He rose in silence

By Br Mark O’Connor FMS, 31 March 2024
Image: Shutterstock


“Let me keep my distance, always,

from those

who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always

with those who say

‘Look!’ and laugh in astonishment,

and bow their heads.”

Mary Oliver, from ‘Mysteries, Yes’ in Evidence: Poems.


In the Gospel of Mark, the Resurrection takes place in silence!

Mark’s Gospel ends in an extraordinarily enigmatic fashion. It states that after discovering Jesus’ tomb to be open and empty and hearing the angelic message about the resurrection and a coming rendezvous with the risen Jesus in Galilee, the three women fled in astonishment: “and said nothing to anyone for they were afraid”. (Mark 16:8)

In Matthew’s account there is an earthquake, a flash of lightning as a mighty angel descends and the heavy stone is rolled back with force, the crash of armour as the frightened guards fall to the ground.

But in Mark, there is none of this. Instead, there is silence. There is almost something modest and ordinary about it. There was a quiet, with a stillness that only love and fear can create.

It is very understandable that many in the early Church had difficulty with this ‘silence’ of Mark. The ending was too sharp and abrupt. How could the Resurrection, which had begun in fear, not end in joy? How could it end in silence and even fear?

Maybe, we too, can agree with their puzzlement. But perhaps Mark is suggesting that resurrection faith must always include an aspect of questioning. For the Easter mystery is so dazzling; it is beyond our rational comprehension and liberating beyond even our wildest dreams!

Indeed, Dominican Herbert McCabe was fond of saying that: God is not the answer. Rather, God is the question!

For our God is above all, a mystery. The word “God” is actually a label for something we do not know. A mystery is not a problem. A problem is a puzzle to which techniques can be applied, intuition brought to bear, and a solution found. Science tackles problems. It’s great at it. But a mystery is not amenable to that strategy. And our faith life is littered with mystery.

So, listen again to the mysterious words of the young martyr at the entrance to the empty tomb in the Marcan narrative: “He is going ahead of you into Galilee”.

The angel is effectively telling us: “You will find Him when you refuse to allow His death to be final; when you make His work live, He will live with you. You will find Him when you go on to whatever is your Galilee.”

And yes, 2024 is our ‘Galilee’ now, as we cope with a world convulsed with fear.

Mark’s key message then is clear and full of hope. The appearances of the risen Christ also take place through us. The story of the Risen Jesus is incomplete until it is completed in us. For as St Teresa of Ávila prayed: “Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

As we ‘break bread’ for the life of others, we encounter the Risen Jesus in the amazing explosive victory of the God of Life that we call Resurrection.

Even in the silence of our lives and especially in difficult lonely times, Jesus of Nazareth is still with us.

“He rose in silence.”

Br Mark O’Connor FMS is the Vicar for Communications in the Diocese of Parramatta and the Editor of Catholic Outlook.

This article was originally published in the 2024 Easter | Autumn edition of the Catholic Outlook Magazine. You can read the digital version here or pick up a copy in your local parish.


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