Posts Tagged ‘Rabbouni’

Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, July 22, 2017 — “The love of Christ impels us.” — “He indeed died for all so that those who live might no longer live for themselves.”

July 21, 2017

Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene
Lectionary: 603

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Reading 1  SGS 3:1-4B

The Bride says:
On my bed at night I sought him
whom my heart loves–
I sought him but I did not find him.
I will rise then and go about the city;
in the streets and crossings I will seek
Him whom my heart loves.
I sought him but I did not find him.
The watchmen came upon me,
as they made their rounds of the city:
Have you seen him whom my heart loves?
I had hardly left them
when I found him whom my heart loves.

OR  2 COR 5:14-17

Brothers and sisters:
The love of Christ impels us,
once we have come to the conviction that one died for all;
therefore, all have died.
He indeed died for all,
so that those who live might no longer live for themselves
but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh;
even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh,
yet now we know him so no longer.
So whoever is in Christ is a new creation:
the old things have passed away;
behold, new things have come.

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Christ and Mary Magdalene by Albert Edelfelt

Responsorial Psalm  PS 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9

R. (2) My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
O God, you are my God whom I seek;
for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary
to see your power and your glory,
For your kindness is a greater good than life;
my lips shall glorify you.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
Thus will I bless you while I live;
lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.
As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied,
and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
You are my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.
My soul clings fast to you;
your right hand upholds me.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Tell us, Mary, what did you see on the way?
I saw the glory of the risen Christ, I saw his empty tomb.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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“She thought it was the gardener.”

Mary Magdalen at the Tomb. By Rembrandt

Gospel JN 20:1-2, 11-18

On the first day of the week,
Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”

Mary 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 Magdalene went and announced to the disciples,
“I have seen the Lord,”
and then reported what he told her.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

22 JULY, 2017, Saturday, St Mary Magdalene

MOVEMENT FROM SACRAMENTAL TO MYSTICAL LOVE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ SONG 3:1-4, or 2 COR 5:14-17PS 63: 2.3-4.5-6.8-9JN 20: 1-211-18]

Why is there a lack of fervor in the faith today?  Sad to say, many have left the Church but those who stay are lukewarm and tepid in their faith.  Many lack evangelical zeal and the desire and enthusiasm to spread the Good News about Jesus.  The practice of faith is reduced to the practice of religion.  It has become a routine in life.  It has even become an iron rice bowl for those in priestly and religious life. No wonder, so many have left the Church or some have joined other religions or Protestant churches where faith seems to be more alive and vibrant.

The cause of the indifference towards the faith is due to a lack of the consciousness of the love of God in our lives.   Rationalism is the first cause for distancing from God. With the emphasis on science and reasoning, there is a tendency towards rationalism.  Our faith in God is very much on the level of intellectual knowledge rather an affective experience of His love.  Theologians can be very knowledgeable in theology but yet lack a real faith in Christ because of the lack of a conscious experience of His personal love.   The danger for those who are engaged in theological study is that they think they know about God’s love and yet in truth they do not know it in their personal life.  It is a deceptive way of pretending to know lots about God.

The second reason is activism.  Many are very active in the apostolate and in the ministry.  Today, the emphasis is on work and activities.  People are afraid to stay still and do nothing.  We must always be doing something and multi-tasking as well.  We are afraid of silence and contemplation.  So we are busy with our projects and activities, doing things for people and for the Church.  It is all about output without any input.  As a consequence, we become edgy and irritable when overworked.  We begin to focus on results and efficiency and no longer on the needs of the people.   It is not surprising that many who are involved in Church ministry or those in priestly life become jaded, lose interest and enthusiasm after a while and instead get themselves engaged in squabbling over rules and control.

The third reason is the loss of the Sacred.  They lack devotion and the presence of the sacred.  Religious things are reduced to the level of the profane.  Many no longer respect the sacredness of the Church, the Eucharist, or the sacramentals.  Holy things are treated with irreverence.  When the line between the sacred and profane is blurred, there is no sense of God’s presence.  This is not to say that they are so clearly distinguished, for we know that God could also be found in ordinary things and the ordinary events of life as well.  But to arrive at this realization, we must begin with the experience of God in the sacred.  Without a real encounter of the Sacred, we can no longer feel the presence of God in our lives.

When we read the bible or study the history of the Church, the growth of the Church was always the result of people and charismatic leaders who were deeply in love with Christ and for His people.  In the Old Testament, it was the great love for God in leaders like Moses, King David and the prophets that the faith was kept.  The prophets, Elijah, Jeremiah, Hosea and Isaiah, were all consumed by their love for God.  During the time of Christ, it was His deep love and intimacy with His Father that was the motivating factor in His mission.  It was for the love of His Father that Christ emptied Himself in the incarnation.  During the time of the apostles, it was their love for the Lord that made them give up their life to follow Jesus in the mission.  They were willing to abandon their family and trade to follow after Jesus.

In the gospel today, we read of Mary Magdalene’s deep devotion to the Lord.  Love enabled her to do all things.   When we are in love with someone, there is nothing that can prevent us from giving ourselves to that person.  When we love, we are consumed by love.   Mary Magdalene was so in love with the Lord she could not wait for the sun to rise to visit Him in the grave.  When she arrived in the dark, the stone was already moved away.  Without checking what was inside the tomb, her fear was that His body was taken away.  And later when the angels asked her why she was weeping, she was so absorbed in her attachment to Jesus’ body that she only could say that the body was taken away.  And when Jesus spoke to her, thinking that He was the gardener said, “Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.”   She never thought for a while how she could ever remove a dead body which is too heavy for one person to lift, much less by a woman!  The point is that when we are deeply in love, using all our energy and might, we are able to do things beyond human imagination.

Isn’t this true for all the saints and the missionaries of the early Church and those before the 18th century?  Many of them, for the love of Jesus and their fellowmen, would leave their homeland to far distant countries to spread the gospel.  Many were persecuted and killed or died because of hunger, poverty, poor hygiene and illnesses.   Many died as martyrs for their faith, after being cruelly tortured for their belief.  Saints like St Francis of Assisi left everything and sold all he had for the poor and lived in simplicity because of his love for the Lord.   St Francis Xavier travelled to the Far East to spread the gospel.  Indeed, the Church in the East, Africa and in South America was the result of the sacrifices of the missionaries. This was why St Theresa of the Child Jesus remarked, “I understood that the Church had a Heart and that this Heart was aflame with Love. I understood that Love alone stirred the members of the Church to act… I understood that Love encompassed all vocations, that Love was everything”.

