I haven’t done a ‘Bible study’ in ages, having developed a strong distaste for them somewhere in my past, but I signed on to a study of John that my mom was doing with two other girls because the title of the study was from Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet and there were quotes from Beuchner, Rilke, Eliot, Lewis, Augustine, Chesterton, L’Engle, and others whose writings I have loved and lived by inside it.  It’s been a series of small revelations, just like a study of a gospel must be, and the question we are contemplating this week, “Woman, why are you weeping?” is ringing a nearby bell, so near.

In John, after the resurrection, Peter and “the other disciple” ran to the tomb to see if what Mary saw was right (door wide open, no body inside).  After they saw what they came to see, they wandered back and left Mary there, “outside the tomb, weeping.”  At some point Jesus is there, having walked around or having gone and come back in the guise of man or light or wind or whatnot else, and looks like the sort of person that lives in backgrounds (gardener).  He asks, “Woman, why are you weeping?”

Up to this point, Jesus’ question felt shallow to me, almost like he walked up behind her and said, “Guess who!”  A conversation-starter, meant to arouse her curiosity — self-concerned, self-revealing.  As I’m reading through all the excerpts and answering all the irritating questions, though, this act & these words are turning from shadow into shades of light.  It’s beginning to seem as weighty and selfless as any other word from the mouth of Christ, like the words of Aslan when he was still shrouded in darkness, walking beside an ignorant Shasta in A Horse and His Boy (Lewis): “Tell me your sorrows.”

That a hugely powerful being could concern itself with our language, our opening our mouths to say what’s so terribly the matter, is incredible.  Jesus is tortured and killed by a frenzied mob, and comes to meet Mary to ask her to tell him her grief.  As if that act were a catalyst for her healing, awakening, richer being.  As if that were the point, the primary concern.

As a writer, I spend vast amounts of time considering my own griefs and trying to organize them into some kind of coherence, some kind of orderly expression, something that makes sense.  Ever since I read Aslan’s question to Shasta, years ago, I’ve hesitantly come forward with my own sorrows, hoping it was ok, and have met with the kind of grace that I didn’t recognize in the small story of Risen Christ and Mary the prostitute … until now.  I don’t know how this all can be true, but it may be.  I’m entertaining (wildest) hopes.