Archive for the ‘St. Mary Magdalene’ Category

Why Did Jesus Go Incognito?

April 30, 2017

There are three episodes in the Gospels where the resurrected Christ appears to his disciples but initially goes unrecognized: at the tomb, to Mary Magdalene; in the appearance we hear about today, to a pair of travelers on the road to Emmaus; and lastly, to seven of his disciples fishing the Sea of Galilee.

Let us briefly review each encounter:

First, on Easter morning, Mary is weeping outside the tomb. She turns around and sees Jesus there, but she does not know it’s Jesus. He says to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thinks he’s the gardener and says to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” Jesus says to her, “Mary!” She turns, and says to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. Perhaps Mary Magdalene’s tear-filled eyes and anguished mind simply could not make out Jesus’ face in morning’s early light, but after one more word she recognizes him. (John 20)

Today, Jesus draws near to Cleopas and another unnamed disciple as they walk to Emmaus, but their eyes are prevented from recognizing him, for he appears to them in another form. Later, when all three of them are dining together, Jesus takes bread, says the blessing, breaks it, and gives it to them. With that their eyes are opened and they recognize him. He is revealed to them in the breaking of the bread, but then vanishes from their sight. (Luke 24, Mark 16:12)

Third and finally, after a night of completely unsuccessful fishing, Jesus appears to the Apostles Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James, and John, and two other unnamed disciples. They’re in a boat and he’s on the shore, but they do not immediately realize it’s Jesus. He says to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” They answer, “No.” So he says, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.” And they proceed to miraculously catch 153 large fish without tearing their nets. (The Biny fish, which is common to the Sea of Galilee today, has a weight at maturity of 13 to 15 pounds. A catch of 153 of these fish would weigh more than a ton.) Jesus then invites them, “Come, have breakfast.” And, St. John’s Gospel notes, none of the disciples dares to ask him, “Who are you?” because they realize it is the Lord. (John 21)

One might argue that Jesus’ looks were not in any way disguised on the shore, that the disciples simply failed to recognize him at first because he was about a hundred yards away and the light of dawn was still dim. But if that were the case, there would be no thought of asking him “Who are you” over breakfast around that charcoal fire; this question only arises if his identity remains somewhat concealed. Some have suggested that Jesus appeared elderly to the disciples at the Sea of Galilee, for he says, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” On the other hand, Jesus had previously referred to the Apostles as his children at the Last Supper, “My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.”

Jesus has no difficulty being immediately recognizable when he wants to be. On Divine Mercy Sunday, when Jesus appears before St. Thomas for the first time, we perceive no hesitation in the former doubter’s declaration, “My Lord and my God!” So why then did Jesus allow himself to go unrecognized, at times even becoming physically unrecognizable to his disciples? Perhaps Jesus had thousands of good reasons for this, but I would offer these four:

Reason #1: To add proof that these resurrection accounts are true

Imagine if Jesus’ bodily resurrection were a lie and you were making up stories to bolster others’ belief in it. Would you invent and insert the odd detail that Jesus’ closest disciples couldn’t always recognize him when they saw him? What reason would there be to weave such a confounding wrinkle into your resurrection accounts — unless it were the truth?

Reason #2: To demonstrate how people can believe in Jesus without directly seeing him 

The disciples in Emmaus said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” They came to faith in the resurrection by recognizing the fulfillment of prophesy, even before Jesus had opened their eyes to see himself. At the Sea of Galilee, when the Beloved Disciple saw the incredible catch of fish, he said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” The miraculous sign revealed to them the truth about a person they could not see. We today may not see Jesus’ unveiled presence among us, but he provides sufficient evidence to point to himself in every generation.

Reason #3: To show how Jesus would continue to be with us

In the forty days between Easter and his Ascension, Jesus was not visibly present to his Apostles twenty-four hours a day. Yet at the Great Commission, Jesus reassures, “[B]ehold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” What he’s saying is, ‘Even when you are alone, I will always be at your side.’ By revealing his resurrected self to his disciples “in a different form,” Jesus prepares them for how they will regularly encounter him through the Sacraments until he comes again; truly present, but veiled.

Reason #4: To reveal how Jesus is presented to us through others

Who is the manual laborer we bump into, like Mary Magdalene saw on Easter morning and addressed respectfully as “Sir” (even though she was having a horrible day and thought he might be a body snatcher)? Who is the traveler we pass on the road, like the Emmaus duo met, dialogued with, and invited to stay with them? Who is the older person that greets us, like the Galilean fishermen encountered and with whom they shared their food? Jesus would have us see himself in all of them and everyone. At the Last Judgment, Jesus will declare to both the saved sheep and the guilty goats, “Whatever you did for the least of my brethren, you did it for me.”

Jesus once asked St. Catherine of Siena, the 14th century Italian mystic, “My beloved, do you know why I love you?” In response to Catherine’s negative reply, Jesus said, “I will tell you. If I cease to love you, you will be nothing; you will be incapable of anything good. Now you see why I have to love you.” Catherine replied, “It is true,” and suddenly added, “I would like to love you like that.” But as soon as she had spoken, she realized what she had said was misplaced. Jesus smiled. Then, she complained, “But this is not fair. You can love me with great love, and I can only love you with small love.” At that moment, Jesus interrupted and said, “I have made it possible for you to love me with great love.” Surprised, she immediately asked him how. “I have placed your neighbor at your side. Whatever you do to him, I will consider it as being done to me.” St. Catherine went running to care for the sick in the hospital, rejoicing: “Now I can love Jesus with great love!”

