Today the Catholic Church celebrates one of the most maligned women in history: Mary Magdalene, faithful disciple of Jesus. She was one of the people who followed Jesus wherever he went. One of the few who didn’t run away at the end, but who stayed at the foot the cross until he died. And she is the first person to whom Jesus appears after his resurrection – the appearance that we hear about in today’s Gospel.
It is a beautiful encounter. In The Twelve Voices of Easter, Woodrow Kroll and Keity Ghormley have a chapter on Mary Magdalene, which among other things, describes that encounter in Mary’s voice. I share here an excerpt, which you might use as a meditation for today’s Gospel.
…when we arrived at the tomb, we were shocked: The stone was not there, nor were any soldiers to be seen. The stone had been rolled away–taken right out of its trough and tipped over.
As we stood and wondered at what had happened to the stone, two men dressed in dazzling white robes suddenly appeared. These garments were not the togas of Roman soldiers, nor were they the long white robes of the Pharisees. These were not men at all, but angels of God.
We were overcome and we fell to the ground. But the angels reassured us. They reminded us how Jesus had said that He would rise again. One of the angels bid us to look inside the tomb and see for ourselves. I ran as fast as I could to tell Peter and John. When we returned, the other women were gone. We looked in the tomb. Empty. I was convinced that someone had stolen the body of Jesus. The linen garments Joseph had wrapped Him in were lying there, neatly folded in their places. But the tomb was empty.
Peter and John ran from the garden, but I remained. I had nowhere to go. What had happened to the Master? Could it be that He actually did rise from the dead, or had the soldiers taken His body away? My heart was overcome again with sorrow. I just stood there, weeping.
Then I heard a voice behind me ask, “Woman, why are you weeping?” I assumed it was the gardener. “Sir, what have you done with Him?” I asked, wiping my face.
It was fully light, but tears blurred my eyes. I turned, but could not see clearly. Then He called me by my name. “Mariam.” That was my Aramaic name, the name my parents and my friends called me. A gardener would not have spoken Aramaic to me. A Roman would not know my name. I knew that voice. I looked up. I saw Him. It was Jesus. I answered in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” I threw myself at His feet, weeping, laughing, not believing, believing. My Master, my Teacher, my Savior, my Lord. He was standing there alive….
He told me to go tell the others, and I did. Marvelous news. A wonder beyond all wonders. God has accomplished great things in our midst. Jesus is risen from the dead!