By Megan McKenna
Megan McKenna received her doctorate from the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, CA. She is well-known for her retreats and workshops and has taught courses in Manila, Dublin, San Francisco, and Chicago. Her many publications include Not Counting Women and Children, Mary: Shadow of Grace, Leave Her Alone, and Reflections on the Sunday and Weekday Readings. Her recent publication is And Morning Came: the Scriptures and Resurrection, Sheed and Ward, 2003.
After death something new begins, over which all powers of the world of death have no more might. (Dietrich Bonhöffer)
Mark’s gospel is the first in time of the three synoptics that we have, probably written by or around the years 60-70 AD. Each of the gospels is a belief statement of a particular community of believers. It is a bedrock source of ethics, morality, and practice of faith that has been and is being lived in relation to and with others in the Body of Christ in the world. These gospels were written for believers who were having difficulties living together the belief they professed in their baptism, in a culture and history that resisted this Good News of God and persecuted Christians. And yet in the face of martyrdom and struggle to live out their baptismal vows these communities sought ways to pass onto those who came to believe the riches of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. In a sense the gospels were written for the ‘ear’ in community, for use in liturgical settings, calling for conversion singularly and exhorting and deepening the faith life of the community. They sought to make conscious, visible and incarnational the Body of Christ living and active now as this community of believers, witnessing to the world the presence of the Risen Lord among them.
Mark’s gospel is written for the Church in Rome, in the early sixties, caught in a web of fear, politics, persecution and growth. Both Peter and Paul have been martyred and the Church’s base has moved from Jerusalem to Rome, the seat of power for the Roman Empire. The long shadow of violence, might and power is cast over the small Christian community as it struggles to live out the teachings of Jesus. How are they to live out the resurrection daily in their lives in this political and nationalistic context?
Mark’s Church had lived and struggled with Jesus’ words, life, crucifixion and death for more than thirty years and knew the resurrection to be the source and meaning of their life, strength and courage. How could they tell the story of how the Spirit revealed to them over these decades what the resurrection meant for them and what it could mean for others who came to believe? The gospel writers would attempt to do this for their own communities as the Church grew in the context of history, in relation to the Jews, the Gentiles, the Roman empire and the experience of both stable and missionary foundations. The text of the gospel contained intimations, concealed and hinted at in Jesus’ stories and works, that would come to fruition in the culminating account of the resurrection.
Two points will become hinges for all the narratives: the discovery and the reality of the empty tomb and Jesus’ appearances to those who believe after the discovery of the empty tomb. Mark’s gospel presents this initial story of the empty tomb but there is no account given of appearances to the disciples and believers. The original ending was verse 8 in chapter 16. Then there was another ending added that tells the story of an appearance to Mary of Magdala (verses 9-11) and two further, very short accounts of his appearance on a road in the country and later to the eleven disciples while they are at table, when he chides them for not believing those who had seen him (verses 12-14). Finally, much later there is the ending we have now (verses 15-20): that exhorts the disciples to go out and proclaim the Good News to all creation, accompanied by signs. Then he is taken up from their sight and they go out and preach. But originally the gospel ends abruptly at line 8 and we will look at Mark’s resurrection account as though that is all there is in order to appreciate what Mark was trying to say about the empty tomb.
Each narrative of resurrection builds on the entire text that precedes it, bringing into sharp focus the heart of the message of that gospel. Here Raymond Brown succinctly puts what Mark is attempting to do with these 8 lines, pulling together all that has come before in Jesus’ ministry, preaching and death.
Only through suffering will the disciples reach fuller understanding. Throughout the Gospel Mark emphasizes how difficult it was for those who followed Jesus to believe in him fully because they did not understand that suffering and rejection were an essential part of the identity of God’s Son. In the great trial of Jesus’ passion the male disciples have all failed and run away—an experience reflecting fear and shameful weakness. But their pain leads to light. After they have suffered and failed, Jesus will appear to them in Galilee (Mk 14:27-28).
The women followers of Jesus, spared the Gethesemane trial where the disciples fell asleep and fled, looked on from a distance at the Crucifixion. They too must experience the difficulty of faith; even after they are told of the Resurrection, they do not automatically become proclaimers of Jesus’ victory. Rather they flee in silence and fear (Mark 16:8; Brown 1994, op. cit.).
These themes of the rejection, crucifixion and death of Jesus have been steadfastly ignored, and even pushed away by Jesus’ disciples, beginning with Peter in Mark 8 where Peter takes Jesus aside after a proclamation of his coming sufferings and ‘protests strongly’ (CCB) or ‘begins to remonstrate with him’ (NAB). This provokes Jesus’ strong words to Peter and the other disciples, "Get behind me Satan! You are thinking not as God does, but as people do" (Mk 8:33b.) Consistently the disciples do not understand what Jesus is doing, or saying and they are more often than not resisting Jesus’ words and are full of fear as Jesus incurs more and more resistance on his way to Jerusalem.
In Mark’s account of the crucifixion and passion of Jesus, Jesus dies utterly alone and without support of his followers or friends. "Even the men who were crucified with Jesus insulted him" (Mk 15:32b). When Jesus dies, it is the Roman soldier who was standing guard at the cross who declares: "Truly, this man was the Son of God." And we are told that "there were also some women watching from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and Joses and Salome, who had followed Jesus when he was in Galilee and saw to his needs. There were also others who had come up with him to Jerusalem" (Mk 15:39b-41). In older translations the distance that is mentioned is amended to be ‘a safe distance.’
Jesus dies and it is the evening before the Sabbath. It is told that Joseph of Arimathea goes to Pilate and "boldly" (after the fact of death) asks for the body of Jesus. It is he who removes the body from the cross, and prepares it hastily for burial and puts it into a tomb cut out of the rock, and rolls a stone across the entrance. The two Marys ‘take note of where the body had been laid." Jesus is dead and buried. It is over and done with and everyone goes back to their lives, back to the Sabbath celebrations with their grief, their fear and their despair.
Now it is time to go with the women to the tomb and find it empty. If the torturous death of Jesus by public execution on the cross was devastating to his followers the shock of finding the tomb empty would have been even more so. But before we listen to the text of Mark, let us listen to a children’s’ story from Asia. It is a Chinese folk tale. There are a number of versions of it available as a children’s’ book, but this is the way I have been told it and I call it Li Po and the Flower Pot.
