Dear brothers & sisters in the Risen Lord,
In the life of Jesus and his ministry women disciples followed him from Galilee to Jerusalem, playing significant roles, emerging as true followers, understanding his ministry as service and thus proving themselves as true Christian ministers and witnesses. A vivid example is Mary Magdalene to whom the risen Jesus appeared first and who became the first witness of his Resurrection. This woman’s story, first as sinner and then a true disciple, tells us the importance accepting Jesus as Messiah, loving him dearly and proclaiming his message credibly to others.
As John narrates in his gospel, Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb alone and finds the stone removed and races to tell Peter and John. Confused she tells them that the body is gone. Both the disciples arrive at the tomb. While Peter sees only the burial clothes, the other disciple believes and then they, oddly, return to their homes. What about Mary? She lingers outside the tomb and keeps weeping (a sign of her great love for Jesus). While weeping, she stoops into the tomb and sees two angels who ask her why she is weeping. Hearing what they say, Mary turns around and peers out of the darkness of the tomb into the dawn. She sees Jesus, but doesn’t recognise him (Is it because of tears, of light, of his glorified body that human eyes find hard to comprehend???) and takes him for a gardener. It is then, the Risen One understands her grief and seeks to help her. So he calls her by name, Mariam. She turns and says, Rabbouni. One can imagine the joy she would have felt when that familiar voice called her name. The experience would have been unforgettable and she would have repeated those words when she recounted the story to everyone she met, probably until the day she died. She finally recognised the voice that called her into wholeness when it expelled whatever demons trouble her, the voice that welcomed her into his circle of friends, the voice that told her she was valued in the eyes of God, the voice that answered her questions, the voice that laughed over a meal, the voice that counselled her near the end of his earthly life, the voice that cried out in pain from the cross. Mary knew the voice because it was a voice that had spoken to her in love. Then she recognised who it was. Because sometimes seeing is not believing. Loving is.
As soon as she recognises that it is Jesus, she wants to hold on to him. But the Risen Lord reminds her of the more urgent task that needs to be done: to spread the Good News. Jesus gives her a mission which she immediately carries out. She races to the disciples to proclaim: “I have seen the Lord”, and recounts all that she has seen. Thus Mary, from being a sinner, female disciple, becomes Apostle to the Apostles – the one sent to those who are sent. She announces the Good News to those who are to announce it.
As we celebrate the solemnity of Easter, Mary Magdalene reminds us that the most powerful tool for spreading the Good News is not knowledge, but experience. Christian scholarship and learning do indeed provide inestimable riches for the faith, but what is more important is a true spiritual experience of Jesus. That is why the true disciple does not say simply, “I have studied Jesus,” but as Mary Magdalene did, “I have seen the Lord.”
Dear brothers and sisters, this is my Easter prayer for all: that each of us may have a profound spiritual experience of Jesus and not to keep it just for ourselves, but to share it with others, as Mary Magdalene did. Happy Easter & the Special Blessings of the Risen Lord!
-Rev Sagayaraj Devadoss, SDB