Image: Cherub in the greenhouse garden, Inuvik
Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Mary Magdalene and in the Gospel of John we read a very important account of her meeting with him in the garden of the tomb in which he was laid after his crucifixion. Mary Magdalene was a close friend and follower of Jesus and there are many important moments that she had with him that led up to this encounter at the tomb.
John writes first of a woman who came before Jesus while he was at a dinner party and knelt before him and anointed his feet with expensive perfume. John doesn’t mention her by name, but tradition holds that this was Mary Magdalene who had come to Jesus with a great sorrow in her heart. Seeing her humility and her desire to be reconciled with God, Jesus forgave her sins in front of all the people present.
This was moment of healing. Like the bride in our first reading from the Song of Songs, Mary longed for that which she could not see. She searched for what could make her happy and ease her pain, but it eluded her. She searched for what could give her life meaning and fullness once again and was disappointed time after time.
But then she met Jesus. His words gave her hope. She saw in his way of being with people a compassion and love that she had not experienced before, and she believed his words that what she was looking for in her life could be found if she placed her trust in God and followed him. From that moment on Mary was to become part of the group that was closest to Jesus and she would be with him to the very end of his time with them.
Are you searching for the same things in your life that Mary was searching for? Does the fullness of joy that Jesus wants for you seem to be an impossible reality? Then go after the Lord as Mary did. Know that your Lord is present, lower your guard and open your heart today to what God is offering to you and know that your reconciliation is close at hand. As a bride longs for her beloved, so our God longs to be close you.
The second important encounter which John tells us about Mary Magdalene and Jesus takes place at the foot of the cross. As Jesus gives his life for all, his closest followers have all but abandoned him. Among those few that remain are Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Mary Magdalene. This small group tells us about our Saint. Having experienced the gift of new life and healing from Jesus, Mary Magdalene was devoted to her Lord to the end.
This was a moment of grief. During this time of great emotional distress Mary Magdalene and the others present were in deep sorrow at what they were witnessing. They could have turned and run in fear as the others did but they chose instead to stand and be present to the pain they saw in the face of Jesus. In doing so they shared the crucifixion of Jesus with him. They could not follow Jesus down that path to the end, but they walked with him as far as they could go. They did not, at that moment, understand what was happening, but they know that their trust and faith would not be betrayed as it was all they had to hold on to.
Are you suffering like Mary did at the sight of her Lord on the cross? Are experiencing the grief of loss? Are you saddled by deep frustration and heartache at what life has dealt you? Are you tempted to turn and to run and hide from your pain? Learn from Mary Magdalene. Do not turn away and avoid these dark moments in your life. Turn instead and look into the face of Jesus who understands what you are going through. Share your burden with the one who understands you. Put your faith in the one who will walk with you in the darkness and show you the way through it all.
This brings us to the final encounter we read in John’s Gospel for today. Mary Magdalene meets Jesus in the garden after his resurrection. Mary goes to the tomb with sorrow in heart and we are told that she is weeping for the loss of her friend and teacher. But then she meets Jesus, alive. She does not recognize him at first but as she listens to his voice, she begins to understand that she is standing in the presence of the risen Lord.
This was a moment of transformation. In what seemed like a moment, Mary’s encounter with Jesus took her from a place of darkness to a place of light and new possibilities. What took her there where the words that Jesus spoke to her when he spoke her name. “Mary, do not hold onto me”. In those few words Jesus helped Mary to let go of the grasp that the past had on her and to begin to see Jesus and the future in a new way.
Jesus helped Mary to see that she was clinging to an idea of God that was too small. He invites us to see that God’s plans for us are even bigger than our imaginations can comprehend. Are you clinging to an old way of life that keeps you from growing in your relationship with God and others? Are you tired of looking at a world that seems empty of new possibilities? Learn from Mary who encountered the risen Lord. Know that God’s plans for you are amazing if you open your heart to his Will in your life. Listen to the voice of the risen Lord and allow your life to be transformed.