Once upon a time there was a good emperor who sought to do justice for his people, keeping peace on his borders and making sure that all his people were never hungry. He was loved and cherished by his people, but there was a great sadness in his life that was a source of fear and uneasiness for the people. He had no heir. His wife had died and they had had no children. Finally, one day after much consultation with his advisors he decided on a plan on how to choose a suitable heir, someone he would adopt as his own son who would then be trained to be emperor in his place when he died. It would ease the fears of the people.
He summoned all his people together, telling them to bring their children with them, all the boys and girls who were five years old. They were assembled and listened in amazement at what their emperor intended to do. Each child was given a seed and told to treat it with great care. They were to go home and plant it and nurture it and care for it and see what it would become. In a few months time all the children were to return with their flower pots and what had grown under their care and the emperor would look at all of them and choose from among them the most beautiful. The child whose pot he would choose would be adopted as his own child and would grow up to be emperor in his place, hopefully caring for his people as carefully as they had once tended the seed given to their care. The children took their seed home and each planted it and waited to see what it would be.
One of the children, Li Po loved plants and gardening, as did his father and grandfather before him. He was so excited about the prospect of finding out what the seed would be. He carefully picked a small pot, with good drainage, and filled it with his best soil. Once it appeared he would change the soil and the size of the pot to encourage the growth of that particular flower or bush. He picked the best place in the garden for sun and shade and waited. Every morning it was the first thing he did: carefully check the pot to see if his seed had broken through the dirt and was beginning to emerge. For weeks he waited and watched. Nothing appeared. He began to worry. Was it the right soil? Had he watered it too much? Was it getting enough or too much light?
After almost a month he was near tears because there was nothing growing in his pot. He went to his father and asked him what he thought was wrong. His father questioned him but he answered all the questions truthfully and he didn’t know what could be wrong with the plant either. His father counseled patience, because some seeds took longer than others to sprout—perhaps it was a tree and not a flower or a bush. That was it, Li Po decided. He had a tree and it would take longer for it to appear. But the time went by and there was nothing. As the day approached for them to bring their pots before the emperor Li Po was upset and fearful. If he appeared before the emperor with nothing the emperor might be very angry that he had not treated his gift with respect. And he was tempted to take a seed out of his garden, replant it in his pot and then he’d have something to bring with the other children before the emperor. At the very last minute he told his father and was ashamed of what he was going to do. His father encouraged him and said: you did your best and that is all you can bring before the emperor.
The day arrived and Li Po dressed in his best clothes that had been cleaned for him and he took his small pot that only seemed to have dirt in it and nothing else and went to the pavilion with all the other children. As they all gathered he was even more nervous and anxious. The other children had magnificent flowers, pots filled with blooms, each more gorgeous than the other: peonies, chrysanthemums, a persimmon, flowers and plants he did not recognize. They were all beautiful and he had nothing. The emperor appeared and Li Po shrunk behind some other children hoping that the emperor wouldn’t notice him and his empty pot. But the emperor was being very careful, going to each child in turn, complimenting them on their flowers and plants, asking them questions about how they had known what it was and to care for it, listening to their answers, smiling and putting his hand on their heads, bending before them.
And though he was dreading being seen, eventually the emperor got to him and he found himself standing before the emperor, his head bowed, his face crimson and hoping that he wouldn’t be asked why he had nothing to show the emperor. It seemed that the emperor stood before him forever. He could see his shadow where it fell at his feet. Finally he raised his eyes and found the emperor looking at him very intently. And he was asked: where is your flower? Didn’t you plant your seed? And fumbling for words, Li Po blurted out his story. He told the emperor how he had carefully planted it, choosing the pot, the soil, the place in his garden, for sunlight, watering it, watching it, changing pots, back and forth, everything but nothing happened. The tears were running down his face and he was afraid and humiliated. He had disappointed the emperor. But after awhile he realized that the emperor wasn’t angry. In fact he was smiling, beaming at him. He stopped telling his story and the emperor spoke. He turned to his people and solemnly and loudly declared in public: Here is my new son! Here is the child who will be your emperor! The people were stunned and silent.
The emperor continued. I gave to each of your children a seed. But I do not know how all these flowers and plants grew from those seeds that your children have brought before me. For all the seeds were dead. Nothing could grow from them. Yet only this child, Li Po planted and tended his seed and in spite of nothing appearing, brought it back to me and told me the truth—that all he had for all his work was an empty pot. This child tells the truth no matter what might happen and this child will be my child, and emperor. No mention was made of how the others all came to have flowers and the people cheered (though they were ashamed too) and Li Po became the emperor’s son, moving into the pavilion with his own family and grew up strong and true, careful of his people as he was of his seeds and plants and became emperor. They say that while he lived there was peace and prosperity, no one was hungry and that flowers grew everywhere in the country.
The empty pot and what appears to be nothing, what appears to be dead is the source ultimately of truth, of the future and of power for a whole people. The empty tomb of Jesus the crucified one portends power, life beyond imagining and hope for the future for his followers. But entering this tomb and living with the fear and loss of everything is not easy. It wasn’t for the women and the disciples of Jesus then and it isn’t for us, his followers today. The scene of Mark’s resurrection account is preceded by fear: fear of Pilate, fear of crucifixion and violence, the fear of death and the fear that all is lost. But instead of the story being over, the story is just beginning!
This is the gospel of the Lord according to Mark. Let us listen and be attentive!
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?" When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, "Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, and tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you." So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid (Mk 16:1-8 NRS).
As with all the gospel texts, each phrase and line is layered upon layer. The first phrase sets it in religious and liturgical time: "when the Sabbath was over" which would make it at least six in the evening. Jesus has been dead and buried and his followers and all the Jews in Jerusalem went to celebrate the rituals of keeping holy the Sabbath, with rest from all labor, the lighting of the candles to welcome the Shekinah, the presence of God with the people in exile, the meals, prayers, chanting of psalms and blessings, the telling of God’s history with his people. This was the day that belonged to God alone. Traditionally not even the name of someone who had died would have been spoken and grief would not have been expressed. This was the day of the Lord of creation and the Lord of the Exodus.
