All week long, we have accounts of the various appearances of Jesus to His disciples. Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene, and she doesn’t recognize Him. The apostles receive several visits, and they too did not recognize Him right away. Ditto for the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Ditto for the time when the apostles went out fishing and they saw someone on the shore … only after a miraculous catch of fish did they realize it was Jesus. And not only that, He had cooked breakfast for them!!!
Speaking of cooking breakfast, I was watching the TODAY show earlier this morning (I’m doing this Monday morning). They had a segment on the Duggar Family … how does one cook breakfast for 19 children??? Man, that’s some operation they have!!! Did you see the pantry? It looks like an aisle in a grocery store! And the washer and dryer room looks like a laundromat!!!
Anyway, I digress … of all the Easter stories, the one that most appeals to me is Magdalene’s encounter with the Risen Lord. Mary sits alone near the tomb after the departure of Peter and John. It is still dark, and she is quietly weeping and missing Jesus very much. Added to her grief is the confusion of finding the tomb empty.
But then Mary’s sadness gives way to bewilderment. She suddenly sees two unknown strangers in the tomb, and wonders how they got there. Then Mary is confronted with another puzzle. She sees another man in the garden, and thinks it is the gardener. But her perplexity doesn’t last long. By the mere pronunciation of her name, Jesus turns Mary’s grief into joy. She hears the warmth and love of Jesus’ voice. But Mary is still not completely sure. And so she does what I think most of us would do in her place. She reaches out and touches Jesus. Only then does the tremendous joy of that moment come over her. Mary is so full of joy that she hangs on to Jesus and doesn’t want to let go. It takes a gentle remonstrance from Jesus to make her stop clinging to Him.
Why? Because the Risen Jesus is no longer the Jesus she knew (hence the lack of recognition). But paradoxically, He is still the one she knew … she knew Him by the love in His voice. So maybe there’s the challenge for you and me. We so often cling to the Jesus we think we know, as though He were a favorite blankie. We cling to the image, and thus don’t see the reality … which could surpass all we ever thought we knew.
Jesus is way, way bigger than any thought or imagining of ours. That’s why it’s going to take an eternity to get to know Him fully!
Easter Joy to you and yours!!!
Fr. Herb, C.S.C.