Sleep eludes me this night forcing me to keep an Easter Vigil I did not choose. I find myself musing on St. Mark’s passion and resurrection story, odd as it is (though terribly characteristic of this gospel writer). One of its oddities is that it is pagan Roman centurion who announces Jesus’ death boldly declaring the last thing I’m sure he ever expected to be saying at that moment, “Truly, this man was God’s Son!” (Mk.15:39). The emperor was believed to be son of deity; yet here it is one pinned to a cross in a humiliating death that is so acclaimed. What did that centurion see in the dying/dead Jesus that evoked such a profession? We’ll never know, of course. And perhaps that’s the point. Against all expectation and probability this death, in all it gruesome horror, spoke to the centurion the last thing he expected to hear: a word of divine love and even victory.
I can’t get the words of Paul in 2 Cor.4 out of my mind (especially vv.10-12):
“But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.”
Can’t say that I really understand Paul here. But his connection of our bearing the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus is manifest is us makes me think of the centurion’s confession in the gospel. I need to keep chewing on that!
A second oddity I can’t escape this night is that the voices of those nearest and most faithful to Jesus in Mark, the women, are shut by fear. Of course, they finally found their voices because the story does get told. But I’m wondering if there’s not more to it than lack of faith?
-Jesus died dashing their hopes. Now he is alive and already back in Galilee at work. No wonder those women were afraid and reluctant to tell the disciples this news. He’s never who or where we expect him to be, even those of us who know him best. Is that what we/I need to hear this Easter? To keep our/my mouth(s) shut but Jesus is not who or where we expect him to be? Might not a good disorienting of our faith and perception of Jesus be salutary for this Easter? Even necessary? Is there more integrity in that Easter response, especially in the confused and confusing times we live in in North America, than in a full-throated “Hallelujah”? I don’t know. Maybe.
-Perhaps the women feared because they realized that death, the death of Jesus and our deaths in witness to him are comprehended within the plan and purpose of God – and that scared them to silence. I think it would me. Not sure I’d be quick to share a message that implicated me in that sort of prospect. Not sure I am quick to do it. Is a time of reflective silence mulling the implications of and our/my readiness to take up the Easter witness before we launch into the “Hallelujahs” a proper response to Mark’s account? Again, I think of Paul’s words quoted above.
The birds are starting to awake and chirp outside my window. Darkness will soon flee. I don’t know whether these ruminations of mine amount to much. I think there’s something in them, though I don’t quite know what. And maybe that’s just what Mark wants – to leave us silent for whatever reasons before the wonder of this day that the mystery of cross may more deeply inscribe itself and mark our lives so that the life of Jesus becomes manifest in us.