Next we are introduced to the three women. In the eastern church there are many icons that are called "The Myrrhbearing Women" which goes back to at least the year 230. For the Orthodox the sepulcher, the tomb is called "the source of life." John Chrysostom in his Paschal Homily declares: "Forgiveness has shown forth from the grave!" Some of the women, Mary of Magdala among them had watched to see where he was buried, but did not take part in that ritual. In the story it is Joseph of Arimathea who does what is required for the body of Jesus. This detail serves to deepen the shame of the disciples who in fear were not present and did not even honor the body of their Lord in death. The women were bearing herbs, spices and myrrh which would be used to venerate the body but also to cover the stench of decomposition which would have been unbearable in the tomb. Traditionally the mixture of myrrh and aloes was about a hundred pound weight.
Who are these women? Mary of Magdala is mentioned by name in all four of the gospel accounts. The others differ significantly. Here is Mary the mother of James, sometimes called James the Lesser. Earlier at the burial it is Mary, the mother of Joses. She could be the mother of the other James (not the mother of James and John, Jesus’ cousins). And Salome whom we know nothing at all about except her name that has been remembered in the tradition. Before Jesus goes into Jerusalem in Mark’s gospel he is anointed in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper by a woman who brings an alabaster jar of expensive perfume made of pure nard. She breaks it and pours it over Jesus’ head, ritually anointing him in honor, acknowledgement and respect as kings, priests and prophets were publicly anointing in the presence of the people. The worth of the perfume was astounding—equivalent to a year’s wages! She is criticized but Jesus defends her saying: "This woman has done what was hers to do, she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever the Good News is proclaimed, and this will be throughout the whole world, what she has done will be told in praise of her." (Mk 14:3-9). Is one of these women the one who had anointed him beforehand? We don’t know but the story is told of her and of them. These myrrhbearing women reveal much to us. Herman Hendrickx, CICM in his book Resurrection Narrativeswrites:
By this verse Mark seems to affirm three things: firstly, the reality of Jesus’ death; secondly, the attachment of the women to Jesus; thirdly, that they did not expect anything like a resurrection. They are described as fulfilling a duty out of devotion and are not at all expecting the divine action, which, in fact, has already taken place (1978:4).
The Sabbath is over. They have obeyed the requirements of the law and have waited to mourn, waited to grieve. They are going to wail and keen the death of a loved one and they go do perform a corporal work of mercy. Within Judaism the anointing of a body for burial was the highest corporal work of mercy because it made those who performed it unclean themselves. Further, to anoint the body of a condemned criminal was seen as beyond the limit of service, especially one who had been crucified, for many Jews believed that such a one was abandoned even by God, so horrible was the public punishment.
And again we are given more details about time. "Very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen" to be precise. The first day of the week—what day is that? For the Jews, the Sabbath is the seventh day, the fullness of the week’s time, in imitation of the Creator who rested on the seventh day. This would be the eighth day, a day that would open up a new time, a new era, that would inaugurate a new creation. It is now called Sunday, originally the Day of the Son. In the Orthodox liturgy the Greek word for "Sunday" (which in Russian also means "Resurrection") isKyriake hemera, meaning "the day of the Lord." This refers to the first day, or the "Unique Day," which is Holy Pascha. This day is the day upon which all time hinges, the before and after of Resurrection. It is described in Quenot 1997:92-3,
St. Justin writes: "We all gather on the day of the sun because it is the first day, on which God, by giving substance to the darkness and to matter, created the world, and on that same day, Jesus Christ our Savior rose from the dead" (First Apology, 67:7).
"Yesterday I was buried with Thee, O Christ. Today I arise with Thee in Thy Resurrection" (Paschal Matins, Ode 3). The Eighth Day, the "Unique Day" without end is not merely a promise; it has already begun: "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come" (2 Cor 5:17).
Having appeared at the end of the first creation, man [and woman] stand at the beginning of the second, since the world is transfigured through [them] him. And while the first creation marks the beginning of time, the second enables one to depart from it and attain to the light of the never setting Sun (Quenot 1997:92-3).
As we pore over these texts line by line we must remember that they are not primarily historical renderings of what actually did happen. They are about theology, about belief and liturgy, about sacraments and about the presence of the Risen Lord in the community of believers. And all the resurrection texts are steeped in the experience of and practice of the rites of baptism. At the Easter Vigil the first reading of the long night that precedes the Easter Proclamation of the resurrection is the account of creation in Genesis. And on that first day of the week, "God said: ‘Let there be light;" and there was light" (Gen 1:3). This is the beginning of a new creation, a new world and time. All has been redeemed, transformed and shifted towards the glory of God. God has already done this marvelous thing of raising Jesus from the dead. Now it is about to be proclaimed and heard for the first time.
Their journey from wherever they were staying in Jerusalem to the outskirts of the town would have been a sorrowful one. They would have been remembering all that had happened to them and to Jesus during the long hours of the Sabbath and now they are up and about doing what needs to be done, if not for Jesus’ body, for their one sense of having done something for the one they had loved in life. And on the way all that they seem to talk about is the "stone"—it was a large one. Some translations say over and over again that it was "huge." Are they attempting to do something nearly impossible? Joseph of Arimathea had rolled the stone across the entrance to the tomb, could not three women who might be carrying a hundred pounds of materials between them be able to unwedge the stone from its place? Again the account is not just about facts, but about theology. The tomb from the earliest days of Christianity is the baptismal font and there are huge impediments to approaching the sacrament and vowing belief in this Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. Mark’s entire gospel repeats again and again that even his disciples were reluctant to look at what was required of Jesus’ followers. It is central in their thoughts and what they share with one another: the obstacle, the large and looming reality of death, and what they have lost in the person of Jesus and his relationships with them. For all of us there are huge stones in our life and they often seem to be stumbling blocks for any possibility of new life, of freedom, or of hope in the future. The early Christian community faced huge problems of persecution, in-fighting among themselves, being excluded from the Jewish community, the coming to grips with their own betrayals of Jesus and their refusal to listen to what he said when they found it too hard to imagine or bear. And to their surprise, when they get there—it has been moved! The resurrection is already a reality. God has raised Jesus from the dead. All obstacles, anything that might keep us from participating in the new life of freedom and the love of God given to us in Jesus have been removed. All of history, of our personal lives, of community experiences have been radically altered in the rolling away of the stone and a tomb that stands glaringly empty! But the women are in for even more of a shock.
The passive verb of the stone being rolled away indicates in other parts of scripture that the action was done by God or someone sent by God. The story keeps slowly, inexorably moving towards the announcement, the central line of what is to be revealed—all of Mark’s gospel has been leading up to and the tension mounts and mounts. The women enter the tomb (remember baptism) and "they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe; and they were amazed." Now who do they see? Herman Hendrickx explains one possible option (remembering that all of the options can be true and what we need to hear and take to heart in our lives).
