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Lent is a time for Christians to fully examine their relationship with the Lord. Through prayer, sacrifice and service, we develop an understanding of what it means to "take up your cross and follow me." (Mark 8:34) As Christians, we are called to live Christ's life- not to study the life of Jesus and try to be like Him, but actually let Him live through us.

In my own journey this Lent, Our Lord is asking me to fully understand His love. Through several prayer experiences, I hear him calling me to this deeper understanding of His love- not just with my head, but with my heart. And the key to understanding that amazing love is to understand His suffering. My intellect understands that the Lord suffered, but I have never explored His suffering with my heart. His love is greater than His suffering, but how great was that suffering?

I am participating in an independent Threshold Bible Study called People of the Passion by Stephen J. Binz. In this study, I will explore the meaning of discipleship through the people who encounter Jesus during His passion. These people witness and are impacted by the suffering of Jesus. They saw the suffering of our Lord first hand. It is my hope that by going on this journey through their eyes, I will have a better understanding of His suffering and then of His love.

Please know that I am not a scholar. I have no formal education in theology, philosophy or church history. I'm just a regular person trying to make sense of what Jesus is asking me to do- to love like He loves.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Day 30- Mary Magdalene Comes to the Tomb

John 20:1-2, 11-18

1 2 3 On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran 4 and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, "They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don't know where they put him."
Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken my Lord, and I don't know where they laid him." When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" She thought it was the gardener and said to him, "Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni," 9 which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, "Stop holding on to me, 10 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 of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord," and what he told her.

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.

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