Friday, April 6, 2018

Easter Homily Father Bob Wild

Mary Magdalene

Some of the details of the different gospels of what happened Easter Sunday do not agree. That’s understandable, as that day was explosive and most confusing—about someone rising from the dead. Different stories were circulating, and we all know how stories can change from one person to another! For example, in Matthew’s account that we heard yesterday, two Mary’s—Mary Magdalen and “the other Mary” both took hold of the feet of Jesus. “Then Jesus said to them go…” In John’s gospel this evening only Mary sees the Lord. Were there two first witnesses of the resurrected Lord or only one? The disciples along the road to Emmaus spoke of “some women.” In any case, it seems that
the first witnesses were women. For my meditation this evening I’ll
concentrate on John’s account, that Mary Magdalen was the sole and first witness.

Why did the Lord first appear to Mary Magdalene? (Think for a moment on how you would answer that question. Whatever answer you gave, it is not my theory.) One of your answers might have been, “Well, she was there!” That’s a probable answer. He might have appeared to Peter and John if they had hung around a little longer. But as soon as they saw the empty tomb, they left. Vs. 9 (just before our gospel this evening) says “For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned home.”

Maybe he appeared to Mary because she believed he would rise again. (It seems none of the apostles did.) We don’t know what Mary actually believed. From the text this evening it seems she thought somebody had removed his body—hardly a belief in the resurrection! But Mary was heart-broken. She didn’t know what had happened to her loving Lord. So she stayed and wept, probably hoping she might be able to find out what happened. Probably also this disappearance of the body was the last straw to all the suffering she had seen at the foot of cross; and days of pent-up and acute sorrow finally gushed forth.

So the risen Jesus appeared to her, first of all, to console her. Perhaps. It was the depth and agony of her love, the fullness of her devotion, that caused her to forget, for a moment, the conventional restraints of a Jewish woman’s approach to a strange man.

A third explanation is that his appearance to this woman is another
sign of the graciousness of our Redeemer who came for us ordinary
people, people with whom he sits at a well and tells another woman
that he is the promised Redeemer of the world. When he rises from the dead he doesn’t appear to the roman emperor or the head of the
Jewish Sanhedrin. He appears to this woman from whom, Luke tells us, “seven demons had gone out,” and he reveals to her the greatest external, historical event in the history of the world—the resurrection.

Fr. Chris thinks he first appeared to Mary because of her great love for him. This probably is what most of you think. Fr. Linder came close tomy explanation in a general sort of way, but it was still deficient.

Here is my theory. St. John says at the end of his gospel that there are many things that happened that are not recorded. There might have been other resurrection appearances not recorded, appearances that even the apostles didn’t know about. Maybe Jesus appeared to his Mother first. I’d like to think so. We don’t know. But there must be some great mystery involved in why the Holy Spirit wanted the first recorded appearance for all time to be to Mary of Magdala.

What follows is my theory. It’s not in the Catholic Catechism! Actually, there’s no explanation at all in the Catechism to this question, so you can believe whatever you want!
I think the main reason he appeared to Mary had to do not so much
with who she was in her personal relationship with Jesus, as to the fact that she was a woman, and that as a woman he had a particular
mission for her, an important role he wanted her to play in the
transmission of the resurrection to the history of the world.
I know it’s a cliché, but the hand the rocks the cradle rules the world. In God’s plan a child normally receives his or her first knowledge of the family’s religious understanding from its mother. St. John Paul said that parents are the first missionaries to their children. And the Second Vatican Council said that parents are the first heralds of the faith to their children. I think this is true especially of the mother.

I’m very sure I first heard the name of Jesus from my mother. It was my mom who taught me how to pray. It was my mom who held me for my first subliminal experiences of the Mass. I am sure this is true also for those of you who grew up in a faith-filled home.

For most of the history of the world—and still in many places today—the mother is the first bearer of tradition and religion to children.

So, Jesus wanted first of all to implant deeply the truth of the
resurrection in the heart of woman. (We don’t know if Mary had any children. Maybe she did. It’s not essential to this understanding of her mission I’m giving you.)

We hear a lot, in the scriptures, about the men spreading the
gospel—the apostles and disciples. And yes, Paul mentions a few
women who were helping out! But consider how the news of the
resurrection must have spread among and by the women!

After Mary took the good news to the doubting apostles, she surely
then went among the women-folk and told them that she herself had seen the risen Jesus. It was not something she had been told by Peter or any of the apostles: She herself had seen him! Jesus first planted the experience of the resurrection in the heart of women.
Women have the greatest communication system in the world! (I won’t go into it!) Mary`s testimony probably spread like wild-fire among the women near and far. They spoke about it in the market place; they
spoke about it when visiting each other’s homes with their children;
they spoke about it when they were delivering children; they spoke
about it when they were washing clothes down at the water’s edge;
they spoke about it when they were talking over the back fences—if they had fences! I believe the message of the resurrection spread more rapidly and extensively among the women of the world than through the preaching of the apostles and men disciples.

So what does this mean for us? First of all that Jesus desires to reveal his risen presence to each of his sisters and brothers, to ordinary people, to sinners like Mary and sinners like us.

Secondly—according to my theory!—it emphasizes the enormous importance of the parents and the family in instilling their faith in their children; and especially the centrality of mothers in this primary mission to their children. And my final point I make in fear and trembling—trusting in the understanding of my brothers—it may be that the women of the world are more open
to believing in and preserving the faith of the resurrection than are
men. It may generally be so! The gospel witnesses, generally, to the
doubt of the apostles and the faith of the women. I will stop here
before the men start throwing things at me!

Anyhow, this is my meditation of why Jesus appeared first to Mary of Magdala. In the Orthodox Church she is considered to be an
apostle—the first to announce the resurrection. What a great dignity!

May she be an example to all of us, not only to spread the news of the resurrection, but especially to be excited about it! She must have ran all the way to tell the brethren that she had seen the Lord! It’s also her excitement we need to recover. (Story of parish homily)

And the Lord’s first appearance to Mary is a special vocational call to the women of the world to preserve and spread this great truth of the resurrection to especially, all the children of the world.

St. Mary Magdalen, first apostle of the resurrection to the nations, pray for us! And now, with great excitement—Christ is risen!

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