However, their love for Christ and His Church came from a prior experience of His love for them.  It is not that we love Him but that He loved us first.  This is what St Paul wrote about his passion for Christ and the gospel.  In the letter to the Corinthians, he said, “The love of Christ overwhelms us when we reflect that if one man has died for all, then all men should be dead; and the reason he died for all was so that living men should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised to life for them.”  (2 Cor 5:14f) St John also reiterated the primacy of God’s love for us.  “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins.”  (1 Jn 4:10)

For this reason, if we want to renew the fervor of the faith of our Catholics, we must lead them to a personal experience of Christ’s love for them.  We need to renew our thirst for the Lord’s love as the Bride did in the Book of Song of Songs.  She cried out, “On my bed, at night, I sought him whom my heart loves. I sought but did not find him. So I will rise and go through the City; in the streets and the squares I will seek him whom my heart loves. I sought but did not find him.”   The responsorial psalm also speaks of this thirst for God in his life.  “O God, you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting.  My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water. So I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and your glory. For your love is better than life, my lips will speak your praise.”

But it must proceed from the way of human love before we can arrive at mystical love.  There is a danger of Catholics who lack the experience of God’s love but seek a mystical encounter with Him, bypassing the humanity of Christ through some kind of centering prayer.  It has always been the teaching of the Church and of the mystics that the only way to encounter the mystical Lord is through the humanity of Christ.  Hence, it is important to recount how Mary Magdalene made the progress from loving the Jesus of Nazareth before reaching the maturity of loving the Christ of Faith.  The reason why Mary Magdalene could not find the Lord was because she was still attached to the earthly Jesus of Nazareth.

So Jesus invited her to transcend the level of sensual love to a spiritual love for Him.  He said to her, “Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to my Father. But go and find the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”   St Paul in the same vein urged the Christians to do likewise.  “From now onwards, therefore, we do not judge anyone by the standards of the flesh. Even if we did once know Christ in the flesh, that is not how we know him now. And for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old creation has gone, and now the new one is here.”

In other words, whilst spiritual life begins with an encounter with the Lord through the human way, that is, by tangible and sacramental means, yet we must not just cling to such devotions.  There are many of these devotions, charismatic worship, healing services, Divine Mercy, Novenas and devotions to the saints in the Church.  They are not to be despised or thought to be for the uneducated.  Such devotions help us to cultivate a human love for God and the saints.  It helps us to experience their love affectively.  But if our love for the Lord is just focused on devotions and the sacramentals, we can become overly superstitious.   Nevertheless, they are important means to lead us to into a deeper encounter with the Lord in contemplative prayer, in silence and in charity.  In the final analysis, the height of love for God is both a contemplative and mystical experience of His love leading us to share His love with others.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore

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Reflection from Living Space

After going off to tell Peter and the other disciples about the empty tomb, it seems that Mary of Magdala went back there to grieve over her lost friend and master. She sees two angels sitting inside the tomb and asks where her Lord has been taken. When asked why she is weeping, she replies that her Lord has been “taken away” and she does not know where he has been put.

Then, as she turns round, there is Jesus before her but she does not recognise him. This is a common experience with those who meet Jesus after the resurrection. He is the same and he is not the same. In this transitional period they have to learn to recognise Jesus in unexpected forms and places and situations. He asks the same question as the angels: “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” A question we need to ask ourselves constantly. Like Mary, we may say we are looking for Jesus – but which Jesus?
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She thinks the person in front of her is the gardener. How often we jump to conclusions about people, about their character and personality and true identity! Maybe this man has taken Jesus away and knows where he is. It is also another lovely example of Johannine irony. First, that the one she took to be the gardener should know where Jesus was to be found. Second, it is John who tells us that the tomb of Jesus was in a garden (19:41). All the world’s pain and sorrow began with the sin of the Man and the Woman in a garden (Eden) and now new life also finds its beginnings in a garden. Mary was unwittingly right – Jesus is a Gardener, the one who produces life from the earth, and is the Word of his Father, the Gardener of Eden.
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Then Jesus speaks: “Mary!” Immediately she recognises his voice, the voice of her Master. It reminds us of the passage about Jesus the Shepherd. “The sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name… the sheep follow him because they recognise his voice… I know my sheep and they know me” (John 10:3-4,15).
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Immediately she turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni”. This is a more formal address than just “Rabbi” and was often used when speaking to God. In which case, Mary’s exclamation is not unlike that of Thomas in the upper room – “My Lord and my God!” We should also note that earlier she had already turned to face Jesus so this turning is different. It is an interior turning from strangeness to recognition, from sadness to joy, from a sense of loss to a close bonding, from doubt to faith.
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With a mixture of joy and affection and partly out of fear of losing him again, she clings on to him tightly. But Jesus tells her to let him go, because “I have not ascended to the
Father”. A sentence which may be better read as a rhetorical question: “Have I not ascended to my Father?” In John, the glorification of Jesus takes place on the cross at the moment of death. At that moment of triumph, Jesus is raised straight to the glory of the Father. In that sense, it is the glorified Jesus who now speaks with Mary not the Jesus she knew earlier. This Jesus cannot be clung to. In fact, there is no need. From now on “I am with you always.”
The phrase “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” echoes a sentence in the Book of Ruth (1:16): “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” The Father of Jesus now becomes the Father of his disciples as they are filled with the Spirit that is both in the Father and the Son. Thus they will be re-born (John 3:5) as God’s children and can be called “brothers” by Jesus.
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Mary – and all the others – have to learn that the Risen Jesus is different from the Jesus before the crucifixion. They have to let go of the earlier Jesus and learn to relate to the “new” Jesus in a very different way.
So she is told to do what every Christian is supposed to do: go and tell the other disciples that she has seen the Lord and she shares with them what he has said to her. “I have seen the Lord.” She is not just passing on a doctrine but sharing an experience. That is what we are all called to do.
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It is significant that it is a woman who is the first person in John’s gospel to see and to be spoken to by the Risen Jesus. Not only that, if she is the same person mentioned by Luke as one of Jesus’ women followers (Luke 8:2), she was formerly a deeply sinful woman from whom seven demons had been driven out. Often no one is closer to God than someone who has been converted from a sinful past. We think of people like St Augustine or St Ignatius Loyola. We remember the example of the sinful woman in the house of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:35-50). Of her Jesus said: “Seeing that she loved much, her many sins are forgiven. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little”
(Luke 7:47).

So Mary, who (who with Mary, Jesus’ Mother, stood by the cross of Jesus to the very end – unlike the men disciples), is now rewarded by being the first to meet him risen and glorified. She is truly a beloved disciple.

Source: http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/e1013g/

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Meditation: Do you recognize the presence and reality of the Lord Jesus in your life? How easy it is to miss the Lord when our focus is on ourselves! Mary Magdalene did not at first recognize the Lord Jesus after he had risen from the grave because her focus was on the empty tomb and on her own grief. It took only one word from the Master, when he called her by name, for Mary to recognize him.

