The Empty Tomb

Dr. Kathryn Rombs // Scripture: A Mother's Lens


March 30  

Mary of Magdala is walking alone in the dark to the tomb.

She was a woman who had supported Jesus’ ministry (Lk 8:1-3). She had had seven demons from which Jesus had set her free. Walking to the tomb in the darkness, what was she feeling?

Three days ago, she was standing near the cross of Jesus. She heard Jesus’ poignant words: “It is finished.” She watched him bow his head and breathe his last breath.

As she makes her way in the dark, she carries immense grief, fear, and bewilderment.

This Easter morning we read: “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed” (Jn 20:1).

She furtively approaches the tomb before sunrise. With the body of Jesus already anointed, she was not, according to John the Evangelist, bringing spices (Jn 19:40). Was she longing to be close, even in his death? Personal love and true friendship are the choicest of treasures. She had lost her treasure.

Today I feel like Mary of Magdala. I have been healed by Jesus, not once but the proverbial “seven times.” Over the course of thirty-five years of Christian life, and even as recent as this Lent, I have brought old hurts and gripping fears to Jesus. In the tender hours before sunrise and in moments of Adoration, Jesus heals me. I feel his gaze. He knows my inmost thoughts. He laughs when I need a good laugh, he smiles when I need his tenderness, and sometimes he corrects and redirects me; but I always feel his warmth. Just as he spoke her name, “Mary!” the word by which she realized that he is the Word (v. 16), he also speaks my name. He cherishes me. It is true affection, an unrepeatable bond.

But I too have had seasons of walking while it was still dark. I have experienced grief, loss, and anguish. My family is my delight, and in some moments our home is so full of joy that it spills over. Our four walls cannot contain the ecstasy of familial love. Yet my vocation as a mother can take me past my natural abilities to guide and serve well. Fear sometimes overtakes me. Anger, concern, grief, and palpable sadness that I just can’t shake.

As Mary sees the stone rolled away from the tomb, the darkness lifts. The tomb is empty.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (John’s Prologue, 1:5). Death does not have the last word.

Christ chose Mary of Magdala to witness the first rays of his light piercing the darkness, for which creation has been longing. An unsurpassable privilege, it is she who discovers the empty tomb. She proclaims it to the disciples. Then Christ appears to her and calls her by name—another incalculable privilege. Soon she will become the “apostle of the apostles,” proclaiming the Risen Christ to those who will proclaim him to the ends of the earth.

Jesus, I adore you and glorify you. The satisfaction of my deepest inner longing is, like Mary, to be chosen to witness personally your light as it dawns and dispels the darkness of sin and alienation. You are the Christ, the Son of God, who has conquered death. There is no more reason to fear. Halleluiah!

Proclaim the Genius & Share!
  • Thank you for this beautiful reflection, that Christ would choose Mary of Magdala “to witness the first rays of his light piercing the darkness.” It represents a new hope for me, an Easter glory for all!

    • Thank you so much, Patricia. I had a wonderful time researching Mary Magdalene. I used the Jerome Bible Commentary, Fr. Roch Keretzky’s Christology book, and Raymond Brown’s Commentary on the New Testament. I was so interested in her name (Mary of Magdala or Mary the Magdalene), that she is not referred to in the normal way as the “wife of,” “daughter of,” or “mother of,” but simply by reference to her town, Magdala. It is as though to suggest that she had no significant relatives. There is no evidence at all that she was a prostitute (a mistake that has come down through history) since she was a woman of means who financially supported Jesus’ ministry. She just seems like a very broken woman, having had 7 demons, and then healed by Christ. His personal care of her, singularly calling her by name after the Resurrection, really takes my breath away. I feel blessed to have celebrated Easter in her company this year!

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