By Yustinus Hibur, SX
Under the trees of the Jesuits’ Sacred Heart Retreat House we sat and mourned. We were speechless. We couldn’t imagine that that day would be the last day of our beloved Brother Martin Mbende’s life with us. The way he said “good bye” was also so strange and unexpected. He drowned in a swimming pool and died suddenly. He even didn’t give any sign to us that all of this would happen. And there under the trees and in the moment of silence, we asked why? Why Lord? But we never understood why.
Carlo Carreto describes our feeling beautifully, “when you are suffering, in flesh or in spirit, the natural response is to weep. And what a lot of weeping there is! If we could gather it all in one place it would fill a sea, a great ocean. And when our eyes are dry for an instant, we ask why? The answer does not come easily. And again we begin to weep and our thoughts become all tangled and even more sorrowful, and we stumble about like wounded birds. Then we start again asking: why? Why?”
Why Lord? Perhaps this was also the question of Mary Magdalene in facing the tragic death of Jesus whom she loved. She didn’t understand why her master suffered and died unjustly. But, in her grief, she still had courage to stand up and walk and go to the tomb of her master. There, at the tomb, perhaps she cried aloud knowing that the body of Jesus had been taken away from the tomb. She couldn’t bear this sorrow and thus she stood weeping outside the tomb.
In her moment of confusion, Jesus came and said, “Woman, why are you weeping?” But Mary couldn’t recognize Jesus. “Mary’s inability to recognize Jesus may stem from her deep grief and confusion. Or maybe she was just stunned by a dead man suddenly alive.” Then to her surprised in that moment of confusion, Jesus said “Mariam” and Mary turned and said “Rabbouni”.
It is interesting to ponder that Mary Magdalene came to recognize Jesus after Jesus called her by name, “Mary”. Mary recognized that familiar voice. The voice of Someone who loves everybody as persons; the voice of Someone who forgives the sinners, the prostitute, the tax collectors, the sick and the poor; the voice of her teacher who liberated her from demons. Not only that, this is the voice of Someone who redeems all humankind by his body.
To put it in another way, Fr. James Marthin, SJ, describes Mary Magdalene’ experience beautifully, “at first, Mary couldn’t recognize Jesus, but she knew that distinctive voice with the Nazarean accent – the voice that called her into wholeness when it expelled whatever demons troubled her, the voice that welcomed her into his circle friends, the voice that told her she was valued in the eyes of God, the voice that answered her questions, the voiced that laughed over a meal, the voice that consoled her near the end of his earthly life, the voice that cried out in pain from the cross. Mary knew that voice because it was a voice that spoken to her in love. There she recognized who it was – Becausee sometimes seeing is not believing. Loving is.”
Mary Magdalene recognized Jesus, not only because of Jesus’ voice, but also because she saw Jesus with his body. She wanted to touch Jesus’ body but Jesus forbade her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”
Perhaps, what is more important for Mary is to proclaim what she has seen that JESUS CHRIST IS RAISED FROM THE DEAD. Jesus asked Mary to go to Jesus’ disciples and to reaffirm what Jesus had said “My death is good for you because my death will bear many fruits beyond my death.” Jesus even consoled his disciples before his death, saying, “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.”
Easter is the feast of welcoming Jesus who enters into the tomb in order to raise us up to the Father. Easter is the feast of letting Jesus take away our sorrows and to let him raise us up to God’s glory. The resurrection of Jesus reminds us that our sorrows, sufferings, sadness cannot separate us from God’s love. This is the love that enables us to go and to proclaim the Good News to all humankind. Mary Magdalene is a model for us to embrace our crosses and to have courage to look up for HE IS COMING IN GLORY. When you are down, look up. ALLELUYA! HAPPY EASTER!