Recognizing the Lord’s presence in our lives
Mary’s message to the disciples, I have seen the Lord, is the very essence of Christianity. It is not enough that every Christian know something about the Lord, but that each one of us know him personally and intimately. It is not enough to argue about him, but that we meet him. Through the power of his resurrection we can encounter the living Lord who loves us personally and shares his glory with us.

The Lord Jesus gives us “eyes of faith” to see the truth of his resurrection and his victory over sin and death (Ephesians 1:18). The resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of our hope – the hope that we will see God face to face and share in his everlasting glory and joy.

Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:8-9).

Do you recognize the Lord’s presence with you, in his word, in the “breaking of the bread”, and in his church, the body of Christ?

“Lord Jesus, may I never fail to recognize your voice nor lose sight of your presence in your saving word.”

Daily Quote from the early church fathersMary Magdalene’s love for Jesus, by Gregory the Great (540-604 AD)

“Mary Magdalene, who had been a sinner in the city (rf. Luke 7:37), loved the Truth and so washed away with her tears the stains of wickedness (rf Luke 7:47). Her sins had kept her cold, but afterward she burned with an irresistible love.… We must consider this woman’s state of mind whose great force of love inflamed her. When even the disciples departed from the sepulcher, she did not depart. She looked for him whom she had not found.… But it is not enough for a lover to have looked once, because the force of love intensifies the effort of the search. She looked for him a first time and found nothing. She persevered in seeking, and that is why she found him. As her unfulfilled desires increased, they took possession of what they found (rf. Song of Solomon 3:1-4)… Holy desires, as I have told you before, increase by delay in their fulfillment. If delay causes them to fail, they were not desires.… This was Mary’s kind of love as she turned a second time to the sepulcher she had already looked into. Let us see the result of her search, which had been redoubled by the power of love. (excerpt from FORTY GOSPEL HOMILIES 25)

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Do Not Be Afraid
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Art: The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, By Rembrandt

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Jesus walks on water, by Ivan Aivazovsky (1888) — He said to them, “Do not be afraid.”

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She mistook him for the gardener — And he said to her, “Do not be afraid.”
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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22 JULY 2016, Friday, St. Mary Magdalene
PERSEVERING LOVE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ SG 3:1-4 or 2 COR 5:14-17; PS 62(63):2-6.8-9; JN 20: 1-2, 11-18  ]

How can we know God?  Most people want to know God through reason.  In the bible, it is clear that the way to know God is through faith rather than through reason.  It is the way of the heart, not the head.  The difficulty of arriving at the knowledge of God through the head is because our minds keep changing.  Reasoning has no end because our minds are always curious and searching for the fullness of truth which can only be arrived at when we find God.  The way to God is always through the heart.  But how can we have faith?  Faith comes through love.  We can place our faith in God only because of love.  Moses instructed the people, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”  (Dt 6:4f)

Indeed, this has always been the case of all those who have found God.  Very few have come to know God through an intellectual process.  The way of St Paul was that of love.  In his letter to the Corinthians, he wrote, “The love of Christ overwhelms us when we reflect that if one man has died for all, then all men should be dead; and the reason he died for all was so that living men should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised to life for them.”  (2 Cor 5:14)  All the disciples, including Mary Magdalene whose feast we celebrate today, followed the Lord because they were moved by His love for them.  This is true for all the saints and mystics.  Even St Thomas Aquinas abandoned his great project, the Summa Theologica, upon encountering God whilst celebrating Mass.  He refused to complete his works saying, “The end of my labors has come. All that I have written appears to be as so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me.  I can write no more. I have seen things that make my writings like straw.”  His vision of heaven or of God cannot be compared to anything else, so that all things on earth appeared to be worthless to him.

Indeed, when we have fallen in love with God, everything changes.  This is what St Paul says again, “From now onwards, therefore, we do not judge anyone by the standards of the flesh. Even if we did once know Christ in the flesh, that is not how we know him now. And for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old creation has gone, and now the new one is here.”  (2 Cor 5:16-17)  When we love, we see things and people differently.  We no longer see them as they are but we see them with the eyes of love.  Both the lover and the beloved are transformed by love.  All religions are based on faith, a personal encounter with the Lord or a mystical experience.  This explains why different people have different faiths, and why some do not have faith in any religion at all.   This is true in all human relationships.  When we fall in love with someone, we perceive the person with the eyes of love and that colours our judgment of the person.  We see beyond what the person is externally.

Mary Magdalene is the exemplar of a disciple who was deeply in love with the Lord. She had been delivered from the seven demons by Jesus.  Apparently, she was a wealthy lady.  From then on, she, with the other women, travelled with Jesus in his itinerant ministry.  They were ministering and taking care of Jesus and the disciples in the background.  Her love for Jesus could be seen in the way, she went to look for Jesus at the tomb early in the morning before all others.  She was with Jesus at the foot of the cross at His death.  All she wanted was to be with the Lord.  And so, upon discovering that the tomb was empty, she went to inform the disciples.  What was significant was that only John who went to the tomb, upon seeing the linen cloths that were left behind, believed that the Lord was risen.  Peter saw but could not make sense of it.  And so he went back still mystified.  However, the faithful Mary Magdalene stayed outside near the tomb weeping and waiting for Jesus.  She did not give up hope.

Mary Magdalene is for us an example of one who waits actively for her beloved to appear.  As the Song of Songs says of the bride who not only waits for her bridegroom but with expectant faith and hope, goes in search for him. “On my bed, at night, I sought him whom my heart loves. I sought but did not find him. So I will rise and go through the City; in the streets and the squares. I will seek him whom my heart loves. I sought but did not find him. The watchmen came upon me on their rounds in the City: ‘Have you seen him whom my heart loves?’ Scarcely had I passed them than I found him whom my heart loves.”

For those of us who have no experience of God’s love or find it difficult to allow God to love us, then we are called to follow the path of Mary Magdalene.  We must abandon the way of reason and take the path of love.  How can we empty our minds when we are so used to reasoning and proofs? 

We must be like Magdalene, be ready to keep on waiting patiently for the Lord.  But we do not simply just wait for Christ to appear. We need to search for Him. “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”  (Mt 7:7f)  Waiting for the Lord is necessary, just like Mary Magdalene who remained outside the tomb when the other disciples left after finding no one there.

Secondly, if we want to encounter Him, then we are called to be like Mary Magdalene whose desire for the Lord is beautifully expressed in the responsorial psalm.  “O God, you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting.  My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water. So I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and your glory. For your love is better than life, my lips will speak your praise.”  By longing for the Lord, we increase our capacity to love Him even more so that when He appears, we can enjoy a deeper experience of His love.  The deeper the desire, the bigger the capacity to receive His love.  This explains why when the Lord appeared to Magdalene He asked her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”  She replied, “They have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have put him.”   This act of asking Magdalene is to strengthen and deepen her desire for Christ.

