The Gospel of John presents us with a striking story of Mary Magdalene’s grief. Her heart is broken and her grief at the loss of Jesus so intense, her only response is to be near the dead body of Jesus and weep. What else can she do! The angels seem to tell her to stop weeping; the gardener also repeats the advice. Interestingly, the worse advice we can give someone who experiences great loss is to tell them to stop weeping. The tears rolling down uncontrollably are actually part of a healing process. This needs to happen and should not be discouraged.
Is Mary’s identification of the Gardner a reference to the Garden of Eden? The world’s pain and sorrow began in a garden with the sin of Adam and Eve. Now a new and different life finds its beginning in a garden. Ironically, Mary was right in identifying Jesus as a Gardner. He is the Gardener who brings new life out of the soil of sin and death. "For if, by the transgression of one person, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one person Jesus Christ" Romans 5:17.
Another point is that after Mary "turned around," she recognized Jesus. There is an interesting connection between turning around and the theme of repentance that Peter preached in the first reading. Repentance implies not just regret for past behavior but a radical change to one’s way of thinking and behaving. The Greek word "metanoia" (repentance) is best translated into English as "conversion," a turning around to a completely new way of seeing life. In turning around, Mary now sees the Glorified Jesus, not the Jesus she knew earlier. She cannot cling to the older image of Jesus but now must accept the new Jesus as Risen and Glorified. Mary does not find Jesus; Jesus finds her and brings new life, a new way of seeing. In the turning she moves from sadness to joy, from strangeness to recognition, from a sense of doubt and discouragement to faith
This Easter season is an opportune time of the year look at the garden of our life, to turn around and find Jesus in the people we ignore and the situations we avoid.
Fr. Don Webber, C.P., is Provincial Superior of Holy Cross Province and resides in Chicago.