I’m always happy in the Easter season to hear the Sunday gospel readings repeated in the daily lectionary; it can help us to go deeper and maybe allow us to pick up nuances that have previously escaped our notice. Take for example this morning’s text from John 20:11-18 – my favorite of all.
Mary Magdalene has finally achieved her rightful place in the story of Jesus, especially in the events surrounding what we have come to call the Paschal Mystery – the events of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. Her fidelity is clear as she is mentioned in all four gospels, not only as the one who appears at all these events – from the foot of the cross, through the burial, to the garden of the resurrection. And she is the one who announces to the other followers of Jesus that he has risen from the dead. We know all these things.
What catches my attention this morning (as it often does) is Mary’s state of heart in that garden. I try to put myself in her place: half crazy with grief at the horrible death of the one who has not only loved her but has virtually saved her life – turned it around and given her new meaning. That’s a lot to be thankful for, of course, but there is also the mutual deepening of their relationship over the time since they first met. So when she comes to anoint his body one more time and finds the whole scene disrupted, her mind cannot hold the possibility of grave snatchers or worse so she doesn’t recognize that the “guards” at the tomb are angels. (How did that happen? Where did the human guards go?) To compound her grief, no one will give her information about where he is; they all just keep asking why she’s weeping. Even Jesus, who must have been changed in a way that made her mistake him for the gardener, asks her the same question. (How could she not recognize him? How different might a resurrection body appear?)
The most wonderful and telling moment in the whole drama is when Jesus simply says her name. When we are called by name, be it by a relative, a special friend or the person most closely related to us in love, it sounds different from any other time we hear it. Mary recognized Jesus at the sound of her own name. How thrilling that moment must have been! But that moment also had it’s price; the relationship has changed. The moment of restoration also becomes the moment of relinquishment. In order to experience the fullness of their connection, she must not cling to him. In the same manner that Jesus emptied himself to become human, he now resumes his place in the divinity of God and it is Mary who is called to reconcile the meaning of kenosis in her life now. Therein lies the fullness of the mystery of Easter, I think.
Just as Mary had to “let go” of Jesus in order to become the apostolic presence needed in her world, so we also must come to the maturity of faith that recognizes the depth of commitment called for by the Christian path in our day. It couldn’t have been easy for Mary to relinquish the Jesus that had brought her so far in order to gain the Christ whose divine fire was capturing her heart in a new way. Perhaps it is the repetition of the question, Why are you weeping? that is a clue to this “difficult grace” being offered to Mary and to us. If Mary were not ready for this jump in consciousness, she would, most likely, have dissolved in tears and missed the moment. We grieve our losses – some more tearfully than others – but are we willing to dry our tears so that we can see with new eyes what might be right in front of us? Can we identify our name as it is being called toward a new way of being? Can we let go of what might be holding us back (even if what has been in our lives has been good and meaningful) in order to take the next step toward the fullness of the Christ life?
Let us pray for the grace to see in new ways and then to let go into the heart of God.