"The young man" is a representation of the risen Christ because he represents the believer who through baptism participates in the resurrection of Christ. Lately, it has been said that the "young man" who acts as a messenger, is not just the baptized Christian in general. It is the newly baptized Christian in Mark’s community, or even that community itself, including Mark. It is the Markan community, rather than the risen Christ, which delivers the message.
Secondly, the position of the young man now becomes clear. In Mk 12:36 and 14:62 Christ is referred to as sitting at the right hand of God. The same state is promised to the Markan community by the position of the young man.
Thirdly, the white robe is that worn in heaven (Rev 6:11; 7:9, 13,14), and the phrase ‘clothed’ (peribeblemenos) is also repeatedly found in the heavenly context (Rev 7:9,13; Henrickx, 7].
All that! And perhaps even more! This is Mark’s community and their proclamation of belief; the essence of which they would have been teaching and proclaiming to new believers and stating for themselves in a credal faith statement. The catechumens to be baptized were dressed in white garments that they were to bring unsullied to their place in heaven where they would be judged worthy to sit at the right hand of God. This is the believer who witnesses to the Resurrection.
Often people want to know if this is Mark himself. The only time we see Mark in his own gospel is, like the apostles, not in a very positive light. It is the night of betrayal in the garden. Judas has marked him with a kiss and Jesus has been seized by the soldiers. We are told "A young man covered by nothing but a linen cloth followed Jesus. As they took hold of him, he left the cloth in their hands and fled away naked" (Mk 14:51). This, traditionally has been Mark. It has been thought in the past that this young man in the tomb is Mark also, but Mark now proclaiming in his gospel and community his steadfast belief in Jesus who he once ran from suffering with in fear. Perhaps. And there are many who think it is an angel who interprets for the women what has happened: the resurrection and at the same time announces (as angels are wont to do) what is now transpiring in the world.
The reaction of the women to the presence of this young man in the tomb that does not have the body of Jesus has been translated by a number of words: amazed, disturbed, alarmed. It is a rare Greek verb (ekthambeisthai) that is used only in Mark (both in Mark 9:15 and 14:33) The first in chapter 9 just after the Transfiguration when Jesus has described his coming sufferings as the Son of Man and the people react to Jesus when they see him arguing with the teachers of the Law. The second time is even more powerful. It is used to describe Jesus’ own feelings in the garden of Gethsemane when he takes Peter, James and John with him to pray and he "becomes filled with fear and distress and he said to them, ‘My soul is full of sorrow, even to death.’" It is an incredibly strong reaction as Jesus tries to come to terms with his own destruction and execution. It is awe in the face of the unknown and mysterious but it is also outright fear.
This word and the reaction is akin to many other uses of the word when it means disturbed: such as the waters of the Red Sea being disturbed before they were parted and the people passed through (Exodus14:15-15:1 which is read in the Easter vigil). It is also akin to the description of Mary in the first chapter of Luke when she hears Gabriel addressing her with the words: "‘Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you.’ Mary was deeply troubled at his words…" (Lk 1:28-29). In Matthew’s gospel it is Herod who is described as "greatly disturbed and with him all of Jerusalem" on hearing the wise men describe the rising of the star of the newborn king of the Jews in the east (Mt 2:2-3). This kind of disturbance, this fear shifts and alters the course of events and peoples’ lives radically and powerfully. And the women are right there on the edge of such fear and awe and disturbance.
The young man has their undivided attention and what he speaks and proclaims aloud now is the core of the message that is to be heard and taken to heart. This is what believers stake their lives on and are willing to go to death clinging to as Truth.
Do not be amazed, alarmed, disturbed, filled with fear; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you (Mt 28:5-7).
His words are a series of commands: do not be afraid. See, look here at the place of his burial where his body was laid. Go, tell his disciples and Peter, speak words that will thrust the community into the future and send them back to Galilee. That’s where he is—out ahead of you, and you will see him there! This is the core of Mark’s faith statement about Jesus. This is what is essential for baptism: to believe in Jesus of Nazareth, who is crucified, and all that that entails, but he was raised by God and now is the Risen One. This is a liturgical formula, not so much directed at the women per se but to all believers. He is not here! Look where he once was. The young man points out the obvious to the women: the tomb is empty. There is no body! And then he goes on to tell them where the Body of Jesus can be found—in Galilee. He goes before them, echoing Jesus’ words to his disciples earlier that he goes before them and they are to follow, but so often they have refused. Specifically on the night he is betrayed while still with them on the Hill of Olives, singing songs after the last supper he told them: "All of you will be confused and fall away; for the Scripture says: I will strike the Shepherd and the sheep will be scattered." But after I am raised up, I will go to Galilee ahead of you" (Mk 14:27-28). These words are a warning to all the disciples. Then he tells Peter specifically that he will betray him that night. The gospel text is all of a piece—the women are commanded to go and tell the disciples—and Peter, in that order the same words that Jesus spoke before his crucifixion and death.
This command is startling because of a detail, the ordering of whom they are to tell the message to—first the disciples and then Peter. Peter, of course, usually comes first, but even the message, the kerygma of resurrection belief reveals Peter’s status and his sin in three times refusing to acknowledge any connection to Jesus on the night that he is condemned to death. Peter is singled out because of his denial that the Church in all those years was very conscious of, having had to deal with the leader being the one who most loudly and adamantly denied even knowing Jesus in public because of his fear. Fear is laced through, under, and around the text and in the people at the tomb, hiding out in the city and we all believers who seek Jesus the Crucified One in the midst of their society, culture, and history. The proclamation of Good News is about laying down one’s fear and standing up for what one believes in the face of situations that evoke massive, paralyzing, debilitating fear.
The Risen Lord is the Shepherd of his sheep and as once they were scattered, he will now gather them again and lead them to peaceful and plentiful pastures. But you will not find this Risen Lord ‘here.’ Where is here? It is a tomb, a place of carnage and death, rotting flesh, decomposition, grieving, and ends. The tomb is, traditionally in a garden on the outskirts of the city of Jerusalem, both the city of peace and the city that kills the prophets. You won’t find the crucified and Risen One here—not in any place of death, wealth, power, influence. You will not find him where religious power is codified and in collusion with economic and political power or where violence is a part of religion and life, where lies, false witness, and interpretations of the law that destroy peoples’ lives and souls are given as the law of God. You will not find him in palaces and governments and hierarchical systems that lay burdens on the backs and hearts of the poor, practice the death penalty and torture and rule harshly with hate and arrogance, backed up as religion. We are told where he is found—out there in Galilee. In a word, the women and the disciples and Peter and all peoples are told to "go home!"—back to Galilee where they came from, when they were called to be "fishers of folk" in the beginning of Jesus’ preaching and as they traveled with him in his ministry as he made his way to Jerusalem and the Cross and Resurrection.
