Mary Magdalene was the first to discover the empty tomb. In her grief, she went to the tomb while it was still dark. But when she arrived, she discovered that the tomb had been opened and the body of Jesus was gone. She assumed the grave had been robbed and his body taken. Upon her discovery, the fresh wounds in her heart over his death were made deeper. Little did she know she was not alone. The angels at the tomb asked her why she was weeping. After explaining that her Lord had been taken, she looks and sees Jesus but does not recognize him. When he says her name, she realizes it is him. And then he tells her that she must not cling to him. That last part is rather surprising to me. Why must she let him go?
Mary and the rest of the disciples had the great privilege of knowing Jesus while he walked on this earth. They were able to hear his voice, see his face, hug him, and share meals with him. They walked with him, witnessed his miracles and ministered to his needs. He was a tangible person to them. He was a flesh and blood God. Once he died and rose from the grave, Jesus says to Mary that she cannot hold on to him like she did when he was in the flesh. He is ascending to the Father and she will have to come to know him in a new way. Instead of a flesh and blood God, she will have to come to know Jesus as he is in being one with the Father. She will have to see him in her heart rather than with her eyes. Once she understands, he gives her a mission and tells her to deliver the good news to the other disciples- that he has risen.
Mary Magdalene's experience in the tomb is one that most, if not all Christians come to know. As children, we are taught about Jesus. We get to know an historical figure who taught about peace and love. We learn how much he loved by understanding his Passion and death. And then we learn about his divinity and power by his resurrection. But, for some of us, the learning stops there. We come to know Jesus as a great man who did great things and was the son of a great God. But he is not personal to us. He is not real in our present lives. Then, just as he did with Mary, he calls out our name. He calls us to himself. Maybe it happens in your experience with the Eucharist. Maybe it happens in a prayer experience. Maybe he calls you through the words of a priest or friend. We may not recognize him at first. Maybe it takes a while for us to understand his voice. But once we do, we have a choice: we can let him in our hearts or we can ignore him. Mary chose to let him in. Even though I am sure she would have loved to have her flesh and blood God back, she submitted to his new way of knowing Christ and she let him into her heart. And then she did the only thing one desires to do once they have had that encounter with the Lord: she obeyed his call and evangelized. She went out and proclaimed the good news. She told others about the risen Lord who loves them in a new and unimaginable way. As morning took hold of the land and light spilled out onto the horizon, a new light also arose in Mary. Jesus turned her darkness into light. He longs to do that with all of us. All we have to do is say yes and let him into our hearts and lives. We are the candles and he longs to be our flame.