Monday, April 18, 2016

Noli Me Tangere

What is so beautiful about Mary Magdalene’s post-resurrection scene in John is how badly, how terribly badly Mary wants the Lord’s body. The experiences she shared with Christ were so deeply meaningful that though he has died, she has to reverence even his body while it is still there in the tomb. But now he is seen living. So, naturally, she reaches. She grasps for, wants to hold and cling and embrace the one who told her everything she ever did. Mary wants to touch his skin and hear his heart beat. And Jesus says, No. Stop holding onto me, Mary. Do not touch me even. I have yet to ascend. I have still to leave you again. Do not cling to me. Can you imagine? What a terrible thing to it must have been to hear.

It was the same at table with the apostles, their last supper together: For so long a time I have been with you, Jesus says to them, but now I am going to him who sent me, and it is better for you that I go. But why! is the unanimous shout. You have given us everything and now you are to leave? It has been good that we are here together, Lord. Let us build tents; let us remain with you like this forever. And Jesus says, No. Unless I go, the Spirit will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him.

But what is the Spirit? Mary might say. You are the one who gave me living water. Yours is the foot that received my tears, the head on which I lavished my perfume. You took me by the hand and whispered in my ear talitha cumi, and I breathed again with fresh lungs. Yours is the flesh I love. It is in your shadow, Jesus, that I sit with delight. Your love is better to me than wine.

Mary, he responds curtly. I have to go. I have to ascend. The drama is that Mary, whose teacher has just returned from the dead, wants it all to be just as it was. Jesus is telling her that it cannot be so. It is different now. After the resurrection things are different—a better kind of different. Jesus goes to his Father so that he, his Father and his Spirit can come and make their home within Mary, within all the baptized. This is our Faith: that the Holy Trinity lives within us. It is a direct consequence of the Resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost. Imagine if we really believed it! What if we lived standing firm upon that belief?

It is better for Mary after Pentecost. To understate it: Mary will never have to reach for Jesus again because Jesus will always be closer than arm’s length. She will never suffer his absence again, for she will always already be inside his embrace.

+ Br. Joseph Michael Fino, CFR
Bronx, NY
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