Galilee? Far from the centers of religious, economic, and political power, even far from the scribes and Pharisees, Sadducees base of education, the erudition of the Law, and the practice of the temple liturgy of sacrifice, tithing, and prayer. Galilee is the backwater of Israel, rural, and close by the borders of pagan territories where Samaritans and gentiles lived and had commerce with Jews of somewhat dubious obedience to the law. But Galilee was lush and fertile, the bread-basket of the country that produced crops that literally could feed an army—Caesar’s army. That was why Israel was occupied territory, oppressed and treated as slaves in their own country. Caesar needed the food harvested in the northern region of the country for his army and expansion. The people were taxed and taxed again as well as robbed of their food to keep Caesar in power. Galilee was the crossroads where empire dominated, slave and free met, where other nations did business and traveled back and forth to Jerusalem and Rome and the ten cities. Go back there—that’s where you’ll find him. Another way of saying it: Jesus the Crucified and Risen One is loose out there in the world at large! And he’s waiting for you to turn around and come back to him!
The women now have their commission, the words of unbelievable Good News, a proclamation of life, new life that cannot be snuffed out by death or hate, or contained by any tomb. The unbelievable is reality! The Word has been given forth to them. Now that they have heard it, they must go and obey. But their reaction is the exact opposite:
And they went out and fled from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Say those words forcefully out loud and then end the reading with "this is the end of the gospel of the Lord!"…it is shocking. It’s over. Everything falls flat. The response is—huh? Is that all there is? What happened? If they did not say anything, how did the Church get here? It appears on initial reading that Mark did not exactly know how to end his gospel! The women are described in the end, just as the men disciples were: fearful, disobedient. They flee instead of follow. These are the last words of the story. Sadness. They do what the men have done. They had seen him, heard him, walked with him, touched him, saw the awe and anger he evoked in others, denied him, kept their distance, ate with him, and now they add their silence to the thundering betrayal. They too are frightened thoroughly.
But is that the end? It says: "They said nothing to anyone?" It is awesome in groups and also very funny that people react to that line immediately. What do you mean they said nothing to anyone? And then someone invariably says: "Who’s anyone?" And that is crucial. They say nothing to anyone who had not been with them, since Galilee, to anyone who betrayed him, was part of his torture and death, to anyone who had not been a part of their company, anyone who was just a stranger, part of the crowd of the last few days. But they did go to the others, frightened and fearful as they were, to Peter who denied Jesus three times, to the scattered and shattered followers, and they did go home, back to Galilee. Galilee is about 90 miles from Jerusalem, along some of the roughest terrain imaginable: down from the city to the Dead Sea, through the wilderness, then slowly back to the north where the Jordan River finds its source in the Sea of Galilee and the land turns green and fertile again.
So they went home. The eleven men disciples, the twelve or so women disciples, perhaps many of the seventy two disciples that came up with him to Jerusalem, perhaps a hundred or so. They walk the ninety miles back and they walk their way through their fears. How? They talk their way home. They tell the stories of Jesus, their encounters with him. They retell his stories, the parables and experiences of healing and forgiving and share their excitement, their memories, their hopes that he will rise again. They discover more than just their personal beliefs or thoughts about him. They talk of the Word of God made flesh that walked with them, called them to life, and insisted again and again that there was suffering involved in being his disciple because the reaction to the Truth is often resistance, rejection, and perse-cution and pain inflicted by those who are afraid of losing what they have on those who are afraid for many of the same reasons. On that road back to Galilee they became a believing community, sharing the Word and their faith together, realizing that the way upon which they had walked with Jesus of Nazareth was, of its very nature, a way of conflict, of challenge, and conversion. It demands breaking off from the corrupt social order and injustice tolerated and accompanying Jesus who allied himself with the poor, the leper, the outcast, even the gentile and sinner.
Mark’s gospel is primarily a primer for apprenticeship to discipleship, to the cross and the way that calls one "to begin by denying your very self, pick up your cross and come after me. For if you choose to save your life, you will lose it; and if you lose your life for my sake and the sake of the Gospel, you will save it" (Mk 8:34-35). In the end of the story is found its beginning and the story has been trying to say the same thing over and over again in different ways for the last fifteen chapters and they (like us) have been ignoring it every step of the way. In their return is their repentance and their starting over once again.
Perhaps Mark knew exactly what he was doing! His gospel does not end, it returns to the beginning: the words that open his account of the Gospel: "This is the beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." And it immediately goes back, way back to the book of Isaiah the prophet, leapfrogs forward to John the Baptist in the desert, with all the people from Judea and the city of Jerusalem coming out to hear him and then to Jesus of Nazareth. John baptizes Jesus and what follows is monumental in import.
And the moment he came up out of the water, heaven opened before him, and he saw the Spirit coming down on him like a dove. And these words were heard from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved, the One I have Chosen" (Mk 1:9-11).
Did we miss that initially? Who is Jesus? Jesus Christ, Son of God (the words the soldier at the cross, in the service of Rome, spoke of the Crucified One)? That this Jesus of Nazareth is in the long tradition, the line of the prophets, Isaiah, John the Baptizer, and that it is Jesus’ baptism that reveals to him and to others who he actually is—the Son, the Beloved, the Chosen One, filled with the Spirit of God—did we miss that too? Like the disciples did we hear only what we wanted to hear, interpreting the story from our vantage point and what we were looking for? Did we miss Jesus entirely? How much was lost on us because we refused to obey, to follow, to suffer, to deny ourselves, to know that rejection and crucifixion were part of the way? So it is time to start again, and again and again and go back to the beginning, this time in a community that has known the Resurrection and has been commanded to go looking for Jesus now, there, everywhere but especially at all the crossroads of the world.
