The joy that we experience at Easter is enhanced by the gospel accounts of the joy felt by those who were privileged to see the risen Jesus on Easter day. Today St. John directs our attention to Mary Magdalene who, according to the gospel accounts, was the first person to see Jesus after his resurrection.
There is a tradition in the Church that even before his appearance to Mary Magdalene Jesus visited his mother Mary. But the gospels are silent about such a visit. However, when I contemplate this gospel reading about Mary Magdalene I always think also of the Blessed Virgin Mary. What joy she must have felt on seeing her risen son! The lives of the two Marys offer an interesting contrast: the sinless Virgin Mary and the repentant sinner Mary Magdalene. And yet they are very much alike in their love for Jesus. Their love of Jesus bound them in a friendship reserved for the very closest of his followers.
During her life after she met Jesus and was forgiven her sins, Mary Magdalene became one of his closest followers. She proved her love and her loyalty over and over again. At the time of the passion and death of Jesus, Mary and the other holy women followed him through all the terrible events that led to Calvary. They stood grieving at the foot of the cross as Jesus suffered and died. And during the time that Jesus was in the tomb, Mary and the others learned the location of the tomb and prepared spices and perfumed oils for the body of Jesus. In all of these events Mary Magdalene demonstrates how totally devoted to Jesus she was. And Jesus rewarded her devotion with his appearance to her on Easter morning.
The scene of the meeting of Jesus and Mary Magdalene in the garden is one that has always moved me very much. It reveals Mary Magdalene as very human and very devoted to Jesus. When Jesus appears Mary is weeping. She is terribly distraught that the body of Jesus has been taken away, and is frantic to try and find out where it is. In the early morning light and with the tears in her eyes, she fails to recognize Jesus. She mistakes him for the gardener. Here her words reveal her devotion and her concern to find the body of Jesus so that she can clean and prepare it for a proper burial. She is determined to find and take possession of the body because of her great love for Jesus. And then we have the very tender moment when Jesus reveals himself to Mary. He speaks her name. But I think that he speaks her name in such a way and with such inflection that Mary recalls other occasions when Jesus called her by name, and she knows that this is Jesus. Immediately her tears are turned from sorrow to joy. Immediately she believes that Jesus is risen and lives. And then she does something else that is very human. She is so beside herself with joy that she wants to hold on to Jesus and never let go. Jesus has to gently tell her to let go of him. But then he also gives Mary an important task. He makes Mary his messenger and sends her to his disciples in Jerusalem to announce his resurrection. And Mary is a wonderful messenger because she is so full of joy and so clearly proclaims her belief in the resurrection.
The contemplation of the scene in the garden adds greatly to the joy that I experience at Easter.
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook