I find it very easy to identify with Mary because she is so human. She is very emotional and she vigorously reacts to events that stir her emotions. The story of her encounter with Jesus on Easter morning is a wonderful example of that. On this morning Mary’s emotions range from great sadness to bewilderment and then to exquisite joy. I find it easy to identify with Mary and her emotions. We can picture ourselves reacting as she did had we been present on that glorious morning.
As Luke’s story begins, we see Mary sitting alone near the tomb after the departure of Peter and John. It is still dark, the pre-dawn hour, and Mary is very sad. She is quietly weeping and missing Jesus very much. Added to her grief is the confusion of finding the tomb empty. Those of us who have experienced the death of a loved one can identify with the sadness that Mary feels.
But then, rather abruptly, Mary’s sadness gives way to bewilderment. She suddenly sees two strangers in the tomb. They are unknown to her and she wonders how they came into the tomb. Then Mary is confronted with another puzzle. She hears someone behind her and when she turns around, another man is in the garden, and she thinks it is the gardener. But Mary’s perplexity does not last long. Very quickly, by the mere pronunciation of her name, Jesus turns Mary’s grief into joy. She hears the well remembered voice of Jesus, hears the warmth and love of that voice, and sees Jesus himself in front of her. But Mary is still not completely sure. And so she does what I think most of us would do in her place. She reaches out and touches Jesus. Only then does the tremendous joy of that moment come over her. Mary is so full of joy that she hangs on to Jesus and doesn’t want to let go. It takes a gentle remonstrance from Jesus to make her stop clinging to him.
This Easter week all of us are called to experience the great joy of the Resurrection. I find that a great way to do that is to imagine myself with Mary outside the tomb of Jesus. And to try to experience the marvelous joy that flooded her whole being at the moment that she recognized Jesus.
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