This was a community trapped between the violence of the Roman empire and the violence of the Jews who were pushing the Christians, many of whom were still Jews, though more and more gentiles were coming into the Church to fight with them against the Romans to preserve and protect the Temple in Jerusalem. They were in conflict with local and far-flung authorities and they were on the Way. And it was on the way—on the way home that they learned who they were, because they learned who Jesus truly was: from Nazareth, the Crucified One who had been raised from the dead.
This is Mark’s community that year after year celebrated the Paschal mystery in liturgy, in gospel, in the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and eucharist. They followed Jesus’ words and life in their own lives, and intensely brought new Christians into their company, baptizing them in the font, the tomb and drawing them out and up to new life in the freedom of the children of God, with Jesus, the Beloved Son, the Chosen One of God the Father. And year after year they learned more and were steeped more deeply into the way, and the mystery of Jesus’ baptism and passover from death to life and their own that began in baptism. Mark’s gospel is written in a circle, a circle that spirals in on itself, going deeper and ever deeper into the Gospel, forming those baptized into the Body of Christ, crucified and risen from the dead in the world. Raymond Brown says it pastorally, gathering all those early believers in with all of us who are more contemporary believers.
People may say that they believe firmly in the risen Christ, but they must realize existentially in their own lives that the one they are following is none other than Jesus the Nazarene who was crucified. Mark who has been somber in describing discipleship throughout the passion remains somber about the requirements of discipleship after the resurrection (Brown 1990:17).
This is resurrection, totally out of the world’s imagining. The stone has been rolled away and Jesus has been raised, not by anything we do or could do but by the power of God. The words in Greek are in the perfect tense and the passive voice. As Ched Myers writes in an article for Sojourners,
But how? Not by our muscle, nor by our technology, nor by any of our Promethean schemes. The verb here (in Greek, apokekulistai) expresses the perfect tense and the passive voice—the grammar of divine action. This stone has been moved by an ulterior leverage, by a force from beyond the bounds of the story and history, with the power to regenerate both. It is a gift from outside the constraints of natural or civic law and order, from the One who is unobligated to the state and its cosmologies, radically free yet bound in Passion to us (Myers 1994:23).
Now, how about us? What does Mark’s resurrection story tell us today about what Jesus’ resurrection means and how it happens for us, what it asks of us. First of all, do we face death? Are we about visiting tombs and burial places of others, literally those who have died speaking the truth, silenced by governments, nations, organizations, sometimes even the Church itself? Many historians and Jews of today condemn the Church for its silence, except for rare individuals, in speaking out against the Nazis and the concentration camps and for not publicly putting its power in the world out on behalf of the Jews and thus colluding in the Holocaust and the death of so many. More recently many people who have worked with both East Timor and with Tibet decry the Church’s lack of response and reluctance to speak out forcibly on behalf of these people suffering and being persecuted for fear of offending Indonesia and China and perhaps jeopardizing the Church’s position in these countries in the future.
Do we tell the truth, and confront failure in discipleship in individuals and in groups, as the proclamation of Mark does with singling out Peter and in revealing the shocking lack of faithfulness within the entire community at the conspiracy, arrest, false witness, torture, and the legal death penalty of their Master? Are we really disciples now, as a Church or have we all betrayed the Crucified One in our midst again, and yet again?
Even more powerful is the statement: I know you seek Jesus of Nazareth the Crucified One! Is the Crucified One the source of our spiritualities, the one that benefits from our resources in life and in death, the center of our prayer, our liturgies and our ethical and moral decisions as individually baptized Christians and as communities of belief? Are we known for the company we keep: the poor, those condemned to death, legally but inhumanly, those tortured and imprisoned, those excluded from civil rights and from entrance into or from residence in our countries? Are we afraid of the homeless, the one who does not speak our language, is not of our race and religion, and do we adamantly deny that we have any connection to them at all, cursing them so that we are not associated with them in any way? The Crucified One is in our midst, hungry, bombed, imprisoned, stuck on welfare, and lost in demeaning situations of underemployment, dangerous neighbor-hoods, and schools, without health insurance or medical care. As Christians baptized into the waters that make us the children of God called to live in freedom from fear, how large are our hearts and how extended are our families?
In Mark’s account resurrection is an accomplished fact long before the women get to the tomb, but their going sets in motion the revelation of God’s power active in history and sets them up for hearing the proclamation of Easter life and the destruction of death forever. It begins with three of them (though there will be more in other stories) attempting to do a corporal work of mercy—preparing a body for burial, a condemned prisoner of the state, abandoned even by God, in the cultural and religious belief of the day. And it is already been done by another—Joseph of Arimathea, not even a disciple! And there is that stone—a huge one that stands in the way of their inadequate expressions of grief, devotion and their need to do ‘something’ for the one they loved. This is, amazingly enough, exactly how we discover and set in motion the reality and power of resurrection in our lives, today in our world. We must grieve the Crucified One, the Body of Christ in the world and begin, simply, in threes and more to do the corporal works of mercy, even in the face of great stones and obstacles to our feeble attempts to do what others who are not even of our company often have already done before us. In the face of death, of violence, torture, the death penalty, hate, rage, the destruction of other human beings planned and executed individually and as groups of religious people and nations we must not let our fear deter us from mercy, from taking care of the bodies of those caught in the grip of death. After we have worshipped we must go forth, into the tombs and cities and their outskirts to make sure that all those who have suffered, even killed are treated with respect and honor.
It sounds like a lifestyle of trying to do the impossible on a regular basis in response to what happens in the world. And that is exactly what it is, and out of that response of compassion and mercy and grief at the sin and destruction of other human beings we will uncover the power and presence of God already at work before we even suspected that Life is abounding and the seeds of resurrection are wild and growing free. But the disciples must enter the tomb and see and hear before they can know resurrection or begin to believe and live this life that defies death and overcomes it with tenderness and the power of love.
We must delve into our baptisms, our initial entrance into the tomb, our descent into the waters of life where we are drawn into the community of life, mercy, forgiveness, truth-telling, and love in obedience to the Word of God. We have to live the Paschal Mystery each year with attentiveness and intensity, renewing our commitment to our promises and vows as Christians personally and in public as Church and weekly through the Sunday liturgy and Scriptures, enter again and again into the story of Mark’s gospel—the primer on discipleship, and look this time, this year at the call to embrace the cross, deny ourselves, help one another and not rely on our own resources and power to be a follower of Jesus.
