John 20:1-3, 10-16 (NRSV)
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 from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, 'They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.' Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb.
Then the disciples returned to their homes.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, 'Woman, why are you weeping?' She said to them, 'They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.' When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, 'Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?' Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, 'Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.' Jesus said to her, 'Mary!' She turned and said to him in Hebrew, 'Rabbouni!' (which means Teacher).
Mary goes to the tomb and finds it empty. She runs to tell two other disciples and then returns to the tomb with them. The others see for themselves, and then return home. But Mary remains behind.
Why doesn't she go with them, taking some consolation from their company? Why doesn't she get away from that awful tomb? But no, she keeps staring into the emptiness.
We can view what Mary is doing as a form of contemplation. Contemplation is taking a "long, loving look at reality." Not just at flowers and smiling children, but also at pollution, poverty, and other tombs prevalent in our world. A loving look? Yes loving, not in the sense of warm, pleasant feelings, (though those may come with contemplation) but in the sense of God's agapic love for all of creation, even the broken and grief-filled parts. Her beloved Jesus is gone. Not only is he dead, but even his body is missing. Still, Mary does not leave the tomb. She gives herself to her pain, lets her tears flow, and waits. Then comes the dawn.
Peter and the other disciple do not see the angels, nor do they hear Jesus call their name. Is it because they have hurried away from the empty tomb? When I fail to find God in the midst of my life, is it because I take a quick look and then turn away?
We are tempted to avoid the empty, frightening, broken places in our personal lives, in our churches, and in our world. Where are we turning away from reality before we have a chance to witness God's new life unfold? Where are we missing our opportunity to join in God's salvation?
During the week that we call "Holy", let us take time to sit silently in the garden with Mary and contemplate whatever we find in our souls. Trust that though we may not understand how, nevertheless, with patience, we will experience resurrection.
O Holy One, give us courage to contemplate the hard as well as the easy, the joyful as well as the sad, that we might discover the new life you want to bestow on us each day.