Beyond the Empty Tomb


By Sister Marianne Burkhard, OSB

The story of the disciples running to the empty tomb has often baffled me (John 20:1-9). This year it suddenly seemed clear:

Visiting the tomb of a loved one is  part of our grief process, as we still want to be close to the one who left.

Whether a loved one has died, an important relationship has ended,  or a job or ministry has come to an end, we face a tomb, a great emptiness in our lives, in our house, in our daily living.

The disciples go to the tomb as soon as the Sabbath is over. Mary Magdalene, who gets there first, finds the tomb empty. She is bewildered and afraid, thinking “they” have taken Jesus away.

Mary Magdalene tells the others, and Peter and John come running.

John sees the burial clothes, but it is only when they both go into the tomb that they “see and believe.” Their inner eyes are opened: they can see and believe that this is a new reality, a new mystery, something they did not – could not – imagine earlier (even though Jesus had predicted that he would be raised after 3 days).

Is this not our experience when we face death in its many different forms?  We cannot see how life can be anything but a drab affair filled with the constant awareness of all that we have lost, yet eventually we come to recognize that we – that life! – can be raised to something new.

In each human story of death and deprivation, there is the seed of resurrection, the potential of our being touched anew by God and led by Grace to a new way of seeing and living, of being ‘resurrected’ in some way.

This does not mean forgetting or trying to repress what we lost, but rather integrating those past experiences into our life in a fruitful way.

It usually takes much longer than 3 days to really open our eyes and begin to see anew.

This kind of seeing leads to believing that we will gain new insight and wisdom beyond our immediate grief.

This kind of seeing assures us that, in the light of the resurrection loss, grief and memories will be transformed to enrich and mature our faith, to enhance our understanding of life, to enhance our understanding of people’s experiences and stories.

Christ’s empty tomb tells us that deeper insight and wisdom await us beyond today’s loss and grief.

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