Tuesday Octave Easter: Woman Why are You Weeping ?

Scripture readings for today's Mass are here.

Gospel Jn 20:11-18

Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping.

And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb
and saw two angels in white sitting there,
one at the head and one at the feet
where the Body of Jesus had been.

And they said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?"

She said to them, "They have taken my Lord,
and I don't know where they laid him."

When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there,
but did not know it was Jesus.

Image below found here - original artist source unknown.

Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?
Whom are you looking for?"

She thought it was the gardener and said to him,
"Sir, if you carried him away,
tell me where you laid him,
and I will take him."

Jesus said to her, "Mary!"

She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni,"
which means Teacher.

Jesus said to her, "Stop holding on to me,
for I have not yet ascended to the Father.

But go to my brothers and tell them,
'I am going to my Father and your Father,
to my God and your God.'"

Mary went and announced to the disciples,
"I have seen the Lord,"

and then reported what he had told her.

  • Jan also has this beautiful reflection on this Gospel from here


Every Gospel reading this week tells me about how often Jesus appears in several disguises of love and how his true nature as the resurrected Christ is revealed. 

The fact that Mary mistakes Jesus for the gardener and only recognises who He is when he speaks her name has huge import for me. 

I also think Jesus might be taking playful delight in his resurrected ability to transform himself.

When Mary hears Christ's voice calling her by name,  she is able to identify Him and in that one moment her life is reaffirmed by His loving presence in it. 

His voice comes to identify her, to tell her she belongs in His heart once again.

 It is a voice that gives her strength to tell the others and through all the doubts, dissension and ridicule she will be faced with as a result, when she is tested to her limits, and is at breaking point, it is His voice that will ring in her ears to keep her close and with eyes firmly fixed in and on Him.

Christ knows who she is. Does my church know me by name or just by some projected fantasy of what they think a woman should be and what she is capable of ?

Mary uses the word ‘seen’, as a primary and spiritual way of knowing but not in the way we might normally interpret the word seen.

                                                                 Titian Noli Mi Tangere Source

The wonder of this Gospel story is that it shows how the encounter of Jesus in the present moment can change the memories and sorrows of the past that keep us weighed down with tears. 

The relationship of Jesus to Mary shows how He can dislodge her grief and in a moment of enlightenment replace it with a freshness of His presence in the here and now.

Christ is always with us in every moment of the present , minute by minute, and reminds us that we will always have the power to be renewed and transformed, even up to the moment of our death.

I wonder what women might weep for today -  and I pray that when I hear crying, that I will not be deaf to those cries.

 Sheryl Crow - Redemption Day



I've wept for those who suffer long
But how I weep for those who've gone
Into rooms of grief and questioned wrong
But keep on killing...

It's in the soul to feel such things
But weak to watch without speaking
Oh what mercy sadness brings
If God be willing

There is a train that's heading straight
To heaven's gate, to heaven's gate
And on the way, child and man,
And woman wait, watch and wait
For redemption day

The fire rages in the streets
And swallows everything it meets
It's just an image often seen
On television

Come leaders, come you men of great
Let us hear you pontificate
Your many virtues laid to waste
And we aren't listening

What do you have for us today?
Throw us a bone but save the plate
On why we waited until so late

Was there no oil to excavate
No riches in trade for the fate
Of every person who died in hate
Throw us a bone, you men of great

There is a train that's heading straight
To heaven's gate, to heaven's gate
And on the way, child and man,
And woman wait, watch and wait
For redemption day

It's buried in the countryside
It's exploding in the shells at night
It's everywhere a baby cries

 I wonder what women in sorrow might weep for today - it's up to the individual to interpret , but for me it is the recognition that we are likely to be stuck in the birth pangs of a new creation for a long time. 

 Gaps between rich and poor are increasing in developed countries and in the emerging economies of China and India the inequalities are ever more evident as these countries grow at rapid rates.