We have to go home again and again, as the first followers did, and learn to stop fleeing in fear from the truth and the reality of being a disciple in the world. We have to keep going back to the beginning of the Gospel and tell it, share it with others, listening to their faith, their failures and insights and their experience of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, the Crucified One, the Son of Man, the Risen Lord, stretching our individual belief into the belief of the community. We need to let others tell us what we have rejected out of hand from the Scriptures because it did not fit our agenda and caused us anxiety. We need to face our own denials of Jesus and the effects it has had on the rest of the community.
We have to walk and talk our way through our fears that have caused us to disobey the Word of the Lord, to betray our faith, to be caught in collusion with governments, economic policies, national agendas, and those with power. We have to make sure that our religion and its practice, our faith and our standing up for it is not limited to tombs, churches, and places where it is accepted and taken for granted as what dominates and controls society. We have to go to Galilee, the cities, the crossroads of commerce, where people of other races, nations, religions, and cultures live and interact with them, in the market place and the nation state, and the world court where people are crucified and where Jesus the Risen One dwells. Without this community that travels the Way together, the way of Jesus, the way of the Word, the way of the Cross we will not be able to see that He goes before us, even as he told us he would. They covered ninety miles in a week, maybe ten days of hard travel before they could even see that they had missed him in their past—all of them had missed him. We, like the men and women of the early Church, were told to go back to the margins, the edges of society, and the heart of the world and begin again to come after Him and become fishers of other men and women, in the tradition of the prophets, those now called to be the beloved children of God.
Like the Markan community we must be reminded, in the text and among one another that belief, statements or intent are not sufficient. We must practice what we believe, live what we profess and walk the way of the Cross in the world, with the company that breaks open the Scriptures together. And it is here that Jesus walks before us in life, in suffering and death, straight into the tomb and out again into resurrection light. This walk begins for each of us and all of us in our baptisms, our walking into the tomb and the waters of life, and up and out into the world at large with the company of disciples who follow Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified and Risen One wherever and everywhere he goes. The story isn’t over—it’s just beginning!
Suffering and death changes life irrevocably. As Rachel Naomi Remen says: "Our vulnerability is our wake-up call. People can be in a constant state of mourning for the way things used to be, or they can develop a deep appreciation of what they have now" (2002:65). All of us have fears and live with varying degrees and states of fear. Some we agonize over alone and others we share with our families, our ethnic and religious groups, or with a whole nation. The fear of pain and suffering that is unnecessary, violent and inflicted by others and the fear of death especially death that is unexpected, organized, planned, and executed by those with power over those without power, whether it is sudden or experienced in a slow process of disintegration is as universal and human for all peoples. And all fears feed on insecurity, failure to look at the truth, or failure to confess to one’s participation in evil and injustice. It is fed by others who deliberately ignore larger issues and predicate the problem as people, as individuals that must be stopped, eliminated, and terminated for the good of all.
In a short piece by Harold S. Kushner called "Beyond John Wayne" this Jewish rabbi who wrote When Bad Things Happen to Good People, writes about God, about fear and insecurity, and reality in this last year. When questioned about why God could let such terrible things happen he responds:
Before the events of last fall, we had this fantasy that we could take care of everything with American intelligence, American know-how, American resources. Since then, we’ve learned something about our vulnerability. My aphorism is: Our awareness of God starts where self-sufficiency ends. We pray for health and peace, family and justice, because we cannot achieve them on our own.
…God’s promise was never that life would be fair. God’s promise was that we won’t have to confront the pain and the unfairness alone. The 23rd Psalm doesn’t say: "In the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil because there is no evil in the world." It doesn’t say, "I will fear no evil because people get what they deserve and I’m a good person." It says, "I will fear no evil because Thou are with me." Accepting our vulnerability is the beginning of wisdom (Kushner, 80).
A Buddhist practitioner looks at fear and breaks it down into six components according to the Buddha’s comment: "Not apart from relinquishing all, do I see any safety for human beings." He describes behaviors that result from letting fear control and rule us when we feel that our lives as we perceived them have been altered or threatened. He writes this in an article called "Facing Fear" in which a number of prominent writers speak of dealing with fear.
When concerns about survival, safety, or identity resonate strongly with basic fears, we experience terror. It is not a comfortable experience.
Fear is a reactive mechanism that operates when our identity (including the identity of being a physical entity) is threatened. It works to erode or dissipate attention. We move into one of the six realms and react: destroy the threat or seek revenge (hell being); grasp at safety and security (hungry ghost); focus on survival (animal); pursue pleasure as compensation (human); vie for superiority (titan); or protect status and position (god). Because we are less present to what is actually taking place, our actions are correspondingly less appropriate and less effective. We go to sleep in our beliefs and ignore the consequences of maintaining them (Kushner 2002:23).
These are comments that deal with fear from traditions that source our own or are very different from ours but they are helpful in speaking about our fears in very human ways. They are a good preparation for looking at our fears before we look at them in light of our own religion and belief in the Risen Lord alive and dwelling in the world. We believe as Christians, that this fear, any fear we have as individuals and as church or nation is cast out by love, simply by love. And that love is a person, Jesus the Crucified One Raised from the dead by his loving Father in the power of the Spirit. Our fears are best faced in the light of Truth, with others of our company as we walk through them and talk through them. Our fears are laid to rest, or blunted and banked down as they are looked at with the Spirit and others seeking in the Scriptures to hear the Word of God present and living in our midst now, going before us and sharing with us the Father’s power over death in our baptisms and Christian life.
There is a marvelous story from the Hasidic tradition called "The Fragrance of Paradise" that reminds us of all that we have looked at in Mark’s account of the Resurrection as the culmination of his gospel. And it adds an ingredient that can sometimes be missed or overlooked when we live in a climate of fear, anxiety, and loneliness in the face of what the world and others can do to us.
Once upon a time there was a wise rabbi who tried very hard to be a good rabbi, a good preacher, and model for his people and even aspired to be holy before God, blest be His Name. Each Sabbath as the day ended he reluctantly turned from rejoicing in and celebrating the presence of Hashem (God) with his people and immediately picked up the Torah scrolls and looked at what the portion, the reading would be for the following week and began preparation for his next Sabbath sermon. This was the pattern of his life, living from Sabbath to Sabbath, feeding on the Torah and seeking to share all that he could with his people so that their lives would be richer, more filled with meaning, especially in the face of so much hardship, poverty, suffering, and persecution.
