July 22, 2016
“I will turn their mourning into joy,
I will console and gladden them after their sorrows.”
“Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?
Whom are you looking for?”
She thought it was the gardener and said to him,
“Sir, if you carried him away,
tell me where you laid him,
and I will take him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned and said to him in Hebrew,
“Rabbouni,” which means Teacher.”
“Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song!” - St. John Paul the Great
My dear fellow pilgrims,
In our Mass readings for today, the feast day of St. Mary Magdalene, we hear our God as a comforting God, a shepherd God, a faithful God. However, the most apparent attributes of God were in His humanity: His voice, His face, His body… our Resurrected, Glorious, Human God, within the beautiful exchange of words between Jesus and Mary at the tomb.
Mary Magdalene is known as the first preacher of the gospel, and as we can see, she is also an adamant mourner and friend of Christ. (The two must go together!) Just after she told the disciples about the situation at the tomb, she must have wasted no time to get back to the tomb to mourn, as it seems like she is the only one there. Because the passage begins when it is still dark out, I’d like to think that by the time she got back to the tomb, the Sun was just appearing above the horizon. Darkness is slowly fading away, light is slowly seeping into the atmosphere.
She is a lost sheep, going back to a hollow tomb of where her shepherd was laid. Where else can she go? Her heart is brimming with fidelity and sadness, but perhaps hopeful that she will find His body once again, as she responds to the “gardener” with an accusation and not a statement of grief.
If we are reading this gospel passage like a script, we see Mary Magdalene accusing this man with her head still bent over with grief. I think she might have assumed He was a gardener because, well, who else would be around a tomb and not mourning with her? Then, she hears the voice of Christ but does not recognize Him, perhaps because she is too immersed in her own world of grief, her own rapid streams of thought with no answers.
Jesus approaches her with questions that we, too, have probably heard whispered into our ear at one time or another. “Why are you weeping? Who, what are you looking for?” He approaches her in her grief, knowing full well the reaches of her heart, and asks her to use her own words to describe how she is feeling. He, in His omnipotence, asks her to speak for herself not because He doesn’t know, but because he wants to be in relationship with her. He asks her who she is looking for, a strange follow-up question to ask a grown woman weeping at a grave. But to Him, she is a child, weeping because she feels lost and alone.
She responds with a firm accusation that indirectly answers His questions. She does not look at Him. How often do we speak to the Lord in this way? To think the Lord is not compassionate or cares about our hearts (and every aspect of our lives!) is just as off the mark as when our friend Mary thought Jesus was a gardener. We must face the Lord, acknowledge Him for who He is, and only then can we speak without fear and impulse.
But then, Jesus says her name. And that changes everything.
She turns her head, her body shifts, and she finally sees Him in His glorious, resurrected Body. And she knows that He is still teaching her to see Him, to see herself. Now, she is part of the Easter people, and hallelujah is her song; He has turned her mourning into joy. More words need not be spoken, for He has spoken her name.
May we acknowledge His sacrifice for us today, a sacrifice that was made because the hound of Heaven wanted, wants our hearts, to be in relationship with us, to remove the slavery of sin and put on His yoke of holiness that leads to life out of death. May our ears hear our names from the mouth of the Lord, may we understand our identities only through His voice and not our fearful minds full of baseless worries. May we always turn to Him and revel in His beautiful face instead of accusing Him out of the darkness of our hearts.
Help us to listen to You, Jesus. Help us to see You as our friend.