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John 20: 1-18  Recognizing the signs of the Resurrection

4pb 01Marie Aschehoug-Clauteaux, Venezuela, “Mujer”In John’s Gospel we find Mary of Magdala going to the tomb by herself and doing so for no particular reason.  She is not bringing oil to anoint the body of Jesus, since that had already taken place in the fourth Gospel, during the burial, by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. She walks in the dark that surrounds her and dwells in her heart, immersed in the confusion and desolation caused by the passion and death of Jesus.
 
Moved by the intensity and intimacy lived in her discipleship with the Master, she goes to the place where she can maintain some contact with the only remaining evidence of him: his lifeless body.  Then, besides the grief over his tragic death, she faces another tragedy, seeing that the tombstone had been removed. Mary is convinced that someone had taken away the body of Jesus.
 
This is the first announcement that she makes to Peter and the Beloved Disciple, who then run to the tomb and go inside: one observes and verifies, the other sees and believes. The experience of these two brothers however, does not resolve Mary’s drama, as she remains alone at the tomb, weeping.
 
Her ability to stay in that moment, as she had done at the foot of the cross, reveals her  dissatisfied and tenacious soul, capable of being present and persevere, while experiencing a bereavement beyond consolation. Three times the Evangelist describes how she cries, expressing the pain of this separation, his absence, her loneliness and disorientation.
 
4pb 02Marie Aschehoug-Clauteaux, Venezuela, “Un je t’aime. Et cela suffit.”At one point, though remaining outside, she bends down to look inside the tomb and sees two angels who pose her a question. Blinded by pain, even when facing two beings that usually reveal the presence of God, she keeps repeating that she has to find out where they had brought the body of the person to whom she feels she belongs in a unique way, so as to call him “my” Lord.
 
The stone that had been removed, the empty tomb, the sight of bandages and the shroud, the presence of two angels: all these are clues that were taken by the other disciples as signs of a new event that helped them open themselves to the supernatural and an unprecedented resurrection. Mary, however, continues to keep her eyes fixated on the tomb, she remains  attached to the place of death, anchored in what she believes to know, unable to reason out her own conjectures.
 
Suddenly she decides to turn around, to fix her gaze in another direction, and that makes a major change by giving her a different perspective, having the tomb behind her back. This is how she is approached by something new: the presence of a man she believes to be the gardener. He raises a fundamental question, asking her who is the subject of her search and of her desire. Mary repeats her same answer, she continues to look for a corpse, but surprisingly, she hears her name being called and recognizes the voice of the Lord Jesus, to whom she responds with the words, “My Master!” The Gospels imply that it is only possible to see the Risen Lord when He takes the initiative and makes himself known.
 
What emotion and what joy we can imagine came into Mary’s heart!  What sense of belonging and possessiveness are hiding in that adjective – “my!”  What an upheaval to find alive the One she believed was dead and gone forever!
 
4pb 03Os Gemeos, BrazilSpontaneously, she attempts to make physical contact. Mary probably embraced his feet, as it is told in the Gospel of Matthew, hoping perhaps to hold Jesus back, to continue to enjoy his presence and his words. But this new event is not over yet: there would be other ways for him to manifest his  presence, but it is the time for them to let him go.  An a new life begins for this woman, as she is invested with a unique mission: Mary becomes the apostle of the apostles, that is, the one who is sent to the Eleven and to the circle of disciples and proclaim Jesus’ resurrection.
 
She is the first witness called to announce the Resurrection and to share what she had experienced and heard at first hand, to express through her way of being: “The Lord has risen and continues to rise here and now. He is the seed of life, the energy that rolls off the boulders from the tombs of human history. His resurrection will not rest until it shatters the stone that closes off the last human heart and its force does not reach to the ultimate branch of creation.”

 

Questions for reflection

Individual
Am I willing to “turn around” and “fix my gaze in another direction” to attain another perspective from my past experiences?  Do I cling to what I knew – or am I willing to “let go” and let a new life begin?  HOW do I do that?

Communal
Are we as a Congregation, through a deeper contemplative life, letting Jesus come to us in the vulnerable and call us to see newness and change as OPPORTUNITIES for being better Apostles of the Resurrection?

Meditation presented by the Brazilian Area

“Jesus trusts women. (...) He welcomes them, teaches them the secrets of his heart, pours over them his love that heals their body and soul.  And He entrusts them with a mission, actually the most important one, that of announcing firsthand to the disciples the good news of his Resurrection. (...).”  “The bonding of these women with their Master of Nazareth was and is a powerful source of life, and life in abundance, for all.” (Maria Clara Bingemer*).

As a Congregation, we are united in a life of constant and deep prayer revealing our intimacy with God. In tune with God and with each other, we let Jesus come to us every time we allow ourselves to be touched by the most different realities that push us, as Franciscan Sisters of the Poor, to recognize the wounded Jesus in need of healing in our sisters and brothers who are suffering and in the degradation of life in all its dimensions.
Every time we start a new mission, the surrender of each Sister to her ministry, advocating for life, becomes a motive for joy and hope. Every time we open the doors of our hearts, of our homes and institutions to welcome people, especially those who are in situations of social vulnerability, even if only to simply listen to them and meet their immediate needs, we become involved in their issues. These gestures become signs saying that we are open and willing to be and do better so that we may be able to proclaim the Risen Christ from our own way of being and doing.

Loving those in need, accepting them, and practicing mercy toward them is to let Jesus enter into our lives by means of a personal encounter with Him. This was one of the deep beliefs of our founder, Blessed Frances Schervier.

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Illustration:  Logo of the 2016 Fraternity Campaign launched by the Conference of Brazilian Bishops:  A COMMON HOUSE: OUR RESPONSIBIILTY – “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” – Am 5:24

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*Maria Clara Lucchetti Bingemer is a theologian and Dean of the Theology and Human Sciences Center of the Pontifical Catholic University in Rio de Janeiro, an author of several books and articles on Theology.

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Published: April, 1, 2016