JESUS, RISING FROM THE DEAD, APPEARED FIRST TO MARY MAGDALENE. An inspired writer wrote the Gospel passage we have just heard as a fitting ending to saint Mark’s account of the events of Easter morning some years after the original account. Mark had noted the fact that the women who first heard the announcement by an angel that Jesus had risen were too astonished and frightened to speak. Obviously, this was but a first reaction; had they remained silent he could not have known that anything at all had transpired. Each of the four evangelists has a somewhat different account of the facts concerning the announcement of the resurrection, but all are agreed on the content of the message: Jesus, who had died on the cross, has risen and now lives.

This truth became the fundamental conviction that gave rise to the whole of Christian belief. Faith in the risen Lord Jesus remains the life of the Church. He who died on the cross now lives in the transcendent presence of the Father whence he continues to be present to those who put their faith and trust in him and to act on our behalf. The night before he died he found a way to give a real and at the same time a symbolic expression of his continuing activity among his disciples by instituting the Eucharist and enjoining his followers to celebrate it in his memory. That this memory of Christ is not merely that of some past personage and the events of his life and death has been the conviction of his followers from earliest days as we heard in today’s first reading. Peter bore witness to the Jewish authorities that the miraculous healing he had effected was the work of the Lord Jesus. ”It was by the name of the Lord Jesus . . . that this man is able to stand up perfectly healthy, here in your presence today.” Jesus acts through his minister; the power displayed by Peter is not his own but that of the one whom the Father raised to eternal life from the dead.

St. John, who by the time he wrote the Gospel had spent long years meditating on the meaning of our Lord’s life, death, and resurrection, gave munch prominence to Mary Magdalene in his account of the resurrection. She was known to the Christian community as one whom Jesus had earlier delivered from the power of seven demons. Her gratitude gave rise to a love that made her a companion of the most devoted of our Lord’s followers. To her first of all, the risen Lord appeared and sent her to announce his resurrection to his apostles. If the Lord appeared first to her and chose her as the one to announce his resurrection, surely it was to reveal how fully his power brought about the newness of life that overcomes the effects of sin. She is a living witness to the efficacy of the graces won for sinners by his death and resurrection.  John tells us that she carried out this mission faithfully, whereas Mark’s original comments give the impression that the women were not up to the mission the angle had given them. Jesus deliberately chose a woman to be the first to announce his resurrection. He realized how the Jewish culture of his day treated women as inferior, and so as unreliable witnesses. He acted so as to show the high regard he had for the worth of this woman, and by his confidence in her to demonstrate the high worth of all women.

Mary Magdalene is a representative figure of all of us whose sins Jesus has forgiven and to whom he offers a new life. He spoke to her of his ascension to the Father, where is found the fullness of life. This is the promise he makes to each of us here at this Easter Eucharist this morning. If we put our faith in him and live by his promise he gives us the same assurance he had once given to the sister of Lazarus: “I am the resurrection and the life. If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live.” (John 11:25) This is what we thank God for at the Eucharist we now offer in heartfelt gratitude to him who lives, no more to die.&

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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