Sunday, April 24, 2011

Attempting the Impossible

In Mark’s Gospel, after the crucifixion, the women who’ve followed Jesus to the very bitter end—Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome—buy spices to anoint the body after the Sabbath. Mark says they’d seen where the body was laid. As they head toward the tomb, they talk quietly among themselves.
            They expect a dead Jesus, a body to anoint after the hasty burial before the Sabbath began. As they walk, they fret to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” In Mark, no Roman soldiers guard the tomb, so moving the stone is their only concern.
            I love these women. They have no reasonable hope of moving the stone themselves; Mark says it was very large. None of the men who’d followed Jesus took part in this early morning errand. Yet the women go, because this is a last opportunity to honor their beloved Jesus and to fulfill Jewish law and custom. They’re in shock, still, moving on autopilot as one does after a death, doing the next thing. They’re probably also exhausted; grief drains energy.
            Perhaps, having seen the example that Jesus set, they figure something or someone will turn up. It has to be done. Forward. Their diligence is rewarded; when they arrive at the tomb, the stone has already been rolled back—but there is no body. Just a young man in a white robe, who tells them that Jesus has been raised and they will see him in Galilee.
            Every day people get up and do the impossible. They show up for their own lives, even when that means facing a chemo treatment on a day they already feel exhausted beyond words. They sit in labs, trying to understand the complexity that is cancer. They work tirelessly as advocates in a health care system that favors those who don’t need to use it. And they witness their own small resurrections: hair and strength slowly returning after treatment, good news following a surgery, a gene isolated in a petri dish.
            The stone is rolled away. Maybe not in the way we expected or hoped, but at some point it’s gone, by some miracle we cannot hope to understand. This morning, it’s gray and damp, not very Easter morning-like. In the lull between storms, the birds are singing madly. Whatever impossible task we face, we are in good company.

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