Mary Magdalene’s Grief

Written by Sr. Rosemary Finnegan, O.P.
Readings from:

Because of this Covid-19 crisis, we all have experienced a form of collective grief when we watch the news each day.  We have seen families grieving the loss of their loved ones, and we know in our hearts that each time we hear the incredible number of deceased people, that each number represents a person who was a father, mother, sibling, spouse and friend.  Each family’s grief and sense of helplessness are overwhelming.

This sad experience put me in touch with what Mary Magdalene must have felt in today’s Gospel. We know she was present on Golgotha, and watched as Our Lord was crucified, suffered and died. While all the other disciples ran away, she remained at the cross fearless, yet helpless and sad, with Jesus’ Mother and the apostle John.

Picture her, then, that next Sunday morning before dawn, alone at the tomb deeply grieving. Imagine her shock and confusion at seeing the stone rolled away, wondering what had happened.  Then, she saw someone she thought was the gardener and heard him say softly, “Mary”.

She recognized the Lord's voice and in that single moment, shock and surprise, respect and love, thankfulness and joy all came together.  She threw herself at the Lord’s feet, then quickly, ran to the Apostles who were fearful and distraught at Jesus’ death. She cried out to them with great joy, "I have seen the Lord!”  It was Mary who became the first person to share the good news of Christ’s resurrection.  She proclaimed this message to the Apostles themselves.

Perhaps many of us are feeling like Mary Magdalene these days.  Despite the fact that we celebrated the wondrous feast of Easter on Sunday, we may feel, like her, that we’re still standing by an empty tomb in these times.  So much of what we knew and how we lived has been upended.  Our rushed lives have become hushed.

But the gospel story continues, and we look to Mary Magdalene again who, despite standing by an empty tomb, saw the Lord in a way she surely didn’t expect.  He appeared to her and took her by total surprise.  The emptiness of that tomb brought forth new life in Christ, and she runs off breathlessly saying: “I have seen the Lord”.

Perhaps this particular Easter season is calling us to ask, ‘Where have I seen the Lord these days?”  Out of this sadness, we’ve also witnessed incredible stories of compassion, caring for others, and honoring those who are on the front lines serving us.  Many of us can share a personal story of someone reaching out to us and surprising us with an unexpected kindness, or how we’ve reached out to someone, or of groups caring for the needy among us with food and supplies, of families being creative in how they’re worshipping in their own homes, etc. In these acts, the Lord is present.

Once Mary Magdalene told the apostles “I have seen the Lord”, they were never the same again.  Their hearts and their lives were transformed forever.  As Easter people, may we recognize and be changed by the Lord of surprises during these days, so we too can say and share, “I have seen the Lord.”