The struggle for human rights and justice in many parts of the world leave many in turmoil and armed conflict is going to be a harsh reality with all the terrors and uprootedness that ensues. Economic and political struggles in Europe also carry the threat of outbreaks of social unrest in the future.
I weep for countries where female children are abandoned for no other reason than they are not a male, where a man can kill his wife for giving birth to a daughter rather than a hoped for son. (See story here)

I weep for how women at their most fragile are dealt with in a dysfunctional abusive way, 
for how faith, doubt and questions are dealt with, 
for how conflict and negativity is met, not with compassion and a listening ear but with censure and exclusion,
for where responsibility is denied, for where silence is imposed,
for where women's voices are silenced in subtle ways, when the letter of the law replaces its animating spirit,
for where women's voices for the visions of the future of institutional church are  dumbed down or distorted,
for institutional churches when Jesus is hidden behind obfuscation, lies and a one sided incomplete picture that prevents the truth from being discovered.

As Milton says so astutely at Don't Eat Alone;"God didn’t roll away the stone on Easter morning so we could pick it up and throw it at each other."

                                                                        Image source


A person is full of sorrow
The way a burlap sack is full of stones or sand.
We say, “Hand me the sack,”
But we get the weight.

Heavier if left out in the rain.

To think that the stones or sand are the self is an error.
To think that grief is the self is an error.
Self carries grief as a pack mule carries the side bags,
Being careful between the trees to leave extra room.

The self is not the load of ropes and nails and axes.
The self is not the miner nor builder nor driver.
What would it be to take the bride
And leave behind the heavy dowry?

To let the thin-ribbed mule browse in tall grasses,
Its long ears waggling like the tails of two happy dogs?

Jane Hirschfield

I love this poem by Jane Hirschfield for many reasons. One is that in many parts of the world today, women are so defined by the burdens and sorrow they have to carry for others , that they can be robbed of their sense of having any value as persons or individuals. 

Women work long hours for small returns and still have to be homemakers and mothers with responsibility for holding families together and yet have very little financial independence or personal freedoms.

We have become inured to the images of women in societies where their freedom and health is compromised.  The suffering and demoralising burdens they carry on behalf of others are seemingly exalted as the inevitable casualties of traditional customs and culture that we can do little to alter.

Women are often the primary caretakers in developing countries where the lack of education and simple healthcare that we take for granted is still blighting the future of so many. 

Economic inequities due to religious rules in many countries prevent the empowerment of  many women who are willing, eager and more than able to take on the role of community developers. 

(You may like to look up the problem of gender inequality in Muslim societies and shea butter production to illustrate this one - I couldn't find a succinct article in time for this post so I may add one in the future.)

We in the developed West can become attached to our burdens of guilt and find it hard and increasingly more complex to find significant ways of doing something to change our comfortable lives so that others less fortunate can have their burdens lightened or removed.

Women carrying sacks on their heads after market, Kisumu, Kenya. Source

Images like these serve to reify the customary principles and traditions still prevalent  in many countries that keep women in an inferior status.

The prevailing image of women points out the difficulty of change in countries where women carry such a load of losses and disappointed expectations.

Having lived in Malawi, Africa alongside women whose daily reality is pretty rough I can also say that I was constantly humbled and amazed that in spite of their constant trials and abject poverty they radiated such delight in their faith.

It  showed me that in spite of the considerably heavy and unjust burdens in their lives, that their spirit and souls could still manage to be unencumbered.

Mary Magdalene was instructed to speak to the apostles. 
Yes, she is now a saint. Yes, she was a sinner - Just like you and me.

She is called ‘the apostle to the apostles’. She was the first evangelist. 
and yes, that is what we all are and yes, what we all can be.  

Noli Me Tangere : Do Not Hold on To Me.

This part of today's Gospel always intrigues me. Even after death there is a hint that Christ has to undergo something extra before his divinity is completed on earth and that this unfinished business can't happen if Mary touches him. 

Yes, there are strange and even more mysterious happenings to unravel !!

Later on Jesus does allow Thomas to touch his wounds so I'm at a loss with this one.

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