Memorial of St. Mary Magdalene
Here we have a scene reminiscent of Eden: a man and a woman in a garden. In fact, at first meeting, Mary mistakes Jesus for the gardener when, in fact, He is the New Adam, brought out of the earth by the power of God. He even first addresses her as “woman” as Adam did when he awoke from his deep sleep and beheld her for the first time. The later naming of Eve (Gen. 3:20) coincides with a new identity, then being not only the companion and helpmate of Adam, but also “the mother of all the living”. Likewise when Jesus calls Mary by name she takes on a new identity: there is more going on in this joyful meeting than meets the eye.
The Resurrection is, as we might say in current language, a “game-changer”: everything is different from then onward. The history of mankind starts over; what once was the way of things is no longer. Yet when Mary realizes that the man in the garden is not merely the gardener but rather Jesus, she thinks things are again as they once were. Instead of St. Thomas’s “My lord and my God” she calls Him by the familiar title “rabbouni”: my beloved teacher. At hearing this Jesus exhorts her to let go; things are quite the opposite of back to normal and will never be the same again. He is on the move and He cannot turn back.
Mary Magdalene has long been referred to as “the apostle to the Apostles”, the word “apostle” meaning “one who is sent out.” There are the Twelve, those chosen by Jesus and given special authority and then there are those apostles like Mary who, in that brief sprint back to the Upper Room, bears in her heart the very Gospel itself: Jesus is risen. She conceives in her heart the very Word of God, not in the same manner as did the other great Mary of our faith—who bore the Incarnate Word—but in a way, by the grace of God, this new Eve became the mother of all those who would live in Christ, for she first brought to the Church the news of the Resurrection.
Mary’s relationship with Jesus was no longer what it was; no more was He the teacher and she the disciple. He is Lord and she is apostle; no more is He saying “come” but now He says “go.” Just as when we saw that there was more than Jonah and Solomon present before the Pharisees, we see that there is more to the risen Jesus than there was before: the Resurrection changes everything. Mary sees this because of the love she has for Him; the old Mary would have felt hurt by Jesus’ seeming rejection but this new Mary, illuminated in the light of His rising, goes joyfully to announce His victory over the grave. Let us learn from this great saint and “…go in peace, glorifying the Lord” by our lives.