Early in the morning on the first day of the week, the women came with spices to anoint the body of Jesus.
When last we left them, they were sitting across from the tomb and being ignored by the soldiers set to guard it. We’re not told when they left. Perhaps they left to get the spices as soon as it was licit to carry things, after sunset on Saturday. Perhaps they stayed until it was almost dawn, and then went home.
It was while they were gone that the miracle occurred.
An angel appeared and rolled the stone away– the Roman guards who had so recently murdered Christ became like dead men in their shock. And Jesus Christ the Son of Man arose from the grave. He left the place– to go share the Good News with His mother, according to tradition. The holy women came back while He was away, and found Him gone.
You could almost laugh. Of all of Christ’s disciples, besides His Blessed Mother, those poor women never abandoned Him; they didn’t betray Him or sell Him or deny they even knew Him. During His whole passion and descent into Hell, they only left to get the spices to anoint His body. And when they got back, their Lord had disappeared.
It reminds me of the parable of the ten foolish virgins. I’ve often wondered what would have happened if those virgins hadn’t run off to the dealers to buy more oil. What if they’d stayed, waiting with the ones who had properly burning lamps– and then, when the Bridegroom came, they’d explained their mistake and asked forgiveness? What if they had waited for the Bridegroom, the only true source of light, rather than running off to try and buy sanctifying grace? Perhaps the story would have ended differently. Wouldn’t it have been lovely if Saint Peter had been standing at the tomb at dawn instead of hiding in the upper room? What if Judas hadn’t despaired, even after his terrible betrayal– what if he had let his sorrow lead him to the tomb to mourn, instead of off to hang himself? Wouldn’t it have been something if Christ had arisen from the dead to find His twelve apostles, twelve dearest friends who each failed Him in their own way, repentant, keeping vigil over the tomb the way they hadn’t kept vigil in Gethsemane?
But that’s not what happened. What happened was, the faithful women left to get the anointing things, and then Jesus got up and left.
They were properly horrified when they came back, and the angel didn’t do much to ease their fears. Off they ran, overwhelmed with shock and amazement. One gospel says they didn’t tell anyone but the other says that Mary Magdalene at least told the Apostles, and Peter and John went to have a look. Then they left again, but Mary Magdalene did not.
We hear constantly that Magdalene was a tearful, blubbering repentant harlot. We don’t often give her credit for being the disciple who was most faithful next to Our Lady. She was there at the foot of the Cross. She sat and watched the tomb with the other holy women. She only left long enough to get the spices with them. When she found Him missing, she was the one who told the Apostles– and when they left the tomb, she stayed put. Peter may have been named for a rock, but Magdalene was steady as a rock.
Magdalene saw two angels, but that didn’t phase her. She turned around and saw Jesus, but He didn’t look the way she expected so she mistook Him for the gardener.
You could almost laugh.
““Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
What’s she going to do with a dead body– one that’s been ripening for days? She couldn’t even carry it. She couldn’t put it anywhere– women in those days couldn’t own property, and she didn’t have a husband to buy any for her. She couldn’t buy a burial plot and stick Him in it. But she wasn’t going to leave Him. Not Mary Magdalene. Not even if her attempt to be close to Him made absolutely no sense.
Jesus called her by name. “Mary.”
And then she turned to Him.
Then she saw.
He’d risen from the dead on the third day, true to His word.
Now you have to laugh. Mary Magdalene is clinging to Him, crying “Rabboni!”
“Do not hold onto Me!” says Jesus, the Bridegroom back from the dead. Do not hold onto Me as only your teacher, only your rabbi. Do not hold onto what you thought you knew. Do not hold onto the way things used to be. Do not hold onto the past, where you were counted as nothing but a scandalous sinner, where they murdered Me and the sky was black. See? It is morning. I am doing something new. Nothing will be as it was before. “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”
The Apostles are not slaves but brothers– He calls them brothers. Mary Magdalene He appoints as the first human being to preach the Resurrection.
Off she runs again, to tell the apostles it’s really happened. “I have seen the Lord!”
Laugh. Laugh til your sides ache. Laugh til you cry like a Magdalene– then go forth and preach like a Magdalene. Spread the word til the ends of the Earth .Nothing will be as it was before. All was transformed into grace by the Passion of Christ, and this morning all was transformed into glory by His resurrection. The gates of Heaven stand open. The Bridegroom has returned with the Light of Life.
Why do you seek the living among the dead? Christ is not dead; He is risen! Alleluia! He is risen indeed!
(image via Pixabay)