Tuesday, April 13, 2004
Why are you weeping?  

Twice in today's Gospel reading from St. John's Gospel (20:11-18), Mary Magdalene is asked why is she weeping. First, the angels in the tomb, who were sitting where Jesus' body had lain, ask Mary, "Woman, why are you weeping?" Then Jesus, whom Mary does not initially recognize, also asks her, "Woman, why are you weeping?"

To the angels, Mary replies, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." She does not yet believe that our Lord has been raised from the dead. She had arrived early in the morning to find the tomb open, and she had run to find Peter and John to tell them what she had seen. Peter and John had come to the tomb and found it as Mary had described it to them. Both go into the tomb, and St. John records that after going in, he believed (20:8). Peter and John returned to their homes, and Mary remained.

Now, she weeping stoops to go into the tomb where she sees the angels. In her grief, she is not afraid of the angels' presence. Instead, after answering their question about why she is weeping, she turns around as if it were nothing to have seen angels. Her grief is so great that she only wants an answer to her question of where they have lain the body of Jesus.

She sees Jesus when she turns around out of the tomb, but she does not recognize Him. Instead, she thinks He is the gardener. Our Lord asks her why she is weeping, and adds, "Whom do you seek?" Again her grief has made her single-minded, and she questions the one who she thinks is the gardener as to where he might have placed Jesus' body.

Our Lord loves Mary Magdalene, and He simply says her name, "Mary" to identify Himself. She instantly recognizes our Lord and grasps Him while crying out "Teacher!"

In reflecting on this passage, I could not help thinking about the love of Mary Magdalene for Jesus. She was grief stricken that His body was not in the tomb. She wanted to know what had happened to Him. She was unconcerned about herself. Unlike any other person in the Bible, except our Lady, she was not terrified at the sight of angels probably because she was overcome with sorrow over what had happened to Jesus.

We know that she had stood at the foot of the cross with our Lord's mother, another Mary, and John (19:25). She had seen the full extent of our Lord's Passion. Now she only hoped to pay her respects and give honor to the He who had died such an awful death, but she could not because she could not find Him.

The questions I had to ask myself was whether I sought the Lord with such fervor and whether I was so single-minded in my concern over honoring the Lord. Do I, like Mary Magdalene, seek Him out to love Him in return for what He has done for me?

The beauty of this account is how, although Mary did not initially understand the full meaning of the empty tomb, Jesus rewarded her devotion to Him by revealing Himself to her as the Resurrected Lord. Her faith and understanding were increased, and she immediately obeyed the Lord's command to tell the disciples what had happened to her. This type of devotion is so beautiful that our Church has from early on encouraged us to model Mary Magdalene's piety:

When Mary Magdalen came to the tomb and did not find the Lord's body, she thought it had been taken away and so informed the disciples. After they came and saw the tomb, they too believed what Mary had told them. The text then says: "The disciples went back home," and it adds: "but Mary wept and remained standing outside the tomb."

We should reflect on Mary's attitude and the great love she felt for Christ; for though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, and while she sought she wept; burning with the fire of love, she longed for him who she thought had been taken away. And so it happened that the woman who stayed behind to seek Christ was the only one to see him. For perseverance is essential to any good deed, as the voice of truth tell us: "Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved."

from a homily by Pope Saint Gregory the Great

Posted by David at 7:01 AM  |  Comments (0)  | 


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