallelujah!” Singing, not shouting; offering, not demanding; revealing the radiant visage of the Lord Christ in our own lives as living founts of compassion, charity, and courage.
If we so choose.
Like the women running from the tomb, we can remain silent, or we can reveal the glorious Good News of “Jesus who was crucified and has been raised.”
And thus Mark concludes …. dropping off into silence, waiting for our decision, waiting for our witness. The story does not end, not as long as the Gospel continues to be told, as long as lives are transformed, as long as faith and hope and love remain.
Virtual hugs and real-time blessings,
Suggested Spiritual Exercise