I have always loved the fact that Scripture tells us the first person to discover that the stone had been rolled away from Christ’s tomb, and then the first to see the Risen Lord, was Mary Magdalene. This woman who had been possessed by seven demons was surely an outcast of society, was alone and a mess—was not a woman of accomplishment, not known for learning, for leadership, or for good works. She was not a woman who “had her act together,” nor had she made herself worthy of Jesus’s love and attention. Yet Jesus loved her; her brokenness was healed, and she was made new. Once again, Christ turns the social order upside down. Mary Magdalene’s honored place in this story intensely conveys that sanctification and salvation are total gifts, and that perhaps the more aware we are of our need, the more we are able to receive these gifts.
In today’s Gospel, Mary Magdalene is questioned, first by angels and then by Christ himself: “Woman, why do you weep?” Rhetorically, it seems that they are trying to prepare her to recognize the Risen Lord, because after all, isn’t it obvious why someone who just witnessed the events of Holy Week and then—insult to injury – found the Lord’s body missing, would be crying? One weeps when one is overcome with emotion, when one is exhausted, when the mental or physical strain of a situation overwhelms what one is capable of processing. Others respond differently: they might self-isolate, get quiet, or brood; some might grow angry or lash out; others might deny or suppress their feelings and put on a false shell. But for many of us, our go-to, strong emotional response is tears. I am one of those, so it is particularly meaningful to me that while some people, even myself at times, may cast shame on others for seeming weak when expressing strong emotion through tears, Mary Magdalene’s melt-down is not a problem for Jesus. He loves this imperfect, beautifully “human” human who weeps. He approaches her gently, not to alarm her, and then he simply speaks her name, and she knows it is him.
This time when I read this passage, I was reminded of some of the many times when I have been found weeping when it was time for rejoicing. I had a good cry at my own wedding reception and have broken down on many a Christmas. At times of emotional upheaval, I’ve been tempted, and have often fallen, to wallow in my shame and despair because I find myself still human. In my heart, I take on the names I give myself or fear others are giving me . . . Why am I such “a mess?”
This Easter, I find myself still very human. In fact, we all are, as were the apostles on the first Easter. St. Peter, despite having recently denied Jesus, is entrusted with the keys to the Kingdom. Mary Magdalene, the one-time outcast, is the first commissioned by Christ to share the Good News. Like these first followers, we have been chosen by Christ, despite our personal weakness. In turn, we can choose to listen to the voice of the one who loves us; we can listen to our name that is tenderly spoken by the one who died and has risen, by the one through whose power and love our lowliness is recreated.
Like Mary Magdalene, let us turn to Jesus and see the risen Lord for who he is—the one who loves us and calls us by name and sends us forth. Let us open our hearts and be transformed and empowered by the sanctifying and redeeming grace of the one who makes all things new.
Becca, I too, am a woman of tears! How well-acquainted I am with feeling like an unkempt “mess” when my poignant emotions rise. How beautiful it is that Jesus is drawn to us in our need and weakness. How he chooses us to behold him for the loving sake of transformation! This is a love-story that never grows old. Thank you for your witness to the power of our resurrected Jesus – the lover of our souls. God bless you for this post that ministers to my heart today!
Thank you for this beautiful post, Becca. It is so liberating to think that Jesus is NOT holding us to the same harsh standards that we so often hold ourselves to.
This is by far the most beautiful reflection I’ve ever read on Mary Magdalene at the tomb of Christ. I am also a woman of tears! Thanks for the reminder that He loves us totally, messy parts and all.
I’ve always loved that Our Lord appeared to Mary Magdalene first. Such a comfort!
I, too, cry during holidays and visits, and times of joy. Satan who whispers our faults is such a deceiver! And Christ? So so gentle and loving.
Thank you for this beautiful reminder!
I love your comments about personal weakness as not being an obstacle for Christ. I love thinking of him calling our names with his tender voice. Thank you!
Thank you for your beautiful post about Mary Magdalen. As a “Mary Magdalen” myself, my mom chose that first and middle name for me because of her love and ability to see the true and beautiful devotion of Mary Magdalen to her Lord Jesus. I have often wondered what it must’ve been like to be her and how she related to Jesus. I’ve never heard such a beautiful depiction of my namesake. Thank you for giving me a glimpse into this amazing, broken, yet faithful woman who sought to be with Jesus at every turn. I love it!!
Those tears wash the very feet of Our Savior! Great post.
Thank you, ladies! I’m so grateful to hear this post was helpful for you. I’ve been marveling at the freedom choosing to listen to Christ’s voice calling our names provides. It liberated us to move forward in becoming the saint he wants us to become. Happy Easter!