Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni," which means Teacher (John 20:16).
On Easter Sunday, the community here in Cicero went out to dinner. Although we like to cook our own holiday dinners at Thanksgiving and Christmas, none of us is physically up to the task after Holy Week which involves the most arduous liturgical action in the calendar. So on this particular holiday/holyday we go out to dinner together. I also function as the bookkeeper for the community; consequently, when the bill for dinner came, I gave the waiter my credit card. When he brought it back to me, he said, "Thanks, Larry." The friars at the table all grinned. They knew what I was thinking.
I was named after my uncle. He was Larry. I have always been Lawrence. When I went to the seminary, the first friar I met greeted me with "Welcome to St. Joe's, Larry." When I told him that I preferred to be called "Lawrence," he commented: "Here you will be Larry." So it was that for the next fourteen years, I was Larry except when I was at home with my family. On the day of my ordination, I turned to my mother as we exited the church at the end of the celebration and said, "Now I can be Lawrence again."
Names are important. Nothing is more personal. When she does not recognize Jesus and mistakes him for the gardener, Jesus gets her attention by calling her by name. Immediately her eyes are opened to the reality of the Resurrection.
St. John is writing for a community which has seen the loss of most of the eyewitnesses. This generation of the community did not experience Jesus and the Resurrection first hand. St. John deftly reassures the community that Jesus knows them by this little detail in the Gospel. Even though they have never known Jesus personally, St. John is confident in the knowledge that Jesus knows each of us. Not only does he know us, he understands our limitations. He understands how we sometimes cannot recognize him, how sometimes we are blind to the reality of the Resurrection in our midst. He knows that grief is a part of our human relationships. Mary's eyes are clouded by her grief just as we are often beset by the heavy weight of the loss of a loved one. A good friend of mine died this past Easter Sunday. I will miss her. The reality of the Resurrection comforts me and, I hope, her family by reminding us that what Jesus has done in rising from the dead is a guarantee that his friends will do the same.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator