God creates the heavens and the earth. (shorter form, Genesis 1:1,26-31a)
Psalm 104:1-2,5-6,10,12,13-14,24,35 or Psalm 33:4-5,6-7,12-13,20-22
A song of praise to God, the Creator.
Genesis 22:1-18 (shorter form, Genesis 22:1-2,9a,10-13,15-18)
God puts Abraham to the test.
The Lord shows us the path of life.
The Israelites pass through the Red Sea.
The song of praise that the Israelites sang after crossing the Red Sea
The Lord promises to redeem Israel.
A prayer of thanksgiving for God’s redemption
A call to return to the Lord who is merciful
The Lord sends his salvation.
Israel is told to follow the way of God’s commandments.
A prayer of praise for God’s commandments
The Lord will cleanse Israel for the sake of his holy name.
Psalm 42:3,5; 53:3,4 or Isaiah 12:2-3,4bcd,5-6 or Psalm 51:12–13,14–15,18–19 A prayer of praise for God who saves us.
Those who have been baptized have died with Christ.
God’s mercy endures forever.
The women find that the stone from Jesus’ tomb has been rolled back, and an angel reports that Jesus has been raised from the dead.
Background on the Gospel Reading
Each of the four Gospels reports that the women who had been followers of Jesus discovered the empty tomb after his death. Today we read from the Gospel of Mark, which contains the most succinct of all the reports of Jesus’ Resurrection in the Gospels.
Scholars have long noted some irregularities about the ending of Mark’s Gospel. The report of the discovery of the empty tomb comes to an abrupt conclusion after verse 8. While some believe this is the original ending of Mark’s Gospel, others theorize that there was a longer ending that was lost.
Some manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel, written between the fourth and ninth centuries, include what scholars have termed the Shorter Ending, which is often printed in our Bibles for reference. This ending indicates that the women told their story to Peter’s companions. Scholars believe that this ending was not written by Mark, but was probably added by later copyists who sought to resolve the abrupt ending at verse 8.
Other early manuscripts include a Longer Ending, which scholars also believe was written by someone other than the evangelist Mark. Quotations from this Longer Ending are found in the writings of the early Church Fathers, however, indicating that this Longer Ending has been included as part of Mark’s Gospel for some time. This Longer Ending, Mark 16:9-20, was accepted at the Council of Trent as part of the canonical Gospel. Portions of this Longer Ending are read as part of our weekday lectionary cycle and on the Feast of the Ascension in Cycle B. Without this Longer Ending, the Gospel of Mark would report no post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus.
In today’s Gospel, Mark reports the names of three women who go to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body. They are Mary Magdalene, Salome, and Mary, the mother of James. According to Mark, these are the same women who were among those watching Jesus’ Crucifixion from a distance. Mark reports that these women were followers of Jesus in Galilee and that they ministered to him. Mark also reports that Mary Magdalene and Mary observed where Jesus’ body was laid. After his death, these women come again to minister to Jesus.
Mary Magdalene, Salome, and Mary, the mother of James, go to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body. It is clear from Mark’s report of their conversation that they had not worked out all the necessary details. They know that a very large stone was used to seal Jesus’ tomb, but they do not know how they are going to remove it. When they arrive at the tomb, they find that the stone has already been rolled back. Upon entering the tomb, they meet an angel who tells them that Jesus has been raised from the dead. The angel then recalls Jesus’ promise to his disciples that he would go before them to Galilee.
Amazement would seem to be a natural reaction to the experience that the women had that morning. Yet the angel chides them for being amazed. Perhaps the reason is found in the words that follow, as the angel reminds them that Jesus himself had told his disciples that he would see them again in Galilee. If the women had listened and heeded Jesus’ words, they would not have been surprised to find the tomb empty. This highlights a theme of Mark’s Gospel: the disciples of Jesus are often clueless about the true identity of Jesus and confounded by his message to them.
Nonetheless, we can find some hope for the disciples, just as there is hope for us when we find ourselves unsure about Jesus. The disciples in today’s Gospel were faithful followers of Jesus and remained present through Jesus’ death on the cross. In fact, they came to the tomb that morning expecting to minister to Jesus once again. Instead, they were sent to minister in a different way, as apostles to Peter and the other disciples. Because we hear this Gospel proclaimed today, we know that they honored Jesus by accepting this mission.