It’s a good thing Mary Magdalene had a strong heart. Think of all the trauma she went through in the last few days of Jesus’ life on earth. There was the fear in the garden when armed soldiers suddenly appeared and arrested him. Then there was the scramble to keep him in sight as he was being carted from place to place, finally winding up in the judgment hall of Pilate, a known sadist. Then Pilate appeared on his porch with a battered and bloody Jesus, and then the mob screamed for Jesus’ crucifixion.
Then she watched while he carried his cross to Golgotha. She watched while soldiers stripped him and pounded nails through his hands and feet. While they lifted him up on the cross between two thieves she was still watching. And she watched while he struggled in unspeakable agony and finally died.
That’s enough trauma for any heart — more than enough to last a lifetime. It would have been long past time to rest in a natural outpouring of grief and rage. But that was not to be.
Before there was even light on the first day on which she was able to do so, Mary made her way back to the tomb. And there another trauma awaited her. The tomb was open, and there was no body! No body! Someone had taken the body! “They have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they have laid him,” she exclaimed frantically to the angels she found sitting where her rabbi had lain. And instead of listening to what they might have told her, she ran out.
This isn’t the usual response people have to angels. Maybe that’s why Jesus put in an appearance right then. Maybe he knew she’d had about as much as a traumatized soul could take. But him calling her name was a different sort of trauma, one bound to have been as difficult as the others. She could not grieve him because he was not dead. But neither was he alive. Well, perhaps he was alive but beyond her reach.
How could she take in what he was presenting her with? How do we take it in?
Easter is a gradual awakening. We do not need to fear death, because Christ has conquered death. But how does that work? The things of this world have no hold on us, for we belong to the Good Shepherd whose kingdom is not of this earth. But what does that mean when we really take it on board? Coming awake to Easter is a change of consciousness that turns everything upside down.
I wish I could sit down with Mary and hear what she would have to say about all these things. She would be able to tell me what it means to be Easter people. But she is long gone, and she has left behind very little of herself.
Instead I have you. We have each other. What do you hear in this story of death and resurrection today? How does it strike your own traumatized heart?