Even in our weeping

I have always been intrigued by the story of Mary Magdalene at the tomb.  Perhaps this is because I have spent too many hours of my life not recognizing the Lord even as He is standing there beside me.  I can get stuck in the mode of: “They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.”  I too easily focus on that, rather than on having faith that He will never, ever forsake me.  My prayer should instead be: “Lord, give me eyes to see.”

Needless to say, I was struck by this reflection in Magnificat on yesterday’s readings:

Despite the miraculous apparition of two angels sitting in the open tomb, “one at the head and one at the feet where the Body of Jesus had been,” Mary Magdalene remains unmoved, consumed only by her grief.  Two times heaven has to ask her (once via the angels, the second time by the risen Lord himself), “Woman, why are you weeping?” She has come to her own fatalistic conclusion about what happened to Christ–“They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him”–and it is from this pessimism that she must be converted.  When the risen Jesus speaks her name–“Mary!”–the Magdalene, like the Jewish people on the day of Pentecost, was “cut to the heart.”  The risen Christ’s command to “stop holding on” pertains to our preconceptions and stubbornness as well.  Something Greater than our sorrow is now at work in the world.  It is the reason why, even in our weeping, we bend over and peer into the tomb, full of expectation.

First, we must cry out

Here’s a comforting take on the story of the road to Emmaus by Fr. David May from Madonna House:

The Gospel is the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.  They are discussing the events of the Lord’s passion and death when suddenly Jesus comes up and joins them on the way.  They take him for a stranger and are astonished that he seems unaware of what has happened.

Have you ever had that experience?  When it seems that Jesus Christ is the only one who doesn’t know what is happening down here!

“What things?” he asks. “What things?!

In his wisdom, the Lord wants to draw out of his disciples all the pain and sorrow they are carrying.  It seems that the Lord has more respect and understanding of our human nature than we do ourselves.

He knows our grief; he understands all our suffering.  But he also knows that first we must speak our pain to him.  First, we must cry out.

For how will we be able to hear what he has to offer until we do so?  And he has far more to offer us than mere sympathy for our plight.

Fr. David goes on to speak of what Jesus offers to these disciples in pain, and what He offers as well to us:

He offers them more than sympathy because as the Risen Lord, he can offer them a hope they had not dared to imagine.  He offers them a victory that comes only through suffering and death: Resurrection from the dead.

He will surely come:

In an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, the Lord can reveal himself, and after that, everything is transformed.  In a second, at the breaking of the bread, he is recognizable to his disciples in Emmaus.  And then he vanishes from sight!

This, too, is part of his mystery, of his unfathomable ways.

“. . . for they shall see God”

It’s still the time, the season, of remembering Christ’s appearances to those He loved.  Let us not move too quickly back into ordinary time.  (Is there ever an “ordinary” time with Christ in our lives?)  Luci Shaw captures this need to learn to recognized Him in this Sunday-poem.  We, too, need to “get beyond the way he looks” in our everyday lives:

He who has seen Me has seen the Father (James Tissot)

“. . . for they shall see God”

Matthew 5.8

Christ risen was rarely
recognized by sight.
They had to get beyond the way he looked.
Evidence strong than his voice and face and footstep
waited to grow in them, to guide
their groping from despair,
their stretching beyond belief.

We are as blind as they
until the opening of our deeper eyes
shows us the hands that bless
and break our bread,
until we finger
wounds that tell our healing,
or witness a miracle of fish
dawn-caught after our long night
of empty nets.  Handling
his Word, we feel his flesh,
his bones, and hear his voice
calling our early-morning name.

~Luci Shaw

That breakfast on the beach

Browsing through my journal, I came across a quote from five years ago that is a wonderful reflection on last Sunday’s gospel:

“Feed my sheep,” Jesus said to Peter as the first rays of the sun went fanning out across the sky, but, before that, he said something else.  The six other men had beached the boat by then and had come up to the charcoal fire knowing that it was Jesus who was standing there and yet not quite knowing, not quite brave enough to ask him if he was the one they were all but certain he was.  He told them to bring him some of the fish they had just hauled in, and then he said something that, if I had to guess, was what brought tears to their eyes if anything did.  The Lamb of God.  The Prince of Peace.  The Dayspring from on High.  Instead of all the extraordinary words we might imagine on his lips, what he said was, “Come and have breakfast.”

I believe he says it to all of us: feed my sheep, his lambs, to be sure, but first to let him feed us–to let him feed us with something of himself.

“He was one of us, no stranger . . .”

The poem for this Sunday describes the experience of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus:


When first He joined us, coming, it seemed from nowhere,
and yet, somehow, as if he had followed us a long, long time,
immediately, He was one of us, no stranger, but
a close companion, speaking softly, familiar with our lives,
these days, the answers to our doubts.

And when we moved Him to at least partake of food,
he stood there at the table, not as guest, but host,
and broke the bread to portions, one for each,
then poured the wine, His dark-marked hands
blessing the wine and us.  Was it that act,

His broken hands raised up against the wooden walls,
the prayer-bowed head, the gently spoken word
or some reflection trembling in the wine,
a thickening of air, a luminosity not of wavering light,
that pierced our hearts with joy,

that filled our mouths with praise?  O praise!
O joy!  Then suddenly the light withdrawn,
no longer form and lifted hands above the bread.
Stumbling, we found the road to town,
knowing that never, never would we walk alone again.

~Marie J. Post (all rights reserved)