When things were especially hard and he drifted as he studied the Torah portion, he would always go back to a story he had been told by his father, grandfather, and elders before him. Even his mother would whisper it to him when he was young and too tired to stay at his books and study of the Scriptures. It was a simple story, more a memory that you could spin off as you wished to or needed to—it seemed that Paradise—on Eden wasn’t anything like most descriptions of it. The piece that he loved most and would hold to his heart most was that on Sabbath afternoons in Paradise all the sages, the patriarchs and matriarchs, judges, kings, and prophets would gather together and study the Torah portion for the week to come. Ah, he thought, if only once I could sit in on that group and listen as they shared their insights and knowledge across the centuries: King David, Myriam, Deborah, Moses, Isaiah, Abraham, Rachel, Jeremiah—all the characters he was so familiar with that he thought of them as old friends, revered ones, of course.
Well one day as he sat in his study as the Sabbath was coming to an end, he had a visitor. Stunned, he knew immediately who it was: it was the prophet Elijah come to bring him a message. Elijah smiled at him and said not to be afraid, for God, Blest be His Name, was well pleased with his rabbi and had sent Elijah to bring him a gift. "A gift?" "Yes," replied Elijah, what would you like?" "I can have anything?" he asked… "Yes" …Instantaneously he knew exactly what he wanted. "I want to visit Paradise for a Sabbath afternoon and be a part of all those who have gone before us in faith while they study the Torah portion for this week." "Done!" He found himself at the gates and Elijah waved him on in.
He was overjoyed, nervous, and anxious but he entered and Paradise took him by surprise. It far exceeded anything he had ever heard or dreamed. But what struck him most was that Paradise smelled heavenly. It had a fragrance that he couldn’t put his finger on, familiar, strange, strong, lush, sweet. What was it? Honey, rich flowers, herbs, the scent was so unique and singular and as he walked further into the Garden of Eden it was stronger. It was in or on everything. Quickly he found the group of prophets and kings, judges, singers, leaders, and poets of his people and slipped in among them as they studied the Torah. The time sped by, as they argued, told stories, anecdotes, pieces of personal experience, what God, Blest Be His Name, had said and meant to them! But as engaging as the discussion was, he kept drifting off. That smell, that scent was intoxicating, freeing, overwhelming. He was lost in it, tantalized, wondering what it was.
Then suddenly, as though he had just been there a few minutes, Elijah appeared at his side. It was time to go. He was reluctant and had the feeling that the Prophet would have to tear him away. He pulled back and asked: That scent, that smell—I had no idea that Paradise smelled so good. Could I, may I take some of it back with me to earth? Elijah answered him: Of course, as much as you like. And he wanted it all. But then Elijah added: but whatever you take now, will of course, be taken out of your portion in the world to come. He was broken-hearted. As much as that scent touched him, even healed him somehow, he didn’t want to lose even a small portion of his time in Paradise. And so he sadly said he would take none and was as ready as he’d ever be to leave—now that he had had a taste, a whiff of Paradise on a Sabbath afternoon.
He was back in his study and Elijah was gone and the sun was going down. He wanted to be disconsolate, cast down, but he couldn’t. He had been to Paradise and studied with the great teachers and holy ones of his tribe. But that smell? He stood up and breathed in—that was it! He was sure of it. Oh, it wasn’t as strong by any means as what it was there but it was that scent. He went from room to room trying to discover where it was. He walked, stopped and sniffed, breathing deeply, trying to pinpoint it. He couldn’t. It eluded him. Hours later, in the dark, he collapsed in his chair exhausted. Without thinking he raised his hand to rub his tired eyes and there it was! It was on his sleeve. He had walked through the gardens and his long caftan, with its voluminous sleeves had dragged on the ground, gotten caught in the bushes, brushed the flowers and it had been saturated with the air. It was caught in his robe. Carefully he removed it and wrapped his Torah scrolls in it. Now the scent of Paradise would be with him always.
For a long time he did not tell anyone about the visit of Elijah and his visit to Eden, afraid that people wouldn’t believe him or think him proud. But daily he would do his devotions and study near the scrolls wrapped in his robe. And the scent filled him with peace, with hope and courage, with a sense of freedom and wild passion for God and justice. One day a woman came distraught at the death of her child and he instinctively brought her into his study and had her sit near the scrolls. He told her to be still and breathe deeply and within minutes she had calmed and wept but was ready to go back to her family, trusting in God. After that, they came, more and more every day—the poor and the hungry, those who had lost loved ones, those who had loved ones imprisoned, those struggling with despair and anger, hate and fear. And they sat quietly near the scrolls and the robe and often the Rabbi would read to them, a portion of the Scripture and they would leave, in peace, with courage, healed, freed from the domination of their fears.
The years went by and the rabbi died, leaving his robe and the scrolls wrapped in them to his followers and family. And they died. Somewhere someone threw out the robe and the scrolls were buried in the ground, as a person is buried, as is the custom among the Jewish people and the scent was lost. Or was it? They say, those who tell the story, that the scent of Paradise is found in every Torah scroll, in the sound of the words, the touch of the letters on the page, among those who gather to listen and take to heart the words of God. And the scent, the fragrance of Paradise seeps into the world, deeper, truer, stronger whenever and wherever the Word of God is proclaimed and studied, shared and taken into peoples’ hearts.
Mark’s story of the Resurrection, the first and the simplest reminds us of the power of this story. It is in the words of the Scripture, in the shared Word of God in the company of believers, as they walk and talk their way through their fears, along the way of the Cross and Good News that the scent and fragrance of Resurrection, new life, and the freedom of the children of God is always found. This is where we begin…over and over again…with the words: "After the Sabbath was over…" for Jesus the Crucified has been raised and he goes before us…Come, let us follow him ever more closely (Brown 1994, op.cit.).
1994 "Jesus is Risen: The Gospel Resurrection Narrative," St. Anthony Messenger, April.
1990 A Risen Christ in Eastertime : Essays on the Gospel Narratives of the Resurrection (Quezon City : Claretian Press).
Herman Hendrickx, CICM
1978 The Resurrection Narratives of the Synoptic Gospels (Manila: East Asian Pastoral Institute).
2002 "Taking Fear Apart," in Tricycle, Winter.
"Beyond John Wayne," American Association of Retired Persons.
1994 Sojourners, April.
1997 The Resurrection and the Icon (Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press).
Remen, Rachel Naomi
2002 "Making Peace with Fear," American Association of Retired Persons, May/June.