By Benedict Augustine
“Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping.
And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb
and saw two angels in white sitting there,
one at the head and one at the feet
where the Body of Jesus had been.”
Mary Magdalene has a difficult time letting go of Jesus. After His death, she can think of no other thing to do than to sit at His tomb and mourn in the presence of His corpse. And before this, when Jesus lived and preached, Mary can think of little else but to cling, kneeling at His feet while her sister busies herself with hosting. Once Jesus heads over to Jerusalem one last time for the Passover, Mary shocks the disciples by pouring costly ointment over Jesus with little thought of the cost. At the crucifixion, she stands with Jesus’ mother and a young disciple to watch Jesus die, oblivious to the gore and scandal. In her mind, no one else seems to exist besides her Lord and Master.
Because of Mary’s almost slavish devotion to Jesus, practical concerns quicklyescape her notice. She thinks nothing of money, or imminent persecution, or proper hospitality. As a disciple, she does quite little. She does not evangelize; she does not heal or serve others; she does not write epistles and establish churches; she only follows Jesus and sits at His feet.
And yet, Jesus reveals Himself to her after the resurrection before anyone else.He could have chosen Peter, or His mother, or John, but He chooses her, the useless one that always latched to Him unthinkingly. Some might argue that He could have revealed Himself to Pilate, or Caiaphas, or Herod, and prove to them that He came back to life and that they had just crucified God’s Son. In either case, whether appearing first to the leader of His Church or His enemies, He probably could have made his resurrection that much more successful and powerful.
But instead He chooses Mary Magdalene. Why?
Mary does something unique. Long before anyone else, she truly worships and adores Jesus as God’s Son. Peter might have been the first to verbalize this truth, and Mary His Mother might have been the first to know this truth, but Mary Magdalene realizes the full import and acts on it. While the masses crowd around Jesus like some celebrity, shoving sick people in His face; and while His disciples complain to Him about food shortages, storms, and botched miracles as though He were a manager; and while His enemies make plans to destroy Him as a dangerous rebel; Mary humble kneels in awe, treating Him like God.
Jesus appears first to Mary because she alone would not question His resurrection. The others to whom He appears afterward her all need some kind of assurance. On the way to Emmaus, Jesus must deliver a lecture on the full meaning of the Old Testament and reenact the Last Supper before His audience realizes what had happened. With His apostles, Jesus must pass through a locked door and show His wounds—and then, later, let Thomas poke them.
Mary, however, does not think twice about Jesus’ resurrection but immediately reverts back to her old style of adoration, clutching His feet once more. For once, Jesus has to tell her to let go and actually do something: “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” In entrusting Mary with this message, Jesus communicates two things:(1) it was Mary, not the other disciples, who ultimately showed the most courage and strength, and (2) Mary’s courage and strength came from her adoration and devotion of Him.
Jesus intends to make Mary Magdalene a model for all His disciples. Knowing quite well man’s insatiable desire to works and prove himself, He chooses to give his attention to the woman who does nothing but adore. Although there are times when a disciple must act, there are even more times where he must simply sit still and listen.
Many of the Church’s saints followed Mary’s example and came to understand the power behind adoration. Nearly all of them would adore Jesus before they witnessed in His name. Religious orders today, like that of Blessed Mother Teresa, kneel in the Presence of Jesus for hours before they begin their work with the poor. The popes do the same. At the urging of St. John Paul II, many parishes will offer Eucharistic Adoration all hours of the day and experience the blessings that accompany this practice.
Most people feel drawn to Christ’s presence, yet they might not understand this yet. More than likely, Mary Magdalene felt the same way, but she trusted Jesus to understand, and He did. The first disciples eventually followed suit as Christians throughout the ages have done the same. Adoration transcends understanding as it helps believers transcend themselves. It humbles and elevates at the same time, and it continues bring the peace and strength that Mary experienced so many centuries ago sitting at the feet of Christ, hearing His voice.