A woman was bent over and quite unable to stand up straight, not unlike Jesus who stooped to behold the heavens and the earth, bent down to be what we are. There was a woman with an issue of blood that no earthly medicine could stop, rather like Jesus who bled first in drops and then in what appeared a life-losing flow, which, strangely, continued on and on. He bled outside the city and in the city and to the surrounding countryside and continues as a river to the ends of the earth. Jesus is bent and he is bleeding. His head falls to his chest, and sacraments run from his cleft heart. He says, “It is finished.” The end.
There is more than one ending. The story first ends by showing Jesus’ absolute, utter, total, and undeniable identification with humanity, including human suffering, and death itself. Reverently, at this point, congregations fall silent, as they customarily do on Palm Sunday and Good Friday. Even the fraction at any Sunday Eucharist, the moment when the bread is broken, should be, as the rubrics allow, a long, palpable silence.
The second ending: “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still day, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed” (John 20:1), a disturbing discovery to say the least. She has come to respect the dead body of a dear friend, to say her prayers, to shed her tears. Instead, she is startled at the thought that the body has been stolen. Leaving aside Mary’s report to Peter and the beloved disciple and their race to inspect the tomb and verify her report, we find Mary, now amid considerable commotion, standing outside the tomb, weeping. Then, she bent over and, looking into the tomb, the place of death, discovered the unseen God, perched between cherubic angels. The divine presence was in the tomb and outside the tomb, for turning about she saw Jesus, although she would only know him at the moment he spoke her name. Jesus is, in a sense, creating her and calling her into the new humanity, “for whatever he called her, that was her name” (Gen. 2:19).
Mary Magdalene has followed the path of Jesus. She has bent toward the tomb and looked into death and there beheld a divine presence that death could not defeat, and turning to the life pulsing in the morning air she heard the voice that remade her alive and called her from death. “For as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order; Christ the first fruits, then at his coming, those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end when he hands over the kingdom to the Father” (1 Cor. 15:22-24). Do you see? Then comes the end, everything handed to the Father, power and principalities subject to the risen Lord, and death, the last enemy, defeated.
We can hear the silence of Jesus, especially in his death. In his resurrection we hear him anew. He names himself: “I am your cleansing, I am your life, I am your resurrection, I am your light, I am your salvation, I am your king. I will take you to the heights of heaven; I will raise you and show you to the Father who is in heaven, I will lead you with my right hand” (Easter Homily by Melito of Sardis, Liturgia Horarum, vol. II). And he names us anew, calling us sons and daughters, adopted freely and loving by his infinite mercy and generosity.
Look It Up: Read Psalm 118:20. The gate of the Lord is death.
Think About It: And yet he lives forevermore.