After the resurrection, Jesus was sometimes unrecognized by his disciples, but he allowed this so that we might better recognize him; as the Savior truly risen, as the Christ evidenced by signs, as the Lord truly present in the Sacraments, and as the one concealed in our neighbor.

He Proved Faithful — Good Friday Homily

March 25, 2016

Few proved faithful to Jesus on Good Friday, but on Good Friday Jesus proved himself faithful to us.

The political leaders were supposed to serve justice, but Pilate and Herod failed to protect Jesus as an innocent man. Jesus protected us when we were guilty.

The religious leaders were supposed to serve holiness, but the High Priests and the Sanhedrin failed to accept Jesus as their Messiah. Jesus accepted us so that we might become holy.

The disciples were supposed to serve their teacher and lord, but Judas betrayed him, Peter denied him, and the others abandoned him. By enduring his suffering and death, Jesus proved himself faithful to us.

Jesus’ mother Mary was faithful. She stood with him at the foot of the cross. It was a consolation for Jesus to have her there. Two of his beloved disciples were also there: Mary Magdalene and the apostle John. Jesus was grateful to have them close by.

Today, on this Good Friday, by the grace of God, we are at the foot of the cross. Let us pray for mercy, for ourselves and for others. Despite our past unfaithfulness, let us honor his faithfulness to us. Jesus is pleased that we are here with him, and he is grateful for our gratitude.

View From the Cross by Tissot

Encountering Jesus at His Ministry’s Beginning & End

January 9, 2015

Comparing John 1:35-43 & 20:11-18

  • John the Baptist is with two of his disciples when he points out Jesus “the Lamb of God” passing by. Jesus turns, sees the two disciples following him, and asks, “What are you looking for?
  • Mary of Magdala is with two angels at the empty tomb when Jesus comes by. She turns around and sees Jesus, but does not know it’s him. He asks her, “Whom are you looking for?
  • John the Baptist’s two disciples answer Jesus, “Rabbi, (that is, Teacher) where are you staying?
  • Mary, recognizing the risen Lord, says to him, “Rabbouni!” (which also means Teacher.)
  • Jesus tells the curious duo, (one of whom we are told is St. Andrew the Apostle) “Come, and you will see.
  • Jesus tells the overjoyed Mary, “Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.

Points for Reflection:

St. Mary Magdalene Clings to Jesus□ We first come to Jesus looking for something. (“What are you looking for?”) But we are in fact looking for a Someone. (“Whom are you looking for?”)

□ Our search begins with curiosity, but grows finally into love.

□ Jesus is a Teacher to them all, but he more than a teacher to Mary of Magdela. (Similarly, in Matthew’s telling of the Last Supper, all the apostles call Jesus “Lord,” while Judas calls him merely, “Rabbi.”)

□ Jesus makes the first two apostles, but he makes Mary (as the Church Fathers call her) “the Apostle to the Apostles.

□ Jesus draws us near (“Come and see,”) and then he sends us forth on mission (“Go to my brothers and tell them…”)

□ Jesus’ baptism leads to his tomb and resurrection.

□ Jesus, who dwelt on earth, now dwells with His Father in Our Father’s house. Jesus wills that we come to dwell with him, in Heaven, as it is on earth.

Whom Her Heart Loves — July 22 – St. Mary Magdalene

July 23, 2011

Mary Magdalene in today’s gospel shares obvious parallels with the woman in the first reading from the Song of Songs. The woman in the Song of Songs rose to find him whom her heart loves. Mary Magdalene rose early in the morning and came to the tomb. The woman in the Song of Songs sought her beloved but did not find him. Mary Magdalene reported to the apostles, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” The watchmen came upon the woman in the Song of Songs. As Mary wept, she saw two angels in white. The woman in the Song of Songs asked, “Have you seen him whom my heart loves?” Mary said (unknowingly to Jesus,) “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” The woman in the Song of Songs had hardly left the watchmen when she found him whom her heart loved. Jesus said Mary’s name; she turned and said to him, “My rabbi!” The woman in the Song of Songs goes on to say, “I took hold of him and would not let him go.” Jesus had to say to Mary Magdalene, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.

So what is the reason behind this providential parallel between Mary Magdalene and the woman in the Song of Songs? I have heard it said that the Song of Songs is the book of the Bible on which the saints have written about most. Perhaps God gave us Mary’s example so that we would not interpret the Song of Songs merely as a description of the corporate love between Yahweh and the people of God, or between Jesus and His bride the Church, but so that we would also see in it the love affair between Him and every person individually.

Our faith is not based upon feelings alone. (Feelings are too fickle to be our foundation.) Yet, feelings of the heart are an important part of our relationship with God. As Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, with all you mind, with all your strength, and with all your soul.” We must love Him with the intellect of our minds, with the strength of our bodies, and with the will of our souls, but we must also love Him with the emotions of our hearts. Stir up your affections for Christ, pattern the emotions of Mary Magdalene, who showed true devotion to Him whom her heart loved.