Thirdly, we need to wait till we hear Him calling us by name.  This was what Jesus said to Mary Magdalene.  “‘Mary!’ She knew him then and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbuni!’ – which means Master.”  Until we hear the Lord calling us by name, we will never know His love.  Before that when Jesus addressed her as woman, she was not able to recognize Jesus:  “’Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.’” To hear the call of Jesus and to recognize Him requires that we are called by name, as the prophet Isaiah says, “Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even if these may forget, I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before Me.”  (Isa 49:15f)  Those of us who have heard Him calling our names are set free and feel loved again. Only then are we convinced that He really loves us.

Finally, we must also avoid falling into the same mistake as Magdalene when she allowed her grief to blind her to the presence of Jesus.  Quite often our pains, hurts and resentments prevent us from looking for the Lord.  Like Mary Magdalene, we want to cling on to the past instead of allowing the new creation to work in us.  Jesus told Mary, “Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to my Father. But go and find the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”  Mary Magdalene could not see the Risen Lord because she was looking for the Historical Jesus.  But Christ is a New Creation. We must look beyond ourselves to the Lord, to focus on Him rather than on ourselves.  In this way, we can then recognize the Lord coming into our lives in so many ways.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Friday, July 22, 2016 — “Woman, why are you weeping?” — She thought she was talking to the gardener — Jesus said to her, “Mary!”

July 21, 2016

Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene
Lectionary: 603

Reading 1 SGS 3:1-4B

The Bride says:
On my bed at night I sought him
whom my heart loves–
I sought him but I did not find him.
I will rise then and go about the city;
in the streets and crossings I will seek
Him whom my heart loves.
I sought him but I did not find him.
The watchmen came upon me,
as they made their rounds of the city:
Have you seen him whom my heart loves?
I had hardly left them
when I found him whom my heart loves.

OR 2 COR 5:14-17

Brothers and sisters:
The love of Christ impels us,
once we have come to the conviction that one died for all;
therefore, all have died.
He indeed died for all,
so that those who live might no longer live for themselves
but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh;
even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh,
yet now we know him so no longer.
So whoever is in Christ is a new creation:
the old things have passed away;
behold, new things have come.

Responsorial Psalm PS 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9

R. (2) My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
O God, you are my God whom I seek;
for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary
to see your power and your glory,
For your kindness is a greater good than life;
my lips shall glorify you.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
Thus will I bless you while I live;
lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.
As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied,
and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
You are my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.
My soul clings fast to you;
your right hand upholds me.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Tell us, Mary, what did you see on the way?
I saw the glory of the risen Christ, I saw his empty tomb.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 20:1-2, 11-18

On the first day of the week,
Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”

Mary 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 Magdalene went and announced to the disciples,
“I have seen the Lord,”
and then reported what he told her.

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Reflection from Living Space

After going off to tell Peter and the other disciples about the empty tomb, it seems that Mary of Magdala went back there to grieve over her lost friend and master. She sees two angels sitting inside the tomb and asks where her Lord has been taken. When asked why she is weeping, she replies that her Lord has been “taken away” and she does not know where he has been put.

Then, as she turns round, there is Jesus before her but she does not recognise him. This is a common experience with those who meet Jesus after the resurrection. He is the same and he is not the same. In this transitional period they have to learn to recognise Jesus in unexpected forms and places and situations. He asks the same question as the angels: “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” A question we need to ask ourselves constantly. Like Mary, we may say we are looking for Jesus – but which Jesus?
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She thinks the person in front of her is the gardener. How often we jump to conclusions about people, about their character and personality and true identity! Maybe this man has taken Jesus away and knows where he is. It is also another lovely example of Johannine irony. First, that the one she took to be the gardener should know where Jesus was to be found. Second, it is John who tells us that the tomb of Jesus was in a garden (19:41). All the world’s pain and sorrow began with the sin of the Man and the Woman in a garden (Eden) and now new life also finds its beginnings in a garden. Mary was unwittingly right – Jesus is a Gardener, the one who produces life from the earth, and is the Word of his Father, the Gardener of Eden.
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Then Jesus speaks: “Mary!” Immediately she recognises his voice, the voice of her Master. It reminds us of the passage about Jesus the Shepherd. “The sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name… the sheep follow him because they recognise his voice… I know my sheep and they know me” (John 10:3-4,15).
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Immediately she turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni”. This is a more formal address than just “Rabbi” and was often used when speaking to God. In which case, Mary’s exclamation is not unlike that of Thomas in the upper room – “My Lord and my God!” We should also note that earlier she had already turned to face Jesus so this turning is different. It is an interior turning from strangeness to recognition, from sadness to joy, from a sense of loss to a close bonding, from doubt to faith.
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With a mixture of joy and affection and partly out of fear of losing him again, she clings on to him tightly. But Jesus tells her to let him go, because “I have not ascended to the
Father”. A sentence which may be better read as a rhetorical question: “Have I not ascended to my Father?” In John, the glorification of Jesus takes place on the cross at the moment of death. At that moment of triumph, Jesus is raised straight to the glory of the Father. In that sense, it is the glorified Jesus who now speaks with Mary not the Jesus she knew earlier. This Jesus cannot be clung to. In fact, there is no need. From now on “I am with you always.”
The phrase “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” echoes a sentence in the Book of Ruth (1:16): “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” The Father of Jesus now becomes the Father of his disciples as they are filled with the Spirit that is both in the Father and the Son. Thus they will be re-born (John 3:5) as God’s children and can be called “brothers” by Jesus.
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Mary – and all the others – have to learn that the Risen Jesus is different from the Jesus before the crucifixion. They have to let go of the earlier Jesus and learn to relate to the “new” Jesus in a very different way.
So she is told to do what every Christian is supposed to do: go and tell the other disciples that she has seen the Lord and she shares with them what he has said to her. “I have seen the Lord.” She is not just passing on a doctrine but sharing an experience. That is what we are all called to do.
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It is significant that it is a woman who is the first person in John’s gospel to see and to be spoken to by the Risen Jesus. Not only that, if she is the same person mentioned by Luke as one of Jesus’ women followers (Luke 8:2), she was formerly a deeply sinful woman from whom seven demons had been driven out. Often no one is closer to God than someone who has been converted from a sinful past. We think of people like St Augustine or St Ignatius Loyola. We remember the example of the sinful woman in the house of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:35-50). Of her Jesus said: “Seeing that she loved much, her many sins are forgiven. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little”
(Luke 7:47).

So Mary, who (who with Mary, Jesus’ Mother, stood by the cross of Jesus to the very end – unlike the men disciples), is now rewarded by being the first to meet him risen and glorified. She is truly a beloved disciple.

