The Empty Tomb

Easter Tuesday

John 20: 11-18
Acts 2: 36-41 / Psa 33

‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’
(John 20:15)

Declare, ‘though we have never seen,
Share with all who care to listen,
The Word from Mary Magdalene:
Our Lord, Jesus Christ has risen!

Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20:11-18)

Reflection

If Mary of Magdala had only remembered what Jesus had said before He was taken by the authorities and crucified, she would have been filled with rejoicing than grief upon being confronted by an empty tomb. Instead, she ran to tell Peter and the other apostles what she saw, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him!” (20:2), and they in turn went to investigate. Only John, the apostle closest to Jesus, who had arrived at the tomb ahead of Peter, believed that the Lord had indeed risen when he saw the burial cloths.

There are two common “blinders” that prevent us from seeing the truth, even when it is right there under our very noses, or in the case of Mary Magdalene who was looking for Jesus, even when He was standing right in front of her.

The first is our mindset. When we have been preconditioned to expect the familiar and ordinary, we fail to find or “see” the unusual or extraordinary. Mary Magdalene had witnessed the brutal crucifixion and death of our Lord, and in her mind He was already dead. Her grief had made her forget that Jesus had said He would be killed but would rise again on the third day.

The second are the worldly and unnecessary distractions. Women are usually more susceptible to this because of their preoccupation with detail and their emotionalism. Mary Magdalene had prepared the spices, and was early at the burial site. In the Gospel version of St. Mark, the ladies had even worried about who would roll back the large rock covering the entrance of the tomb (Mk.16:3). Her immediate reaction upon seeing the empty tomb was that their enemies (the henchmen of the pharisees or the Roman soldiers) had stolen the body of Jesus. This had so upset her that she started weeping, and only recognized Jesus when He called her name.

Our human limitations always confine our vision to unimportant things. In most instances, we are incapable of “seeing the big picture.” Often it is our petty concerns that hamper our ‘visual development’, and make us forget our loftier quest or nobler purposes in life.

Grant us the grace, Lord, to discern the good that will come out of a tragic situation, just as an empty tomb is not a loss, but rather the gain of eternal life. Amen.

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