In The Light Of His Tender Gaze
(Reflection based on Jn. 20:11-18 and Jn. 10)
Mary Magdalene stands before the empty tomb, once again alone. Except for the two angels. Great prophets have fallen prostrate at angelic apparitions, but Mary is not moved. Their heavenly radiance and words of hope do not penetrate her solitude. She remains in her own dark tomb of sorrow, focused on the death of the only One in the world she has loved with all her being—the One Who had taught her what love truly is. In the course of a few short hours, painfully long though they seemed, her whole world was turned upside-down. And now her last act of devotion, the anointing of Jesus’ Body, has been taken from her. It is clear even through tear-filled eyes that He is not here, and so she reluctantly turns to leave. Who, now, can roll the stone away from her heart?
I wonder if it is her fierce devotion, her love that not even floods of tears can wash away (Sg. 8:7), that draws the Lord. “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?” But Jesus’ words do not pierce her shrouded heart.
“Sir, if you carried Him away, tell me where you laid Him and I will take Him.”
I imagine Jesus hearing her mournful reply—this woman who would summon Herculean strength to carry His Body anywhere—and longing to wipe the tears from her eyes. Ah, but He has the key to her heart. “Mary,” he says.
He calls her by name. It is like a sunbeam, a fresh spring wind, like the sweet fragrance of newly-burst blossoms. Surely Mary had heard the Lord say her name countless times. It was so familiar, so dearly familiar, and yet so refreshingly new. The stone is not only rolled away; it has vanished. Mary Magdalene stands in the light of His tender gaze.
We are weeks into this pandemic, but even as the curve drops, many challenges remain. It is easy to be heavy-hearted for any number of reasons: loneliness, loss, sadness, worry, the weariness of it all…. Into these “wilderness regions” of our hearts the Good Shepherd longs to come. We need not be afraid. “My sheep hear my voice,” Jesus says. “I know them and they follow me.” He knows us… He knows me, my name, my burdens. And He doesn’t come like a thief to steal and destroy or like a stern disciplinarian with harsh words. He comes as a Shepherd, to seek and find, to carry His sheep on His shoulders to safety, to heal and give life. But does He have the key to my heart? When He comes searching for me amid the brambles, can He come freely in or have I barricaded the way?
In the speaking of her name Mary Magdalene recognizes Jesus. She throws herself at His feet. But He does not allow her to linger. He has an immediate mission for her, to bring the good news of His Resurrection to His Apostles. I once heard a priest say in a homily: “Jesus says to Mary, ‘Do not hold on to Me.’ But you hold on to Him.” It is wise advice. In fact, I would even add that Jesus holds on to us. He says, “no one shall take them from my hand.” Let Him have the key, then. Let Him seek and find and call you by name. Let Jesus remove any barriers and scatter the darkness. Let Him lead you toward the pastures of heaven, greener and more beautiful than any springtime garden. For Jesus longs to wipe the tears from our eyes, that each one of us can know His own unquenchable love and stand in the light of His tender gaze.
“My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand (Jn. 10:27-29).”
Sr. Cecilia Francis, CFR