Source: http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/e1013g/

Mary Magdalene Thought She Was talking To The Gardener by Rembrandt

Meditation: Do you recognize the presence and reality of the Lord Jesus in your life? How easy it is to miss the Lord when our focus is on ourselves! Mary Magdalene did not at first recognize the Lord Jesus after he had risen from the grave because her focus was on the empty tomb and on her own grief. It took only one word from the Master, when he called her by name, for Mary to recognize him.

Recognizing the Lord’s presence in our lives
Mary’s message to the disciples, I have seen the Lord, is the very essence of Christianity. It is not enough that every Christian know something about the Lord, but that each one of us know him personally and intimately. It is not enough to argue about him, but that we meet him. Through the power of his resurrection we can encounter the living Lord who loves us personally and shares his glory with us.

The Lord Jesus gives us “eyes of faith” to see the truth of his resurrection and his victory over sin and death (Ephesians 1:18). The resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of our hope – the hope that we will see God face to face and share in his everlasting glory and joy.

Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:8-9).

Do you recognize the Lord’s presence with you, in his word, in the “breaking of the bread”, and in his church, the body of Christ?

“Lord Jesus, may I never fail to recognize your voice nor lose sight of your presence in your saving word.”

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Mary Magdalene’s love for Jesus, by Gregory the Great (540-604 AD)

“Mary Magdalene, who had been a sinner in the city (rf. Luke 7:37), loved the Truth and so washed away with her tears the stains of wickedness (rf Luke 7:47). Her sins had kept her cold, but afterward she burned with an irresistible love.… We must consider this woman’s state of mind whose great force of love inflamed her. When even the disciples departed from the sepulcher, she did not depart. She looked for him whom she had not found.… But it is not enough for a lover to have looked once, because the force of love intensifies the effort of the search. She looked for him a first time and found nothing. She persevered in seeking, and that is why she found him. As her unfulfilled desires increased, they took possession of what they found (rf. Song of Solomon 3:1-4)… Holy desires, as I have told you before, increase by delay in their fulfillment. If delay causes them to fail, they were not desires.… This was Mary’s kind of love as she turned a second time to the sepulcher she had already looked into. Let us see the result of her search, which had been redoubled by the power of love. (excerpt from FORTY GOSPEL HOMILIES 25)

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Do Not Be Afraid
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Art: The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, By Rembrandt

Jesus walks on water, by Ivan Aivazovsky (1888) — He said to them, “Do not be afraid.”

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She mistook him for the gardener — And he said to her, “Do not be afraid.”
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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22 JULY 2016, Friday, St. Mary Magdalene
PERSEVERING LOVE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ SG 3:1-4 or 2 COR 5:14-17; PS 62(63):2-6.8-9; JN 20: 1-2, 11-18  ]

How can we know God?  Most people want to know God through reason.  In the bible, it is clear that the way to know God is through faith rather than through reason.  It is the way of the heart, not the head.  The difficulty of arriving at the knowledge of God through the head is because our minds keep changing.  Reasoning has no end because our minds are always curious and searching for the fullness of truth which can only be arrived at when we find God.  The way to God is always through the heart.  But how can we have faith?  Faith comes through love.  We can place our faith in God only because of love.  Moses instructed the people, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”  (Dt 6:4f)

Indeed, this has always been the case of all those who have found God.  Very few have come to know God through an intellectual process.  The way of St Paul was that of love.  In his letter to the Corinthians, he wrote, “The love of Christ overwhelms us when we reflect that if one man has died for all, then all men should be dead; and the reason he died for all was so that living men should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised to life for them.”  (2 Cor 5:14)  All the disciples, including Mary Magdalene whose feast we celebrate today, followed the Lord because they were moved by His love for them.  This is true for all the saints and mystics.  Even St Thomas Aquinas abandoned his great project, the Summa Theologica, upon encountering God whilst celebrating Mass.  He refused to complete his works saying, “The end of my labors has come. All that I have written appears to be as so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me.  I can write no more. I have seen things that make my writings like straw.”  His vision of heaven or of God cannot be compared to anything else, so that all things on earth appeared to be worthless to him.

Indeed, when we have fallen in love with God, everything changes.  This is what St Paul says again, “From now onwards, therefore, we do not judge anyone by the standards of the flesh. Even if we did once know Christ in the flesh, that is not how we know him now. And for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old creation has gone, and now the new one is here.”  (2 Cor 5:16-17)  When we love, we see things and people differently.  We no longer see them as they are but we see them with the eyes of love.  Both the lover and the beloved are transformed by love.  All religions are based on faith, a personal encounter with the Lord or a mystical experience.  This explains why different people have different faiths, and why some do not have faith in any religion at all.   This is true in all human relationships.  When we fall in love with someone, we perceive the person with the eyes of love and that colours our judgment of the person.  We see beyond what the person is externally.

Mary Magdalene is the exemplar of a disciple who was deeply in love with the Lord. She had been delivered from the seven demons by Jesus.  Apparently, she was a wealthy lady.  From then on, she, with the other women, travelled with Jesus in his itinerant ministry.  They were ministering and taking care of Jesus and the disciples in the background.  Her love for Jesus could be seen in the way, she went to look for Jesus at the tomb early in the morning before all others.  She was with Jesus at the foot of the cross at His death.  All she wanted was to be with the Lord.  And so, upon discovering that the tomb was empty, she went to inform the disciples.  What was significant was that only John who went to the tomb, upon seeing the linen cloths that were left behind, believed that the Lord was risen.  Peter saw but could not make sense of it.  And so he went back still mystified.  However, the faithful Mary Magdalene stayed outside near the tomb weeping and waiting for Jesus.  She did not give up hope.

Mary Magdalene is for us an example of one who waits actively for her beloved to appear.  As the Song of Songs says of the bride who not only waits for her bridegroom but with expectant faith and hope, goes in search for him. “On my bed, at night, I sought him whom my heart loves. I sought but did not find him. So I will rise and go through the City; in the streets and the squares. I will seek him whom my heart loves. I sought but did not find him. The watchmen came upon me on their rounds in the City: ‘Have you seen him whom my heart loves?’ Scarcely had I passed them than I found him whom my heart loves.”

For those of us who have no experience of God’s love or find it difficult to allow God to love us, then we are called to follow the path of Mary Magdalene.  We must abandon the way of reason and take the path of love.  How can we empty our minds when we are so used to reasoning and proofs? 

We must be like Magdalene, be ready to keep on waiting patiently for the Lord.  But we do not simply just wait for Christ to appear. We need to search for Him. “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”  (Mt 7:7f)  Waiting for the Lord is necessary, just like Mary Magdalene who remained outside the tomb when the other disciples left after finding no one there.

