As we continue through the readings for Easter we will be given glimpses of encounters with the risen Jesus. This is good news for us, as the risen Jesus of the Gospels is the same Jesus who we have the opportunity to encounter each day.
In today’s Gospel, Mary does not return with Peter and John as they head back home after having observed the empty tomb. Mary stayed by the side of the tomb and wept. Mary then peered into the tomb and witnessed two angels. As she turned back she saw who she believed to be the gardener. She questioned the man as to the whereabouts of Jesus. Mary sought a rational reason for where the dead body had gone. When the man did not immediately answer, she must have turned away again, because Jesus said to her, “Mary” (Jn 20:16)!
Upon hearing her name, Mary Magdalene recognized Jesus.
Peter and John left the empty tomb. We do not know why. Maybe they wanted to confirm to the other disciples that Mary was correct about the empty tomb? Mary could have gone back also, but something impelled her to stay. It could have been the sorrow that brought her to tears, it could have been her dedication and faithfulness to Jesus to find him, to anoint him as she had come to do that first early Easter morning, it could have been that she did not know what to do next, or there was a sense beyond her understanding that compelled her to stay. Shortly thereafter, Jesus came to her, she recognized him not at first, but when he called her by name. When she called him “Rabbouni”, Jesus asked her to, “Stop holding on to me”.
What was Mary holding on to? Though mistaking him for the gardener at first she came to recognize that he had indeed come back to life. But in calling Jesus Rabbouni, teacher or master, Mary was going back to the relationship she had with him before. Jesus was transfigured, he was different than he was before. Jesus actualized the perfection of his humanity, while still retaining the fullness of his divinity. Though the fullness of his mission would not be complete until he returned back to the Father at his Ascension.
There was not only a newness to the appearance of the resurrected Jesus, but his relationship with his followers would also be transformed. He was not coming back to avenge those who betrayed him. When Jesus charged Mary to return, she was to convey the message he gave her to his “brothers”. He no longer was calling them his disciples but his brothers. As Jesus would return to the Father, he would unleash the power of that divine communion of love unto his new brothers and sisters who believed in him through the power of the Holy Spirit.
We are heirs to the same promise that Mary Magdalene, the Apostle to the Apostles, shared with the Twelve. Jesus has become the firstborn of the new creation and through our baptism in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, we participate in his death and resurrection as well, so to share in Jesus’ life and love that he shares with his Father. We too are his brothers and sisters, we too are being configured and transformed into the Body of Christ. Through our conforming to his Body, we too are being perfected, divinized, such that our image and likeness to God are being restored. This is why we have a cause for joy and celebration. This is why, like Mary, we are called to, “Go and announce the Good News of the Resurrection” in our everyday lives! Alleluia!!!
Painting: accessed online, but unfortunately, not able to find the artist’s name.