Unlike the four passion accounts, which show many similarities, the resurrection narratives show a wider variety of details. Many scholars agree that the Gospel passage we read this Sunday is one of Mark’s own compositions. He may have drawn on earlier oral and written traditions, but in Mk 16:1-7, we have a clear view of Mark’s theological vision.
‘He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.’
What attachment obscures your view of the risen Christ?
Where is your “Galilee?”
Where did Jesus tell you to meet him?
Essential to that vision is the belief that, with the resurrection, heaven has come to earth. Mark hinted at this in his passion narrative, which included portents like the anointing at Bethany and mysterious events like the tearing of the Temple curtain. The earth was now in the hands of God, whose kingdom was rapidly taking shape. In Mark’s resurrection account, this appears in the presence of the “young man.” It is not clear whether he is an angel or a person with special inspiration, but either way, he speaks for heaven. He explains exactly what has happened even though the message he shares is by all earthly standards impossible.
Mark’s second point addresses this impossibility. Nothing we knew before the resurrection will help us understand the world after it. Without fear of death, the acquisitive, aggressive nature of much human activity loses its purpose. New life requires new ways of living. One of the options for the second reading shares this awareness. “Clean out the old yeast,” St. Paul tells the Corinthians. “Become a fresh batch of dough.”
Although God’s kingdom appeared quickly, awareness took time. Mark shows this in the amazement of the women, who needed time to understand what had happened. As the other optional Lectionary reading reveals, Christians took years to realize how much had changed. “Seek what is above,” St. Paul chides the Colossians decades later. Faith in the resurrection requires believers to let go of their attachments and take a step back to see the eternal life they have in Christ.
Finally, Mark shows that sometimes we have to move elsewhere to find Jesus. The young man at the tomb tells the women to assemble the rest of the disciples in Galilee. “There you will see him, as he told you.” This is not the case in the other Gospels, which have accounts of post-resurrection appearances in and around Jerusalem. Mark gets the disciples out of Jerusalem, which in his Gospel is a place of only agony and rejection. Mark knows that eyes not adapted to God’s kingdom will miss sight of the risen Lord, and that this awareness requires a complete shift in perspective.
Today’s feast reminds us that we still live in that time when heaven has drawn near to earth. Like the first Christians, we too need to see with new eyes, and Lent gave us the opportunity to clear our vision. Starting today, our mission is to catch sight of the risen Christ. Over the next 50 days, we must take up the challenge of the young man. We must rummage through our hearts to remember those places Jesus told us to find him, and then we must go there, seeking with new eyes the face of our beloved Lord, whose presence brings heaven to earth.