( A Commentary on John 20: 1-18)
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Saying this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?” 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, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20: 11-18)
Travel with me for a moment to the scene in today’s Gospel.
Mary was weeping for the suffering of Jesus, for His death, for the loss to her and her friends, and because she could not find His body.
It took courage for Mary to go back to the tomb. It took even more courage for her to let go of Jesus after she called him Rabboni. But in doing so, she gives birth to the Church. By her witness, by her testimony, the history of the world is changed, made new, transformed. Her words to his friends are the first Easter sermon ever preached! Because of her testimony, we are here today! Mary continues to run through the ages to this very day, gathering us all to be a community of his people, his beloved disciples.
Mary’s whole life was characterized by the words of the Psalm: “O God, you are my God whom I seek; for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.” Her example is one that inspires us to seek the Lord with the same Passion.
Like those first disciples she calls, we all race to the tomb and stoop over to see for ourselves. Like Peter, Mary and the beloved disciple, we do not all see the same things, we do not hear the same voices. Except the one voice that calls us each by name.
He calls us today. He calls us by name. He calls us to be his beloved disciples. He calls us to follow him so that we may do something beautiful with our lives and bear much fruit.
Like Mary, he also calls us to let go of him. We can shut him up in tombs of our own making, or we can be like Mary and let go and go and tell others about our Risen Lord. In letting go, like Mary, we will find that we are more fully embraced by him, by his love and by his Father than we could ever imagine.
And like the people who were changed by her words, others’ lives will be changed by ours. How?
By taking up Jesus’ mission of course—to carry on his work; to be in the world opposed to poverty, violence, hatred, sickness, and death. In the resurrection Jesus commissions us to carry on his work until he returns.
How will Mary Magdalene be able to touch Jesus after he has ascended? How can we touch Jesus before he returns? We touch him by engaging in his mission. We touch him every time we touch the poor, the suffering, the dying, the victims of violence and hatred. For he has told us whatever we do for the least of our brothers or sisters we do to him. Until Jesus returns, we are commissioned to touch him in one another. In touching those we serve; we touch Christ himself.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, may I never fail to recognize your voice nor lose sight of your presence as you open the Scriptures for me and speak your life-giving word.”
Mary’s message to the disciples, I have seen the Lord, is the very essence of Christianity. It is not enough that a Christian know about the Lord, but that we know him personally. It is not enough to argue about him, but to meet him. In the resurrection we encounter the living Lord Jesus who loves us personally and shares his glory with us. The Lord Jesus gives us “eyes of faith” to see the truth of his resurrection and his victory over sin and death (Ephesians 1:18). And he opens our ears to recognize his voice as we listen to the “good news” proclaimed in the Gospel message today.