As we come off our Easter Vigil highs and recover from our sugar comas, it is so very good to acknowledge that we are still in the midst of the Easter Octave. Eight days of joyful and triumphant celebration? Count me in. I love being Catholic.
While the Easter Octave rolls on, I can’t help but continue to ponder the various accounts of the Resurrection of Our Lord that we find in the Gospels. Our spiritual lives can greatly flourish from meditating upon the disciples’ different responses to the Resurrection: fear, joy, doubt, hope. It’s all so very human; so very raw.
I am always particularly drawn to Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the Risen Christ. In Jesus’ risen humanity, His “real body possesses the new properties of a glorious body: not limited by space and time but able to be present how and when he wills; for Christ’s humanity can no longer be confined to earth and belongs henceforth only to the Father’s divine realm” (CCC 645). Because of His glorified humanity, Mary Magdalene does not initially recognize Jesus. She mistakes him for a simple gardener, one who might have some information concerning the location of Jesus’ body (cf. John 20:11-18).
So when were Mary’s eyes finally opened to the reality of who was standing in front of her? When Jesus spoke her name. Do not let this detail pass over us meaninglessly. Mary Magdalene is able to identify who Christ truly is once He identifies her. In a single utterance of her name, Jesus is able to penetrate the depths and crevices of Mary’s heart in a way no one else can. Mary then recognizes Jesus when He calls her name because He has called her before.
Mary Magdalene’s initial encounters with Christ were profound ones involving great healing. I mean, He had cast seven demons out of her, after all (cf. Mark 16:9). She knew Jesus as Healer, as Redeemer. He had taken her broken, desperate life and breathed His own life into her heart, reviving her and making her a new creation. These encounters with Christ so shook Mary Magdalene that she followed Him unceasingly, even to the foot of His Cross.
It is no wonder, then, that Mary Magdalene was able to fully accept the reality of the Resurrection when she was faced with it. Jesus had given her new life before, so why would His new resurrected life be an impossibility?
It is love that was first offered to Mary Magdalene by Our Lord. It was love that propelled her to respond with the reformation of her life. It was love that motivated her to walk the horrific path to the Cross with Him. It was love that propelled her to cling to the feet of Jesus in the Garden on that Easter morning. “…her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” (Luke 7:47). Mary Magdalene, because she was so healed and transformed by Christ, was able to respond to His Resurrection in entire belief and unwavering love. Jesus had reached out to Mary in love and mercy. And the rest of her life was a song of requited love to her Healer and Redeemer.
We would be wise, then, to take note of Mary Magdalene’s disposition during this Easter season. She does not let the Resurrection float by without thought or prayer. She throws herself into this grand mystery because she has been called and chosen. She responds with great love and zeal, immediately delivering the good news of salvation to the Apostles.
We, too, are called by name. Jesus offers us the same love and mercy He offered to Magdalene. We, too, are invited to a life that is free from slavery to sin. Jesus came to cast out our demons, to heal our hearts, to give us new life. This divine mission culminated during what we call ‘Holy Week’. Through His humble entrance into Jerusalem, His institution of the Eucharist, His sorrowful Passion, His death, and finally His Resurrection, Jesus opened to us the gates of salvation. He has conquered our sin and death so that we might be new creations in Him, just like Mary Magdalene. To not know Christ as Healer, then, is a great tragedy.
So may we continue on in our Easter celebration with hearts full of this truth: that “Christ’s whole life is a mystery of redemption” (CCC 517). May we seek to continually know Christ as Healer and Redeemer. May we, like Mary Magdalene, place all our eggs in His basket, knowing that the new life He offers us through His Resurrection is one of total and joyful fulfillment.
Happy Easter, dear friends. He has risen for us, indeed.