Secondly, if we want to encounter Him, then we are called to be like Mary Magdalene whose desire for the Lord is beautifully expressed in the responsorial psalm.  “O God, you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting.  My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water. So I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and your glory. For your love is better than life, my lips will speak your praise.”  By longing for the Lord, we increase our capacity to love Him even more so that when He appears, we can enjoy a deeper experience of His love.  The deeper the desire, the bigger the capacity to receive His love.  This explains why when the Lord appeared to Magdalene He asked her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”  She replied, “They have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have put him.”   This act of asking Magdalene is to strengthen and deepen her desire for Christ.

Thirdly, we need to wait till we hear Him calling us by name.  This was what Jesus said to Mary Magdalene.  “‘Mary!’ She knew him then and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbuni!’ – which means Master.”  Until we hear the Lord calling us by name, we will never know His love.  Before that when Jesus addressed her as woman, she was not able to recognize Jesus:  “’Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.’” To hear the call of Jesus and to recognize Him requires that we are called by name, as the prophet Isaiah says, “Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even if these may forget, I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before Me.”  (Isa 49:15f)  Those of us who have heard Him calling our names are set free and feel loved again. Only then are we convinced that He really loves us.

Finally, we must also avoid falling into the same mistake as Magdalene when she allowed her grief to blind her to the presence of Jesus.  Quite often our pains, hurts and resentments prevent us from looking for the Lord.  Like Mary Magdalene, we want to cling on to the past instead of allowing the new creation to work in us.  Jesus told Mary, “Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to my Father. But go and find the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”  Mary Magdalene could not see the Risen Lord because she was looking for the Historical Jesus.  But Christ is a New Creation. We must look beyond ourselves to the Lord, to focus on Him rather than on ourselves.  In this way, we can then recognize the Lord coming into our lives in so many ways.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, March 29, 2016 — God has made him both Lord and Christ

March 28, 2016

Tuesday in the Octave of Easter
Lectionary: 262

Reading 1 ACTS 2:36-41

On the day of Pentecost, Peter said to the Jewish people,
“Let the whole house of Israel know for certain
that God has made him both Lord and Christ,
this Jesus whom you crucified.”Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart,
and they asked Peter and the other Apostles,
“What are we to do, my brothers?”
Peter said to them,
“Repent and be baptized, every one of you,
in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins;
and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
For the promise is made to you and to your children
and to all those far off,
whomever the Lord our God will call.”
He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them,
“Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”
Those who accepted his message were baptized,
and about three thousand persons were added that day.

Responsorial Psalm PS 33:4-5, 18-19, 20 AND 22

R. (5b) The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield.
May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us
who have put our hope in you.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.

AlleluiaPS 118:24

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
This is the day the LORD has made;
let us be glad and rejoice in it.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 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.
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Art: Christ and St. Mary Magdalene at the Tomb by Rembrandt c.1638 — “She thought it was the gardener.”
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Commentary on John 20:11-18 from Living Space

After going off to tell Peter and the other disciples about the empty tomb, it seems that Mary of Magdala went back there to grieve over her lost friend and master. She sees two angels sitting inside the tomb and asks where her Lord has been taken. When asked why she is weeping, she replies that her Lord has been “taken away” and she does not know where he has been put.

Then, as she turns round, there is Jesus before her but she does not recognise him. This is a common experience with those who meet Jesus after the resurrection. He is the same and he is not the same. In this transitional period they have to learn to recognise Jesus in unexpected forms and places and situations. He asks the same question as the angels: “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” A question we need to ask ourselves constantly. Like Mary, we may say we are looking for Jesus – but which Jesus?
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She thinks the person in front of her is the gardener. How often we jump to conclusions about people, about their character and personality and true identity! Maybe this man has taken Jesus away and knows where he is. It is also another lovely example of Johannine irony. First, that the one she took to be the gardener should know where Jesus was to be found. Second, it is John who tells us that the tomb of Jesus was in a garden (19:41). All the world’s pain and sorrow began with the sin of the Man and the Woman in a garden (Eden) and now new life also finds its beginnings in a garden. Mary was unwittingly right – Jesus is a Gardener, the one who produces life from the earth, and is the Word of his Father, the Gardener of Eden.
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Then Jesus speaks: “Mary!” Immediately she recognises his voice, the voice of her Master. It reminds us of the passage about Jesus the Shepherd. “The sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name… the sheep follow him because they recognise his voice… I know my sheep and they know me” (John 10:3-4,15).
Immediately she turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni”. This is a more formal address than just “Rabbi” and was often used when speaking to God. In which case, Mary’s exclamation is not unlike that of Thomas in the upper room – “My Lord and my God!” We should also note that earlier she had already turned to face Jesus so this turning is different. It is an interior turning from strangeness to recognition, from sadness to joy, from a sense of loss to a close bonding, from doubt to faith.
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With a mixture of joy and affection and partly out of fear of losing him again, she clings on to him tightly. But Jesus tells her to let him go, because “I have not ascended to the Father.” A sentence which may be better read as a rhetorical question: “Have I not ascended to my Father?” In John, the glorification of Jesus takes place on the cross at the moment of death.
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At that moment of triumph, Jesus is raised straight to the glory of the Father. In that sense, it is the glorified Jesus who now speaks with Mary not the Jesus she knew earlier. This Jesus cannot be clung to. In fact, there is no need. From now on “I am with you always.”
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The phrase “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” echoes a sentence in the Book of Ruth (1:16): “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” The Father of Jesus now becomes the Father of his disciples as they are filled with the Spirit that is both in the Father and the Son. Thus they will be re-born (John 3:5) as God’s children and can be called “brothers” by Jesus.
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Mary – and all the others – have to learn that the Risen Jesus is different from the Jesus before the crucifixion. They have to let go of the earlier Jesus and learn to relate to the “new” Jesus in a very different way.
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So she is told to do what every Christian is supposed to do: go and tell the other disciples that she has seen the Lord and she shares with them what he has said to her. “I have seen the Lord.” She is not just passing on a doctrine but sharing an experience. That is what we are all called to do.
It is significant that it is a woman who is the first person in John’s gospel to see and to be spoken to by the Risen Jesus. Not only that, if she is the same person mentioned by Luke as one of Jesus’ women followers (Luke 8:2), she was formerly a deeply sinful woman from whom seven demons had been driven out. Often no one is closer to God than someone who has been converted from a sinful past. We think of people like St Augustine or St Ignatius Loyola. We remember the example of the sinful woman in the house of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:35-50). Of her Jesus said: “Seeing that she loved much, her many sins are forgiven. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little” (Luke 7:47).

