Tuesday in the Octave of Easter
(Acts 2:36-41; John 20:11-18)
These days Mary Magdalene is commonly portrayed as involved with Jesus in, for Christians, a scandalous way. However, there is no historical warrant to consider her as Jesus’ wife or concubine. Her relationship to Jesus is like his other associates’ -- one of discipleship.
In today’s gospel passage Mary Magdalene is seen for a second time in John’s resurrection narratives. She previously went to the tomb -- probably with other women although this is not expressly stated -- before dawn and found the stone rolled back which led her to conclude that Jesus’ body had been stolen. After reporting her experience to the other disciples, she returns to the tomb to encounter the risen Lord. Quite typically, Jesus asks a question probing her discipleship: “Whom are you looking for?” Will her response be one of acute interest like the Baptist’s disciples’ at the beginning of the gospel or of hostile suspicion like that of the Roman troops in the garden of the Mount of Olives? When Jesus mentions her name, Mary gives a favorable answer, “Rabbouni,” teacher.
Although Mary has no sexual relationship with Jesus, her discipleship is very much based on love. In the Good Shepherd discourse Jesus said that he knows each of his sheep by name and was ready to lay down his life for them. Now Mary hears Jesus, who has already laid down his life for all his followers, call her by name and can respond with affection. When she returns to the others to report her encounter with the Lord, she becomes the first disciple to proclaim the good news of his resurrection.