Lectio Divina: John 20:11-18
1) Opening prayer
O God of life,
we profess our faith in Jesus
and recognize Him as our Lord and Savior. Make us listen to Him
when He speaks His good news to us
for it is a message of life.
May we also hear His voice
when He cries out to us in people in need
or simply when He speaks to us
in people who express to us
their joys and hopes, their love and their faith.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - John 20:11-18
Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the Body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken my Lord, and I don't know where they laid him." When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" She thought it was the gardener and said to him, "Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni," which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, "Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, 'I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" Mary went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord," and then reported what he had told her.
• Today’s Gospel describes the apparition of Jesus to Mary Magdalene. The death of her great friend prompts Mary to lose her sense of life. But she does not give up her search. She goes to the tomb in order to meet again the one whom death has taken away. There are moments in our life in which everything crumbles. It seems that everything is finished. Death, disasters, pain and suffering, disillusionments, betrayals: so many things which may cause us to feel lost, as if standing on firm ground, and which can lead us to fall into a deep crisis. But other things also happen. For example, suddenly we meet a friend again, and that can give us hope anew and can make us discover that love is stronger than death and defeat. The Lord allows desolation, but He also provides consolation as we need it.
• Chapter 20 in John’s Gospel, besides the apparitions of Jesus to Mary Magdalene, also speaks about diverse episodes which indicate the richness of the experience of the Resurrection: (a) to the beloved disciple and to Peter (Jn 20:1-10); (b) to Mary Magdalene (Jn 20:11-18); (c) to the community of disciples (Jn 20:19-23) and (d) to the Apostle Thomas (Jn 20:24-29). The purpose of the writing of the Gospel is to lead people to believe in Jesus, and believing in Him, to have life (Jn 20:30-31).
• In the way of describing the apparition of Jesus to Mary Magdalene one is aware of the different stages of the road that she had to follow, of the sorrowful search until the time of the encounter at Easter. These are also the stages through which we all have to pass, throughout our life, in seeking God and living the Gospel.
• John 20:11-13: Mary Magdalene weeps, but she seeks. There was a very strong love between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. She was one of the few persons who had the courage to remain with Jesus up to the moment of His death on the Cross. After the obligatory rest on Saturday, she goes back to the tomb to be in the place where she had seen her beloved for the last time. But, surprisingly, the tomb is empty! The angels ask her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” and her response is, “They have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have put Him!” Mary Magdalene looked for Jesus, that Jesus whom she had known for three years.
• John 20:14-15: Mary Magdalene speaks with Jesus without knowing Him. The disciples at Emmaus saw Jesus but they did not recognize Him. She thinks that Jesus is the gardener. And just as the angels had done, Jesus also asks, “Why are you weeping?” and He adds, “Whom are you looking for?” The response: “If you have taken Him away, tell me where you have put Him and I will go and get Him”. She was still looking for the Jesus of the past, the same one of three days before. And it is precisely the image of the Jesus of the past which prevents her from recognizing the living Jesus, who is present before her.
• John 20:16: Mary Magdalene recognizes Jesus. Jesus pronounces her name: “Mary!” This was the signal to recognize Him: the same voice, the same way of pronouncing her name. She answers, “Master!” Jesus had returned the same as the one who had died on the cross. The first impression was that death was only a painful incident on the journey, but now everything has again become as before. Mary embraces Jesus strongly. He was the same Jesus whom she had known and loved. And thus is fulfilled what the Parable of the Good Shepherd said: “He calls them by name and they recognize His voice”. “I know My sheep and My sheep know Me” (Jn 10:3, 4, 14).
• John 20:17-18: Mary Magdalene receives the mission to announce the resurrection to the apostles. In fact, it is the same Jesus, but the way of being together with her is not the same as before. Jesus tells her, “Do not cling to me, because I have not as yet ascended to the Father!” He goes toward the Father. Mary Magdalene has to let Jesus go and assume her mission: to announce to the brothers that He, Jesus, has ascended to the Father. Jesus has opened up the way for us and thus, once more, God is close to us.
4) Personal questions
• Have you ever had an experience which gave you the feeling of loss and death? What was it like? What gave you new life and gave you back the hope and joy of living?
• What is the change that took place in Mary Magdalene throughout the dialogue? Mary Magdalene was looking for Jesus in a certain way and found Him in a different way. How does this take place in our life?
• Do we also look for Jesus in the past, as a historical figure, when He is present right before us in the poor and outcast we meet every day? What can we do to be more aware of Him in those that we meet today?
• Has Jesus ever called to me as I faced someone who was poor and outcast? Did I recognize my name as He called me through that person and that opportunity to see Him?
5) Concluding Prayer
We are waiting for Yahweh;
He is our help and our shield,
for in Him our heart rejoices,
in His holy name we trust.
Yahweh, let Your faithful love rest on us,
as our hope has rested in You. (Ps 33:20-22)