Fr. Denis Wilde, OSA
Associate Director, Priests for Life
July 22, 2022

“Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him and I will take him.”   This one line from St John’s Gospel (20:15) reveals the mind and heart of one searching for the One Whom she had tragically lost less than 40 hours previously, upsetting the world she had just begun to discover to her delight. 

Mary of Magdala here is not from a locale close to the scene this sentence refers, nonetheless was closest to the One who had turned her heart from sin, the “7 devils” released from her spirit, (Luke 8:2) releasing her from her own spiritual tomb of sorts.  She therefore could remain after the disciples she had already “ran to” (John 20:2) and returned with, facing an empty tomb with a magnetic attraction empowering her searching heart for the Beloved Lord, not yet apparent.  How wise and beautiful that the Church associates her heart’s desire with the liturgical text used today: “I sought him but I did not find him. I will rise and go about the city... I will seek him whom my heart loves... have you seen him whom my heart loves? ... I had hardly left the watchmen when I found him whom my heart loves” (Song of Songs, 3:1-4b).  This OT reading looks into the heart of anyone seeking the Lord in one’s life, but particularly fits the scene here.  And the Responsorial Psalm echoes it: “O God, you are my God Whom I seek, for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts... thus I have gazed towards you in the sanctuary.”   

Mary Magdalene remains alone, at first “gazing towards” and “bent over into the tomb” as she is drawn from the unique rescuing of her spirit by the Lord. This stamp of conversion and mercy draws her to complete the vision of her lost Savior!  “Tell me,” she implores the “gardener,” “where they have taken and laid him.”   Confused but resolute, she appeals to reason but is urged on by the heart.   “Taken”?  and “laid him”?  This can refer only to a dead person, which, after all, Mary came at the dawning of “the third day” to anoint.  Simple, expected kind and honorable action of a Jewish ritual and expectation to the afterlife, but now thrown into a confusion even with the mistaken “gardener.”  

This beloved fresh, “new beginning” passage exploding with joy and anticipation every Easter since the beginning of the Church rings out the resurrection of a Man Who is yet unseen.  The next words of course bridge that eternal gap when the Gardener of souls, Jesus, Himself, speaks.  The Word speaks. The unique identifying attachment to “Mary” is sounded in her ears lovingly.  Her confusion vanishes and her joy intensifies as the missing Savior identifies through the Word given her:  her very being. 

Without measuring the mind and heart of the Apostles’ returning to their quarters after seeing the empty tomb, which after all brought John to “believing” from the condition of the lying shroud alone, there is nonetheless something that Mary’s remaining in attendance belies.   First of all she had already received with intense gratefulness the action of releasing her from her spiritual bondage for the Magdalen travelled throughout Galilee and Judea with Jesus (Luke 8:2) and her awareness of “being saved” even before Calvary was a telling detail in her spiritual growth.  Secondly, she “turned toward” the tomb and “bent over” into the tomb.  She furthered her “restless heart” as Augustine would paint the attitude of a lifelong searcher for God, in the desire to see Him (“I sought Him Whom my heart loves” – now not Song of Songs bridegroom, but the Savior Christ Himself).  This action is the fruit of gratefulness after her “salvation.”  And it is the response of the converting heart through the ages.

One particular occurrence and playing out of this gratefulness can be seen in the “conversion” and “liberating” of the heart of post-abortive mothers.  Who knows, perhaps Mary Magdalene is in that redeemed camp?  Was that one of the “demons” released in her by the Wandering Galilean?  We don’t know, of course, but we do know that her sinful past, when thrown out as met with the mercy of God and her heart melting in gratitude for the release, becomes the catalyst for a deepening search to find God further in one’s life.  It was Mary Magdalen who first had the courage to announce the disturbance at the tomb regardless of what that would cost her credibility; and secondly, the persistence of “waiting on the Lord” even now when He was dead, renewed the courage and joy to tell the Apostles the yet unthinkable: “I have seen the Lord.”  

Many mothers who have suffered the loss, perhaps even intentional loss of her unborn child aborted in a pagan environment glorifying selfish “Choice” have come to grips with and ousted that “Choice” in favor of Christ and His healing.  He speaks not in generalities or policies, but like this beloved Gospel passage, He addresses each ripening heart by name.  With fondness and protection and vision deeper than the throes of post-abortion grief.  The tomb is not only empty.  The Savior is alive and He frees those entombed in grief, guilt, remorse, anger, rage, God-avoiding and opens the Resurrection to them as they tell the good news to others and make sense out of the Calvary of their spiritual eclipse or deadening. 

In our post-Roe days we can imagine the Calvary of 65 million unborn, each called by name as did resurrected Jesus to Mary, in this gospel of John.  He calls those mothers as well, not just to a personal ID but to action, to right the wrong and joyfully spread the good news to others not yet enlivened spiritually to hear the good news.  Peter and John and the others got it eventually (John by looking into the empty tomb, he relates) but it took one who had been through the salvific change in her while Christ was walking amidst his followers on earth to carry the message of New Life to them, who in turn transformed others and eventually the Church through the Holy Spirit.  Mary Magdalene drew on the power of conversion and gratitude to stay the course when confused and let the Lord draw out clarity and eventually Vision, to the drive to tell whomever she would encounter: “I have seen the Lord.” 

Beyond the specifics of post-abortion healing and carrying the message of hope to other mothers still beleaguered by the pain and denial our culture suffers from,  the message of conversion, incidentally the first message of the first sermon by the first Pope ushered out on the streets of Jerusalem at Pentecost, is the powerful ingredient that needs to irrigate and refreshen a confused and despondent locked-down world in the aftermath of looking only to the “gardener” and where the dead is laid.  Those rational good instincts are not enough, and Mary, having exhausted them in a moment, had looked into the tomb and found the answer in One Who always calls us by name, beloved and unique from all eternity, not lost in a morass of social editing and cancelling. 

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