Whom are you Looking For?

“But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned to him and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means teacher). – John 20: 11-16

After the dramatic events of the night before, we can imagine the poor, terrified Mary Magdalene bawling her eyes out at the empty tomb, thinking that someone had carried and hidden Jesus away. There appears to be some wry humour and irony at play when Jesus and the angels ask the innocuous question, “Why are you weeping?” when obviously Mary is weeping because she is heartbroken and sad. This humour is taken up a notch when Mary thinks Jesus who is talking to her, is the gardener.

Yet, this humourous turn of events is significant, for in this very short dialogue and the very first words that Jesus says after his resurrection, is found the very story of salvation. For after the fall of Man and prior to the Lord’s resurrection, creation was crying out in lamentation for it had lost sight of God and did not know God. Even as Jesus was born, the words of Jeremiah came into fruition, “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.” (Matthew 2: 17- 18) It is also significant that as Jesus carries his cross, he meets the weeping women and says, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and your children.” (Luke 23:28) Thus, it is not coincidental that the first person Jesus meets after his resurrection is a weeping woman. Recalling the words of Isaiah 25: 8 “Then the LORD GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth.” This is the very thing that the Lord does. He wipes the tears away and completely redeems creation from its despair. Jesus then goes one step further and calls Mary by name, in that very act ransoming our identity as children of God who are called by name. The imagery of Jesus as gardener also speaks about the redemption, reclamation, rejuvenation, and pruning of the Garden of Eden that was closed, unkempt, and made desolate due to humanity’s sin. Where Adam once was chased out of the Garden of Eden, Jesus is now the new way which will enable us to return back to paradise.

Easter is a joyous time, yet there are many times when I am exactly like Mary Magdalene. The Lord has risen yet I am still sitting outside the tomb weeping my heart out, because I do not where the Lord is, nor am I able to recognise God from my myopia. We are an Easter People and Alleluia is our song!

This year, Easter is slightly different. I see the stirring of the Holy Spirit in my parish and this is a wave of grace. I am heartened as the community is slowly but surely revived and made alive. That concurrently as we celebrate the liturgical solemnity of Easter, there is a new revival and a new resurrection of Jesus in our hearts. This can be seen from how the community has faithfully come together to break bread after the day’s Lenten fasts, how the parish has rallied together to teach and to make customised Easter candles, and how there’s a new fervor due to the increase in formation and the planting of good seed for evangelisation. This indeed, is a salient reminder to me that with God’s help, I am a conqueror, I am a person of Easter, and Jesus who is already present tomorrow, is already victorious over sin and death. Truly as the Lord says, “I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.” (Jeremiah 31:13)

The image of Mary Magdalene recognising the Risen Lord is beautiful. It is also my prayer that filled with his Easter joy and hope, we may recognise and run to embrace him.

By Brian Bartholomew Tan