During this Easter season the lectionary readings are worthy of some serious pondering. That’s no surprise, given the events of the past week recounted in Scripture. Today (JN 20:11-18) we read a good example in two ways of how the passage through death has changed not only Jesus himself but also his relationship with his beloved disciple.
First, on the day of Christ’s Resurrection, Mary Magdalene, the faithful and well-loved companion of Jesus, encounters him near the tomb and thinks he is the gardener! How could she not recognize him??? I’m always reminded with this story of the day I didn’t recognize a priest who used to come often and help me with high school retreats. He had been on a year’s sabbatical during which he had studied spirituality for a semester, done a 30-day Ignatian retreat, lost some weight, shaved the mustache without which I had never seen him, and in addition sported a new “buzz cut” on his head. As he processed down the church aisle at a celebration for one of our Sisters, I wondered who he was. It was not until he began to speak that I knew him. I heard his voice and was shocked immediately into recognition. And he was also different inside – a softer, more humble and gracious “self” that could be felt to those who really saw the result of his “renewal.”
Secondly today, when Mary moves toward Jesus because he speaks her name with a tenderness that only love can express, he stops her (“Do not cling to me…”) and gives her a missionary task (“Go to my brothers and tell them…”). Evidently Christ’s”resurrection body” is somehow different; his journey through death changed him in some significant way both physically and spiritually. Surrendering everything he was then ready to manifest his divinity to the one who loved him faithfully. The relationship was deeper than a physical connection.When Mary realized her new role of messenger/missionary to her companions and to the world, she understood that her surrender was just beginning. Living from the heart had become her mission.
We would do well to contemplate these passages, these calls to unconditional and universal love presented to us today. What inner change must accompany such a shift in our life?