Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over 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 do not know where they have 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,” which means teacher. Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father and your Father, My God and your God.” Mary went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and then reported what He told her (John 20: 11-18).
One can easily picture the distraught Mary Magdalene, kneeling in exhausted sorrow that Easter Morning, before Our Lord’s tomb. Sobs rack her body; her eyes are swollen from two days of grief, and her strength has faded. She had seen Jesus tried, tortured, and crucified. With Mary, and a handful of others she had hastily prepared Jesus for burial, and watched the stone set to seal the tomb. These past two days had been spent in a numb pain; alternating between fear, anger, and grief. How could this have happened to her Lord? There was nothing more that the chief priests, council, temple guard, or Roman soldiers could do that would surprise her.
Now, as Mary Magdalene kneels in agony before the empty tomb, her pain is so great that she misses the joy that is before her. Her sorrow is so monumental that she is utterly oblivious to the two angels in white who are sitting “one at the head and one at the feet where the Body of Jesus had been.” The angels speak to her, and Mary is still so thoroughly immersed in her own grief that their presence, their words do not even register.
Christ Himself repeats the query of the angels: “Woman, why are you weeping?” She perceives Him to be a gardener, and is so intent on finding the dead Jesus, that she misses the Risen, Living Christ in front of her very eyes! She wants to find Jesus’s body, and return it lovingly to the tomb. She is even willing to try to carry it herself – “tell me where you laid Him, and I will take Him.” However, God’s plans are far greater than she can imagine. As Jesus calls her name, her eyes are opened – just like so many of the blind whom Jesus had cured. One can imagine the joyous reunion and Mary hugging Jesus with the strength of an iron vice-grip. One can almost sense a hint of amusement in Our Lord’s voice as He tells to loosen her grip: “Stop clinging to me!” Jesus tells Mary that He still has work to accomplish. “I have not yet ascended to My Father and your Father, My God and your God.” It is as if Our Lord is telling her, “In Heaven you will have all eternity to cling to Me if you wish, but for now, We need to get moving. You have work to do, as do I!” Again, there is a message for us as well. How often do we miss the grace and miracles that Our Lord lavishes upon us, because we are too narrowly focused on challenges of which seem insurmountable? God’s glorious designs surpass our greatest fears; His brilliance erases the bleakness of our sorrow. Jesus calls each of our names, just as He called out to Mary. Our task is to recognize the call, and respond to it with a hearty embrace of Our Risen Lord.
As the Easter Octave progresses we move toward the Great Feast of Mercy Sunday. We continue with the fifth day of our novena of Divine Mercy Chaplets. Again, full instructions regarding how to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet can be found on the Divine Mercy Website of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception at: http://thedivinemercy.org/message/devotions/praythechaplet.php.
Today bring to me the souls of those who have separated themselves from My Church and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy. During My passion they tore at My Body and My Heart, that is, My Church. As they return to unity with the Church, My wounds heal and in this way they alleviate My Passion (1218, p. 438 – Divine Mercy in My Soul, Congregation of Marians, 1987).”
Most Merciful Jesus, Goodness Itself, You do not refuse light to those who seek it of You. Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who have separated themselves from Your Church. Draw them by Your Light into the unity of the Church, and do not let them escape from the abode of your Most Compassionate Heart; but bring it about that they, too, come to glorify the generosity of Your mercy. Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls of those who have separated themselves from Your Son’s Church, who have squandered Your blessings and misused Your graces by obstinately persisting in their errors. Do not look upon their errors, but upon the love of Your own Son and upon His bitter Passion, which He underwent for their sake, since they, too, are enclosed in His Most Compassionate Heart. Bring it about that they also may glorify Your great mercy for endless ages. Amen. (Divine Mercy Novena and Chaplet, Pamphlet [LFMCN], 2012 Marian Fathers of the Immaculate conception of the B.V.M.)
Today let us join St. Maria Faustina in praying for those who have separated themselves from the Holy Church. We intercede for all individuals who squander the graces God has lavished upon them, and pray that they may soon return to unity with the Church. As Jesus Himself prayed, “Father, may they all be one (John 17:21).” With Mary Magdalene, may we each have the grace to turn to Lord, and respond to His call; to embrace Him with all our strength, and to endeavor to do His will. May the Risen Christ bless you and yours abundantly.