Fr. John Eudes, OCSO
St. Mary Magdalene
Today’s Feast in Honor of St. Mary Magdalene presents us with an account of her visit to the tomb of Jesus that remains dramatic in the telling, no matter how familiar we are with it. The fact that our Lord chose to appear first to this converted woman who had been a public sinner, is a striking indication that he has a particular concern for the salvation of the sinful. For Mary was known as a public sinner, condemned by the righteous until she encountered the Lord. She did nothing by halves. She boldly made a dramatic entrance into the home of a Pharisee and anointed the feet of Jesus with an expensive perfumed oil.
In today’s Gospel our Lord is the one who gives a dramatic turn to this even more striking encounter. Mary comes early in the morning, showing her eager desire to honor her Savior so recently put to death. But the body is no longer in the tomb, much to her dismay. Who could have removed it? She suspects the only person she observes nearby, and upon accosting him immediately recognizes her Master at the sound of his voice.
Quite naturally, in her sudden joy she seeks to embrace the Lord, but is rebuffed by him, according to the Greek text. The English translation we have just heard gives the impression than the words that are in the original for it states that Mary had embraced Jesus. The actual wording of the Greek seems rather to forbid her to so much as touch him. Literally, it states “Do not touch me.” He belongs now in a transcendent manner to the Father; his body no longer in its humble state, subject to the laws and limits of this earth. This was the lesson the Lord wanted her to learn from this first encounter with the risen Savior. Later, when he met with the apostles he invited them to feel his wounded hands and feet and side. By then he returned to them from the Father.
For us today this passage of the Gospel of John continues to affirm the reality of Christ’s resurrection while indicating that his glorified state lives the transcendent life of heavenly existence, no longer subject to the limits of time. The appearance to Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb reveals to us something of the nature of our eternal life with God.