So Mary, who (who with Mary, Jesus’ Mother, stood by the cross of Jesus to the very end – unlike the men disciples), is now rewarded by being the first to meet him risen and glorified. She is truly a beloved disciple.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/e1013g/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore 
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29 MARCH 2016, Tuesday Within Easter Octave
COMING OUT OF OUR TOMB

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 2:36-41; JN 20:11-18 ]

Today is the second day of the Octave of Easter.   Are you resurrected yet?  Or are you still in the tomb?  If so, why is it that you are still hiding in the tomb when we are told that the Lord has removed the stone blocking you from coming out of the tomb?  Moreover, the morning star has set and the light of Christ is shining so brightly outside the tomb!

If we are still in the tomb, it could be because we are like Mary, who was not able to let go of the past.  She could not let go of the beautiful memories she had of Jesus who saved her from sin and from living a meaningless life.   She was still thinking of the Jesus of Nazareth whom she loved with all her heart.  She was clinging to the things of this world, to what is earthly.  At the same time, she could not forget the horrible sight and memories of Jesus who was scourged, mocked, ridiculed and crucified on the cross.  She must have been so heartbroken, not just at the death of Jesus but the tragic way He died; an ignominious and innocent death.

It is the same for us too.  We are like Mary who continued to cling to our past, the good old days when our children were with us at our side but now no more as they are now living their independent lives. Some of us are in bereavement over the loss of our loved ones; some are widowed and some of us are sickly.  Again, when we think of the good old days, we cannot but regret that the good times have passed, and now we are living lives of loneliness and pain.  Indeed, it is the tendency of those of us are who suffering to bemoan the nostalgic times and wish that we could relive them.

When we are not ready to move on to a new situation, we become misfits in society and in life.  Sadly, those who have suffered failures in relationship, who have been jilted or betrayed in marriage and friendship, are not willing to move on and would rather give up on relationships all together.  The failure to adapt and change is the cause of our misery.  When we continue to look to the good old days, reinforcing our pains and misery and wallowing in them, we cannot see the Risen Lord or even the angels that the Lord sends to us.  This was certainly what happened to Mary Magdalene.  We read that “still weeping, she stooped to look inside, and saw two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head, the other at the feet. They said, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ ‘They have taken my Lord away,’ she replied, ‘and I don’t know where they have put him.’”  She did not even see the angels or know that they were angels from God who had been sent to help her and console her with the Good News.   We, too, when we are absorbed in our pains and hurts, we cannot see the light in front of us and the angels God sends to us through our friends, colleagues, loved ones, the priests and especially the Word of God and the Eucharist.

For others, it is their sins that prevent them from seeing the new life.  They have not completely given up their sins.  St Paul reminds us of the need to get rid of the old yeast of sin so that we can be fresh dough.  (cf 1 Cor 5:7-8)  If we are not ready to give up our sins, such as anger, revenge, lust, envy, sloth, greed and gluttony, we cannot find life.  Without giving up the sins that we cling to, we remain slaves to all that is negative and destructive of our happiness and freedom.  No one who is under the bondage of the Evil One is free to be happy.  No one can sin and be truly happy because deep in his heart, he knows that he is not just cheating others but himself.  He would have no confidence to stand before God with a clear conscience.  (cf1 Jn 3:21)  So we must resolve to throw out all that remains of our pride and selfishness so that we can renew ourselves in the power of the Risen Lord.

St Peter made it clear to the Jews that they must repent and be baptized if they want to enter the Promised Land.  Peter answered, “You must repent and every one of you must be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise that was made is for you and your children, and for all those who are far away, for all those whom the Lord our God will call to himself.”  We must make a decision to turn away from our sins and what that binds us to the past.  That was what happened to Mary as well.  When her eyes were turned away from Jesus, she could not recognize Him, thinking that He was the gardener.  She said, “Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.”  To be baptized means that we enter into the tomb of Jesus and rise up again, washed clean of our sins and our past; and put on the new garment, the new creation that we are called to be.  (cf Eph 2:10)

But we might say to ourselves, “we have no strength” to do it.  We want to come out of our tomb but we find ourselves powerless.  We want to forgive but we cannot.  We want to make ourselves useful but we are lazy and selfish.  We want to be generous but we are afraid to letting go of our wealth and possessions.  We want to serve but we are not willing to share our time and leisure with others.  We want to live a simpler life but the enticement of money, glory and power overwhelms us.  So we are trapped by our sins and the lack of the capacity to break free from our clutches, like the crippled man at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple.

That is why we must turn to Jesus. He has already removed that stone.  But now we need to get out of that tomb.  This also needs His help because we are still too crippled to come out by ourselves.  We can now see the light outside the cave shining into our tombs, but we are not able to climb out.  This was what Mary did when the Lord drew her towards Him.  “Jesus said, ‘Mary!’ She knew him then and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbuni!’ – which means Master.”   We need to hear the Lord speaking to us intimately and personally if we are to break free from our chains.  St Paul said it for himself when he wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20)

Only when we can come to the conviction that Christ loves us, we cannot be set free from our past and bondages.  That was what Jesus said to Mary after calling her name.  He said, “Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go and find the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”   We cannot let go of our straws unless we have found the cross of life.  We cannot let go of worldly enjoyments unless we have tasted the joy of love, the peace of a clear conscience, the freedom of surrendering our lives to God as we give ourselves in love and service, not thinking about ourselves and our security but that of others.

So if we want the Lord to enter into our lives and lead us out of the tomb which is now opened, we need to be like Mary Magdalene, pondering the love of Jesus for us.  Only when we contemplate what the Lord has done for us, how much He has suffered innocently and died for our sins, will our hearts then be converted like that of the Jews.  It was only when they heard Peter’s discourse of how they killed and crucified the Lord and Messiah that “they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the apostles, ‘What must we do, brothers?’”  So we must open our hearts, our ears and our eyes in prayer and intimacy with the Lord.  When we realize how our sins continue to crucify the Lord even today and how we are hurting Him, because we are hurting ourselves and those whom He loves equally, then our hearts too will be cut to the quick and repent.  If we turn to the Lord and seek forgiveness, then St Peter says that we will receive the Holy Spirit who will then give us the resurrected life of Christ. With the Holy Spirit in us, the Father and the Son living in us, we are in Him as He is in us.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, July 22, 2015 — Jesus is indeed the Gardener — Will we ask Mary Magdalene to help us know Jesus better?

July 21, 2015

Memorial of Saint Mary Magdalene
Lectionary: 397/603

Noli me tangere by Rembrandt

Art: Christ (as gardener) and St. Mary Magdalene at the Tomb, by Rembrandt.

