Lectionary Year B
April 20, 2003
Easter Sunday

John 20:1-18

Step V: Hermeneutical Bridge


Center of gravity: on the dawn of the third day, the tomb is empty! "Christ is risen, indeed!" Two "leaders" among the circle of apostles run to the tomb to see. Where the synpotic gospels speak of several women going to the tomb, John mentions only Mary Magdalene. In John, she is first to actually see Jesus-- he won't let her prolong to reunion "clinging" to him, but sends her on to spread the word of his resurrection and "homegoing".

Why Mary? In my setting (U.S.-Mexico border) women are not often fully admitted to positions of spiritual leadership. Yet Mary is the one who first sees Jesus (in John's Gospel) and is sent off to be the first evangelist.

Samuel Pagan, a Puerto Rican seminary president and biblical scholar, has written an interesting essay on Mary titled "Maria...Simplemente Maria". ("Mary...Just Mary") It appears in Spanish in the journal "Apuntes: reflexiones teologicas desde el margen hispano" (Winter 1993, 213-219). I would like to share some of Dr. Pagan's thoughts on Mary's place in this narrative:

"In the absence of the closest companions (of Jesus) at the cross, the Magdalene is courageously present, defying the religious and political authorities. There before the cross, the gospel accounts present the stoic and firm figure of Mary Magdalene, out of whom Jesus had cast out seven demons. After knowing the hell of being completely captive, she no longer feared the Roman soldiers; furthermore, upon enjoying the love of God manifested in the liberating action of Jesus, the Magdalene could do nothing else but be present, together with the other Marys, at Calvary. HER FIRM SOLIDARITY AND HER OPPORTUNE GRATITUDE GAINED HER THE FAVOR OF BEING CHOSEN TO BE THE FIRST PERSON WHO SHOULD ANNOUNCE THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS." (p. 217, emphasis mine).

She is so intent on annointing the body of Jesus she shows no evidence of fearing the religious consequences of touching a corpse (Num 19)-- that morning, "there are two resurrected ones: Jesus and Mary. Christ, by the power of the Spirit of God; Mary, by the power of the love and forgiveness of Jesus." Jesus calling her "Mary, just Mary", and not "The Magdalene", reaffirms her dignity-- the past is gone, also as good as dead and buried; only the present and the future matter for her now. "The gratitude of a liberated woman was the setting necessary to change her onto one who is sent; that is to say, an Apostle of the gospel of the Kingdom." (218)

Mary was liberated, first from total captivity ("7 demons") and then from grief and anguish. Jesus sends her at once to fulfill her "Easter mission". Some bridges:

1.) What is our "Easter Mission"? Does this day important enough to us that it makes a difference in our lives, and the life of our church-- something we have to tell people about?

2.) Mary was told, "Go and tell..." What would we tell about? How has Jesus' resurrection freed us?

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