Last updated on November 16, 2020
Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. 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. (John 20: 11-16)
Time spent in silent prayer, especially with Jesus in the Holy Eucharist is a great way to ponder the Resurrection appearances of our Lord. We’ll begin with Mary Magdalene.
We know she suffered greatly having been freed from seven demons (Luke 8:2). The text implies possession, but she could have been affected in other ways. Mary is also seen as a prostitute, or the sinful woman who kissed Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair as her tears poured out on them while he dined at a Pharisee’s home (Luke 8: 36-39). Though the emotional response to Jesus is the same there’s no clear evidence or recording that the two are the same woman. What’s clear is Mary’s healing and transformation through meeting Jesus. Her entire being is subsequently given to him; she follows him and is recorded as the most important woman in any group of women mentioned in the Gospels, especially those at the tomb. Jesus chooses her to proclaim the Good News to the disciples.
Pope Benedict XVI:
“Every Christian relives the experience of Mary Magdalene. It involves an encounter which changes our lives: the encounter with a unique Man who lets us experience all God’s goodness and truth, who frees us from evil, not in a superficial and fleeting way, but sets us free radically, heals us completely and restores our dignity. This is why Mary Magdalene calls Jesus “my hope”: he was the one who allowed her to be reborn, who gave her a new future, a life of goodness and freedom from evil. “Christ my hope” means that all my yearnings for goodness find in him a real possibility of fulfilment: with him I can hope for a life that is good, full and eternal, for God himself has drawn near to us, even sharing our humanity. (Easter Sunday, April 2012) (full text)
How wonderful a word: “relive the experience of Mary Magdalene”. Having been loved so greatly, beyond her imagination, she is devastated at the loss of the one she loves, her everything. However deep her intimacy with Christ, though, she doesn’t have any understanding of her beloved’s word on Resurrection which she was so attentive to, especially when she heard him say, “I will be raised on the third day.” She, along with the disciples, are confounded.
At the empty tomb, Jesus revealed himself to Mary then later to the disciples that evening, the first day of the week. She holds the most beautiful of all the Resurrection encounters with Jesus. Her discussion with the angels is touching, even playful.
Then Jesus appears and asks the same question the angels asked “…why are you weeping…” then, “Who is it you are looking for?” Jesus and the angels know the answers; their words show the tenderness of Divine Love toward the brokenhearted like Mary who is overwhelmed by sorrow with no light on the horizon, no hope, no answer. Mary, unaware that it’s her risen Lord speaking to her responds: “I do not know where they have put him.” (John 20: 13). The angels and the Lord live in the supernatural peace and reality of evil conquered. There is nothing for Mary and us to be afraid of.
Jesus, knowing the perfect moment calls to her, “Mary”. The way he says it transforms her; with one deep breath, she cries, “Rabbouni” and instantaneously begins to clutch, hold, and never let go of Jesus. This is the most beautiful moment of all the Resurrection encounters.
Jesus, as we know tells her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Rather, go to my brothers, and tell them, “ I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God!”(John 20: 17-18).
I love Mary’s clinging, because having experienced the Lord in a “conversion” in 1975 at 23 when I crawled into Scarborough’s St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church, I cling to him, constantly seek his love, and crave his attention, every day. I experienced Jesus at my Baptism as a newborn but lived apart from Him, His Church, and the Holy Eucharist most of my youth. My encounter was not with the Resurrection, of course, but He appeared to me as the same Lord, as the Holy Spirit making himself known as he alone can do and will continue to do in his own way for anyone who seeks.
Mary runs to proclaim the Good News to her hiding brothers. Soon the whole world will be penetrated by the Gospel by the One who is the Resurrection and the Life, all the way through time and history right to the doorstep of my sinful, broken heart in the 20th century, right to your heart and to all whom he is drawing into the Father’s heart.
Mary reveals how each of us lives this life. We long for God, hunger for love, and suffer loss and pain. We are burdened by failures, at times wondering where Jesus is, and perhaps sometimes see only an empty tomb in our soul. Mary Magadalene’s tears were dried, and so will ours be. The Book of Sirach tells us: “Study the generations long past and understand; has anyone hoped in the Lord and been disappointed?”(Sir 2: 10). I love how Mary stayed at the tomb while the disciples left. She persisted in her seeking, looking and trusting. The following words mark the beginning of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
“The desire for God is written in the human heart because man is created by God and for God, and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church,1st ed., 27)
We are driven to seek the living God and when we do, above all through prayer, he will come to us in the person of his beloved Son, Jesus Christ who died and rose for us. Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, told the Sanhedrin, “There is no salvation in anyone else, for there is no other name in the whole world given to men by which we are to be saved.” (Acts 4: 12) He is driven to seek us and persists. Let us do the same.
All our yearnings for truth and happiness will find fulfillment in him. He will come to us who are weak, tempted to wrongdoing, and constantly in need of help and love. In knowing him we will to cling to him, and cry: “I love you, take my heart, I don’t ever want to lose you.” He will send us to others, like he sent Mary Magdalene, as well as send others to us so that alive in us, taking possession of us we become carriers of his love as Mother Teresa would frequently say.
Queen of heaven, rejoice, alleluia,
for he whom you were worthy to bear, alleluia,
has risen as he said, alleluia!
Pray for us to God, alleluia!
Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia!
For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia…
Regina coeli, laetare, alleluia,
quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia,
resurrexit sicut dixit, alleluia
ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia.
Gaude et laetare, Virgo Maria, alleluia!
Quia surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia…