Tuesday in the Octave of Easter

Today we return not only to John’s Gospel, but we journey back to the beginning, to where the tragic events of Calvary were first set in motion: Eden.

Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb while Peter and the other disciple returned home. Not until they had gone did she peer in and not only did she see what they had seen—the shroud and the head cloth—but she saw two angels. She speaks to them without any fear; her sorrow is such that even the sight of angels does nothing. Neither can she yet believe Jesus is risen!

The angels ask her why she is weeping. We might understand them to be, in essence, asking her the same question God asked in the garden when Adam and Eve were in hiding: “Where are you?” Mary’s heart was still nailed to the Cross; she was not looking for Jesus, but rather for His body, for to her broken heart He was dead. She, like St. Thomas in the days to come, needed more than an empty tomb and scraps of cloth: she needed Jesus.

A curious visitor arrives, someone she believes to be a gardener. We may have missed a small detail in the previous chapter when Mary and the others were burying Jesus: “Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in the garden and new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried.” (John 19:41) Hence, who else would be walking about the garden this early in the morning but the gardener? Yet this was no ordinary gardener. This was the New Man whom God placed within the New Garden, calling Him to life from the dead earth (Genesis 2:7-8), the New Adam from which a new humanity would descend. It is this Gardener that greets the weeping Mary with the same question the angels had asked her, addressing her as woman, just as Adam first addressed Eve. (Genesis 2:23) Indeed, how He must have loved her then, remembering her at the foot of His Cross, she who would soon be a member of His newborn Church and Bride, would be bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh, a member of the Body of Christ!

Yet her tears blind her to it all; Mary responds to His question just as she responded to the angels. She is far more interested in the seed (John 12:24) than in the fruit before her! But then something remarkable occurs: He speaks her name. Mary! It is as though she is brought to life from death, and instantly she knows He who first knew her. She is no longer merely a woman, but she is this woman; the Good Shepherd has found His lost sheep, and she recognized His voice. (John 10:3)

Mary has seen and believed, but it was Jesus’ calling her by name that opened not her tear-filled eyes, but rather the eyes of her heart. Do we hearken to the call of Christ, even in the midst of our many sorrows, our suffering? Let us listen, let us not doubt when He calls our name, when He raises us from the dust of the tomb and sends us off to breathe new life into the world. Let go of all that burdens you and be free of it; the One who loves you has risen from the dead.

March 29th, 2016