Day 8


He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” 
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, 
tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”  Jesus said to her, “Mary.”  
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
  Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. 
Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your 
Father, to my God and your God.’”

John 20:15-17

Reflection & novena prayers written by Jennifer Ristine and illustrated by Danielle Storey.

Mary Magdalene’s long journey of conversion, her time of following Jesus, suffering at the foot of the cross, and longing for the Lord in darkness culminates in a surprise revelation from the Lord.  At first glance, Mary Magdalene appropriately mistakes Jesus for a gardener, for he is the tender of all God’s gifts in our souls.  He is also the Good Shepherd who will soon be recognized when he calls her name, “Mary.”  To hear her name spoken by Jesus works wonders within her.  Her sorrow turns to joy.  According to her, he was lost and now is found.  And she dare not lose him again.  She throws herself at his feet, clinging to him.  She cannot believe her good fortune.

But Jesus has other plans for her.  “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’” (Jn 20:17).  A new challenge surfaces for Mary Magdalene.  She is to discover a new way of relating to her Rabboni.  No longer will she see him in the flesh, but in faith.  No longer will she hear him audibly, but in the Spirit.  He must go to his Father, completing the gift of salvation that he came for, to bring humanity back into communion with the Father.

Perhaps Jesus’s words did not bear fruit instantly amidst the shock of this new revelation.  Perhaps Mary Magdalene, seemingly impulsive in her emotional state, had to learn from Jesus’s mother how to ponder his words in her heart.  Ponder she did, because the revelation of Jesus made it to John’s ears who preserved it for generations to come.  “I am going to my Father and your Father” (Jn 20:17).   Mary, in her new state of relating to Jesus, discovers that she is not abandoned, but has acquired a deeper rootedness in the Father.  Her foundations had appeared shaken, yet now she stands firm on her new identity as the daughter of a loving Father.

Like Mary, falling in love with Jesus takes us through the mysterious cloud of the Paschal Mystery where we discover what it means to convert, leave ourselves behind, and accompany Jesus in his travels from Galilee to the foot of the cross in Jerusalem.  He may leave us waiting for him on that silent Sabbath, confused at the empty tomb, but he also rewards us with the gift of himself through deeper faith, hope, and love.  The fruit of persevering in this journey is the joy of finding our place in the family of God.  We discover our identity as sons and daughters of a providential Father and beloved friend of the Shepherd of our souls.

Lord Jesus, open the eyes and ears of our hearts to recognize your presence and voice in our daily lives.  Thank you for the gift of salvation and the chance to be fully embraced by our heavenly Father.  Grant us perseverance in the journey of knowing, following, and loving you.  Help us to live according to our identity as a beloved child of God.   To those who struggle in faith, who fear giving themselves wholeheartedly, and who are weary of the journey, grant perseverance and new hope.  Amen.

St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us.

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