What were Peter and Mary Magdalene thinking, feeling, and doing on Tuesday morning after Jesus’ resurrection? Our scriptures today tell us what Peter was doing some 48 days later on Pentecost and what Mary Magdalene did that first Easter morning. But what were they doing on the ordinary day of Tuesday in between those great events? What difference did Jesus’ resurrection make for them on an ordinary day?
What difference does Jesus’ resurrection make for me THIS Tuesday morning? After a break from work of almost a week to enter into the Easter mysteries, Tuesday morning I return to my ordinary world: paperwork to do, appointments to keep, tasks to get done, people to love. My responsibilities this Tuesday will be no different from responsibilities last Tuesday.
Am I any different? Should I expect to be? What difference does the resurrection make in how I live this Tuesday?
As I ponder those questions, I look closely at today’s Gospel. It describes when Mary Magdalene first encountered the RISEN Jesus. Mary Magdalene was healed of seven demons by Jesus and traveled in his company providing for him “out of her means” during much of his public ministry. She stood with the other Marys at the foot of the cross on Good Friday. She watched him be buried with an intention to come back to do one last loving thing, to wrap his body properly with spices and oils.
But when Mary Magdalene came back to the tomb she found it empty. How bitter her tears must have been as it seemed that she had been robbed of the opportunity for a last act of love! Instead of Jesus’ body she found two angels. Was there sadness or fury in her voice as she said, “They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him!”
Mary then turned around to encounter the risen Jesus. I hear great tenderness in His voice as He says, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?”
Mary did not recognize Him. She thought it was the gardener. There is great pleading and desperation now in her voice as she says, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him.”
Then Jesus let Himself be known. All He said was, “Mary!” How much love must have been in Jesus’ voice for this one who had loved Him with such gratitude and generosity—and who had stood with Him on Good Friday!
“Rabbouni, Teacher!” Mary replied. How much love and joy in her voice in return! She must have turned to hug Him, for He said, “Stop holding onto me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to My Father and Your Father, to my God and your God.’”
Mary went to tell the disciples. Peter and John came then to the tomb to see.
Fifty days later on Pentecost Peter began his career as preacher. After telling the story of Jesus as the story of God’s salvation through the Jewish people, he named what to do, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call.”
After Easter Sunday morning we hear no more in scripture of Mary Magdalene. She was the first evangelist of the resurrection, but, having done her job, her story returns her to the ordinary—to ordinary Tuesdays.
There are numerous legends about her. Some say she lived in Ephesus with John and the Blessed Mother. Some have her struggling with Peter and the disciples. Some have her put adrift in a boat with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany. The boat carried them to the mouth of the Rhone in France where they began to establish Christianity. Eventually, in this legend, Mary Magdalene became the first Christian contemplative.
Legends give her a special place, but scripture makes her a model for me this Tuesday morning. She is a model for doing my ordinary part in evangelization. Mary Magdalene obeyed Jesus from love. She told the people Jesus told her to tell.
Those people did not believe in the resurrection because Mary Magdalene said so. She was a link in the chain of conversion for them. Her word was enough to get Peter and John to run to the tomb. In other Gospel accounts other women were with her; she shared her role with them. Jesus appeared to the disciples in the Upper Room, at the sea of Tiberius, and numerous other times in the 40 days after Easter Sunday. Peter and the other now-apostles began to preach…and the world changed.
On Tuesday morning after the resurrection Peter’s new role as evangelist had not yet begun. Mary’s scriptural role was finished.
Both encountered the Risen Christ.
I do not know which (if any) of the legends about Mary Magdalene are true. I’m fond of the “she became the first Christian contemplative” ending to her story, but it is legend. We know she is a saint. We know much more about Peter. He became the first Pope and died a martyr.
Now what about me…and you? I have encountered the Risen Christ. What difference does that make for me this ordinary Tuesday morning? Pope Francis has some words for me…and perhaps for you:
“The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew.” (Evangelii Gaudium, paragraph 1)
And so Pope Francis invites us, as I think Jesus invited Mary Magdalene, “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least to an openness to letting him encounter them.” (paragraph 3)
And this is what we can then expect to happen:
“Thanks solely to this encounter—or renewed encounter—with God’s love, which blossoms into an enriching friendship, we are liberated from our narrowness, and self-absorption. We become fully human when we become more than human, when we let God bring us beyond ourselves in order to attain the fullest truth of our being. Here we find the source and inspiration of all our efforts at evangelization. For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?” (paragraph 8)
Lord, I can encounter You, the Risen Christ, every time I go to mass, every time I receive Eucharist or another sacrament. I can encounter You in prayer and in the works of mercy You give me to do. I am not a Peter, but I can be a Mary Magdalene. I can do my small part in the story of salvation. I can be obedient and tell the people I know what I have seen, the joy of a personal relationship with You. Lord, help me to see that it is truly You. Let me recognize You. Let me be transformed. Then, Lord, whether you have me keep house in Frankfort instead of Ephesus, or set me adrift in a boat with my friends, or have me struggle within the Church, or lead me to a life of prayer, Be with me, Lord! Let every ordinary Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday be extraordinary because of the joy of the Good News that You are risen! You are risen, indeed! And the life you proclaim is a life of joy—even if it is very hidden and ordinary or filled with sorrows and complicated struggles. May my encounters with You be fresh and frequent enough that I never forget that, never fail to share the gift of joy.
Today’s Readings: Acts 2: 36-41, from Psalm 33, John 20: 11-18