Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator
For the most part, the appearance stories that we will hear throughout this Easter Week come from the Gospels of St. Luke and St. John. The other two Gospels, the first to appear after Jesus returned to the Father, recount these same stories but provide few details. Scripture scholars believe that in the case of the first Gospel, that of St. Mark, the stories are actually a redaction. The original manuscript of St. Mark's Gospel ends with the women running in fear and "telling no one."
The Gospels of St. Luke and St. John were written later. By the time these texts were composed, the community had had the time to reflect on the stories, to retell those stories, and to come to understanding and then faith through hearing them. The story we hear today as Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene in the garden is poignant in its intimate nature. Mary still believes that someone has taken the body. She is intent on finding it and burying it properly. When Jesus calls her name, she comes to faith in the resurrection.
Tradition tells us that Mary Magdalene was the first to see Jesus. Much has been made of the fact that he did not appear to his mother or to the Twelve but chose Mary as the first witness, the first to tell the news.
One of my Scripture teachers from my seminary days, Fr. Callistus, told this story as he understood many from St. John's Gospel. He saw in Mary Magdalene a corporate figure for the community, the Church. Her unbelief was, in his opinion, the unbelief of the community. This seems to be borne out in the Gospel of St. Mark which tells us that Jesus chided the apostles for not believing those who had brought them the news of his resurrection and in the Gospel of St. John where Jesus confronts Thomas for his unbelief. When Jesus calls Mary by name, my teacher maintained that he was calling the entire community to faith, a faith that developed throughout the apostolic era and culminates in the composition of the fourth Gospel.
Yesterday, Pope Francis asked those gathered to celebrate Easter with him to put their faith in Jesus. This is the message that the Church has preached throughout the ages. We, like the first Christians, are called to renew our faith in the Risen Savior. In him, we find hope. In him, we find the road to peace. In him, we find God's forgiveness and love.