In the Gospel passage today from John, Mary Magdalene meets Jesus in the garden. At first, she supposes him to be a gardener who might have taken Jesus’ body away. Later, after she belatedly recognizes Jesus, he tells her not to cling to him.
What does this mean?
In calling him “Rabbouni,” Mary looked to Jesus as the same teacher that she had known before. Not just “a teacher,” but “my teacher.” However, there is a problem with this perspective.
Things are not the same. He came to teach us, yes. But he came first to save us. His life was directed toward his death and Resurrection. He is our Savior. Jesus is looking forward in continuing his mission of doing the will of the Father. He has been victorious over death. But he is not yet finished.
Mary is clinging to the past. She is looking to return to the days of sitting at the feet of the teacher. She needs to instead transition to the new ways to come. Jesus will return to the Father. But he will not leave us. Instead, he will still be present to us in a special way. In each of our hearts. At all times and in all places. And, we also have the benefit of the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, that he sends to us and that is present with us now. This Spirit strengthens us with graces and gifts, helps to yield fruits, and even “intercedes with inexpressible groanings” (Romans 8:26) when we do not know how to pray as we ought.
Treasuring our memories is a good thing. Trying to turn back the clock rather than moving forward in our lives is not. Our reality, no matter how difficult, is our reality. We might even need to grieve that reality. But, what does God want us to do going forward? How do we grow closer to God and help others to do so? How do grow closer to our families?
Perhaps, when we look back on this time, we will see the beginning of a greater appreciation of what is important. And a greater appreciation of the simpler things. We will find that our families have grown closer together. That this is when we started gathering for prayer and for meals. That our families started to more closely resemble the domestic church that they are supposed to be. That our homes began to include home altars, prayer corners or rooms, enthroned Bibles, and displayed rosaries and sacred images. And during this forced fast, that we grew in our appreciation of the Eucharist.
Perhaps that is the good that comes out of this physical evil. Perhaps that is how we are called to move forward in our own mission in this world.