Personal Encounter with the Risen One

During these days following Easter, we listen to the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to his disciples. These are scenes I love praying with. And never listen to me when I say that one or another is my favorite (which I have at times claimed of Emmaus, of the scene of Jesus and the disciple on the beach, and of ….); each one of the accounts touches me deeply, albeit in different ways.

Today’s Gospel gives us St. John’s account of the encounter between Mary Magdalene and the risen Christ. Mary, who obviously has deep love for Jesus, stands weeping outside of his empty tomb, sad and confused. Not only is Jesus dead, but his body is gone – stolen, she fears.

But then she sees a man that she mistakes for a gardener. “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you have ladi him, and I will take him.” And then the man speaks her name. “Mary.” And with that one word, everything changes. Grief turns to joy as Mary recognizes Jesus and runs to him and embraces him.

In the words of one commentator,

The encounter was deeply personal. By speaking her name, Jesus touched her at the center of her heart, the place where all her fears lurked, the place where the struggle between the darkness of sin and the light of God’s love was the fiercest. There, in the depth of her heart, Mary received the love of God, and her sadness was turned into a joy that moved her to tell the other disciples: “I have seen the Lord.”

In his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis invites “all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.” And that encounter is essential to our growth in discipleship. Quoting Pope Benedict, Francis writes, “Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”

Jesus seeks the same personal encounter with each of us that Mary and his disciples experienced. All we need to do is accept his invitation