April 20, 2014
John 20: 1-9
The gospel reading on this glorious Easter Sunday tells us that Mary Magdalene “ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, ‘They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.’”
In the midst of grief and tragedy, Mary Magdalene thinks only of Jesus—she shows “great love” for him. Earlier in Jesus’ ministry it was the same: he said of her “she has shown great love, hence her many sins have been forgiven.” Already Mary seemed to have understood the transformation that Jesus was working during the course of his life and preaching in Galilee, and which he continues to work through the Church and the sacraments today. In spite of her sins, Mary recognized just who Christ was, and thereafter she was faithful to the end—the “Apostle to the Apostles” as many have called her.
Reflecting further on the words “she has shown great love” one sees that love is passionate, and can sometimes sweep us off our feet; yet ultimately love is honest—painfully so at times. Any married couple knows this; any parent who has raised children is aware of it too; among our extended families and our friends it is fair to say that each of us has experienced the joys and the hardships that love’s honesty can bring to us.
True love is honest in recognizing sin, and in desiring to change; this is what Jesus saw in Mary Magdalene when he commented upon her love and concluded: “…her many sins have been forgiven.” This is exactly what we try to do during the days of Lent as well: to recognize and root out the sin and the causes of sin that may be present in ourselves on account of our self-focused nature, and to cultivate in their place the other-centered and ultimately God-centered virtues of humility, constancy, mercy, and love.
Love finds the strength and reason to change in Christ, who taught us what perfect love really looks like—love which endures to the end, to the point of total self-giving. We witness this in Jesus’ every word and action during his earthly life and we focus on his spirit of free self-giving in a special way during Passion Week and in its perfection on Good Friday.
As Mary Magdalene witnessed in the gospel, our human love, imperfect though it may be, is given the opportunity to make just such a dramatic change on the glorious feast of Easter when we celebrate the divine and perfect love of God shown to us in the person of Jesus Christ, once dead, now gloriously raised from the dead.
Through the renewal of our baptismal promises which we will make at the Easter Sunday liturgy shortly after hearing this gospel message, we testify publicly that we have united ourselves to Christ in his death on the cross, symbolized by immersion in water, and that we hope that one day we will be united with him definitively in the new and eternal life which he has won for us through his resurrection on that very first Easter Sunday.
The true meaning and joy of Easter are revealed to us in the mystery of Christ’s self-offering love, seen in person by Mary Magdalene and reciprocated by her through her selfless concern for him. This same love is presented to us through our baptismal union with Christ, both in life and in death. Sharing in that love, we are called—just like Mary Magdalene was called—to count ourselves among those who have been sent forth to spread and share this good news, to: “go forth and make disciples.” The first step toward answering this call is to run as fast as Mary ran in order to announce the redeeming power of Christ’s selfless love, letting it shine forth in us anew as we celebrate this most holy day.
Fr. Edward Mazich, O.S.B.