Tuesday in the Octave of Easter

Woman, why are you weeping?

Twice we hear this question in today’s gospel. We should remember that Jesus also wept on another occasion, at another tomb, where his friend Lazarus was buried.

Given the circumstances – a cemetery on the second day after a burial -- it’s an odd question. If Mary Magdalene was overcome with grief, a part of her might have wondered nonetheless, “What a stupid question!” She is in no mood for comforting words or confounding questions from strangers. In fact, she has no time for brightly shining angels!

Extra-biblical authors and artists have made much of Mary Magdalene but her name appears only in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and John; and only in Easter stories. She has been associated with other women in the gospels, especially the woman caught in adultery, the woman delivered of seven demons and the woman who wept at Jesus’ feet; but those connections seem entirely arbitrary. She may have been one of those women but probably not.

We know her only as one of several women who witnessed Jesus’ burial and his reappearance afterward.

Mary Magdalene, to this educated white man’s sensibilities, represents an affective relationship with God.

I met a Jewish fellow here at the VA who said he admired the way Christians display such open affection for God, especially for Jesus but also for God the Father. He did not encounter that in his family, though he admitted he had not grown up in a practicing Jewish household.

Not everyone loves the God they worship; not everyone thinks we should. Worship is a lot like the tribute of ancient times or the taxes we pay today. “You pay it, or else!” The rulers of ancient times might have sent along with their tribute, “the deepest and most sincere admiration and affection for the great and dear emperor” – but the sentiments were pro forma like the boxes and blanks we fill in on our tax forms.

Mary Magdalene’s love for Jesus is unashamedly, unabashedly, overwhelmingly emotional. And his love for her, though expressed in only one word, is also touching and tender. There can be no doubt about their passionate affection in their discovery of each other this morning. Their happiness is palpable.

Some people suppose affection for a personal God is misplaced. They do not suppose God loves them as persons. I say, "If you're god is so huge he has no time for you, your god is too small." 

Our God is infinitely larger than that; our God is so powerful he makes himself small for each one of us." We can go to bed with our God, and get up with him, and go to work and come home. Our God is with us, and enjoying us, even when we're doing nothing more important than enjoying ourselves.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.