“Woman, Why Are You Weeping?”
Of all the appearances of the risen Jesus to his disciples, none evokes such empathy as his encounter with Mary Magdalene. For in Mary we identify with the grief and tears of someone who has lost a precious friend.
Mary had joined the other women that Easter morning as they made their way to the tomb to clean and embalm the corpse of Jesus. To their consternation, they find the tombstone rolled away. They wonder, has the tomb been broken into ? Without waiting to find out more, Mary turns around and runs back to the Upper Room to inform the other disciples. Peter and John leave at once for the sepulchre to find out what’s happened.
When Mary returns to the empty tomb much later, she is alone. She is distraught with grief. Not only has the man she loved been brutally killed two days before, but even his body has been snatched away - by whom, she doesn’t know. Weeping, she peers into the tomb and spies two young men in there. They ask her why she is crying. Her reply echoes the brokenness of all those to whom the Lord’s presence has been denied. “They have taken my Lord away, and I do not know where they have laid him.”
At this she notices another man standing by. It is Jesus, but she doesn’t recognize him, for the Risen Jesus is grasped not by sight, but by faith. In fact she thinks he is the local gardener.
“Mary !” says Jesus, and hearing her name called out, instant recognition takes place, as she falls at his feet, blurting out, “My Master!”
How true ! When the Lord calls us by name everything falls into place. We know ourselves as loved and comforted and our whole world makes sense once again.
Mary makes to embrace Jesus’s feet as she would have done in the old days, but Jesus resists. “Do not cling to me,” he tells her. The Risen Jesus establishes new relationships. Not that the body and physical interaction are unimportant, but it is the Spirit which gives them new meaning. We realize now the place of pain and suffering as the way to glory and fulfillment. Mary’s closeness to the Lord makes her the first apostle: “Go and tell my brothers that I am ascending to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.”
Mary’s cry echoes that of Christians of all ages, who have been transformed by the Spirit of the Risen Jesus – “I have seen the Lord and he has changed me forever.”
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