Reading 1 EX 16:1-5, 9-15

The children of Israel set out from Elim,
and came into the desert of Sin,
which is between Elim and Sinai,
on the fifteenth day of the second month
after their departure from the land of Egypt.
Here in the desert the whole assembly of the children of Israel
grumbled against Moses and Aaron.
The children of Israel said to them,
“Would that we had died at the LORD’s hand in the land of Egypt,
as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread!
But you had to lead us into this desert
to make the whole community die of famine!”Then the LORD said to Moses,
“I will now rain down bread from heaven for you.
Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion;
thus will I test them,
to see whether they follow my instructions or not.
On the sixth day, however, when they prepare what they bring in,
let it be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”Then Moses said to Aaron, “Tell the whole congregation
of the children of Israel:
Present yourselves before the LORD,
for he has heard your grumbling.”
When Aaron announced this to the whole assembly of the children of Israel,
they turned toward the desert, and lo,
the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud!
The LORD spoke to Moses and said,
“I have heard the grumbling of the children of Israel.
Tell them: In the evening twilight you shall eat flesh,
and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread,
so that you may know that I, the LORD, am your God.”In the evening quail came up and covered the camp.
In the morning a dew lay all about the camp,
and when the dew evaporated, there on the surface of the desert
were fine flakes like hoarfrost on the ground.
On seeing it, the children of Israel asked one another, “What is this?”
for they did not know what it was.
But Moses told them,
“This is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 78:18-19, 23-24, 25-26, 27-28

R. (24b) The Lord gave them bread from heaven.
They tempted God in their hearts
by demanding the food they craved.
Yes, they spoke against God, saying,
“Can God spread a table in the desert?”
R. The Lord gave them bread from heaven.
Yet he commanded the skies above
and the doors of heaven he opened;
He rained manna upon them for food
and gave them heavenly bread.
R. The Lord gave them bread from heaven.
Man ate the bread of angels,
food he sent them in abundance.
He stirred up the east wind in the heavens,
and by his power brought on the south wind.
R. The Lord gave them bread from heaven.
And he rained meat upon them like dust,
and, like the sand of the sea, winged fowl,
Which fell in the midst of their camp
round about their tents.
R. The Lord gave them bread from heaven.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Tell us Mary, what did you see on the way?
I saw the glory of the risen Christ, I saw his empty tomb.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 20:1-2, 11-18

On the first day of the week,
Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”Mary 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 Magdalene went and announced to the disciples,
“I have seen the Lord,”
and then reported what he told her.
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Saint Mary Magdalen – Commentary on Song of Songs 3:1-4a or 2 Corinthians 5:14-17; Ps 62; John 20:1-2,11-18 From Living Space

The Gospel reading, from John, describes the encounter of Mary Magdalen with the Risen Jesus. We are told that Mary went to the tomb early on Sunday morning, “while it was still dark”. The darkness not only indicates that it was before sunrise but also expresses the feelings in Mary’s heart. She had lost her beloved Master and was in deep mourning for him. She saw that the large stone guarding the entrance to the tomb had been removed and was very upset. So she ran back to tell Peter and the Beloved Disciple: “They have taken the Lord from the tomb and we don’t know where they have laid him.” The use of “we” suggests that there were, as the other gospels indicate, other women with Mary but they are not mentioned by John.

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Peter and the Beloved Disciple then run to the tomb to verify the women’s report. They see the empty tomb and the burial cloths but it is only the Beloved Disciple who sees the significance of their arrangement and believes that the women’s report that Jesus is risen is, in fact, true.

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They then go back to report to the larger group and Mary Magdalen is left alone outside the tomb, weeping. Still weeping, she looks into the tomb and sees two angels inside, one at the head and one at the foot of where Jesus had been. They ask her why she is weeping. The word “weeping” is used three times, indicating the depth of her grief. “They have taken my Lord and I do not know where they have put him.” It is not clear who the “they” might be.

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Just then, she turns round and sees Jesus there, except that she does not recognise him – a common feature of all the resurrection stories. “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” he asks her. She thinks he must be the gardener. This was not surprising, as we had been told a little earlier (Jn 19:41) that Jesus’ tomb was in a garden. There is some Johannine irony here. At the very beginning, death had come to the human race in a garden, the Garden of Eden, where Adam and his wife and disobeyed Yahweh. Now, life is coming back in another garden. And, of course, Jesus is indeed the Gardener.

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It is then that Jesus addresses her: “Mary!” In speaking of himself as the Good Shepherd, Jesus had said, “He calls his own sheep by name… The sheep follow him because they recognise his voice.” So here, Mary immediately recognises the voice of her Master; she knows that it is Jesus who is calling her. And she turns. But, just now, she had already turned to face him. This is a different turning – it is an interior turning to her Lord.

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Jesus then tells her to stop clinging to him. She thinks she is clinging to the Jesus she knew before. But this is the Risen Jesus already on the way to be united to his Father. From now on she will have to find him in a very different way, in her brothers and sisters. So, she is told to go and tell the other disciples that Jesus is on his way to the Father, to his God and their God.

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So Mary goes off to tell the disciples the exciting news: “I have seen the Lord!”

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In many ways, Mary Magdalen can be called a Beloved Disciple. No one shows a stronger love for Jesus than this woman who had been liberated from a seriously sinful life. She was there with Jesus’ Mother and some other women at the foot of the cross keeping vigil, while not one of the men disciples was to be seen. After Jesus was buried, she kept vigil by his tomb. Early on Sunday morning, she was there again when the tomb was discovered to be empty. After the visit of Peter and the Beloved Disciple, she alone stayed on to mourn.

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In this gospel, she is the very first person to whom the Risen Jesus reveals himself. And she is the very first of his followers to announce the Resurrection of the Lord. This gives her a unique place in the Gospel story.

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There is a choice of two First Readings. The first is from the Song of Songs and expresses the lover’s distress at the loss of the one she loves and then her joy at finding him. “I sought him whom my heart loves but I did not find him… The watchmen came upon me… Have you seen him whom my heart loves?” Just then, she comes across him: “I had hardly left them when I found him whom my heart loves. I took hold of him and would not let him go…”

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The similarity with the Gospel story is very close.

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The alternative First Reading is from the Second Letter to the Corinthians. “The love of Christ drives us forward,” says Paul. It was this love that drove Mary Magdalen. And it speaks of a new relationship with Christ: “From now on we regard no one according to the flesh; even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him so no longer.” This was what Mary Magdalen had to learn. She could no longer cling to the Christ she had known earlier.

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The Christ we know now is to be found in every person and in every experience of our life. It is there that he is to love and served. We will ask Mary Magdalen to help us know Jesus better.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/f0722a/

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Rembrandt’s portrait of Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene invites us to reconsider Jesus as the gardener.

The gardener receives little attention on Easter because we conclude that it’s a case of mistaken identity. We excuse Mary for “supposing him to be the gardener” because she is overwhelmed by grief and is greatly distressed that his lifeless body is missing from the tomb. Then Jesus calls her by name, and she cries out “Rabbouni!” as she recognizes him (John 20:15-16).

There is good reason we overlook the “gardener” and focus on Jesus’ true identity as the Risen Christ.

However, Rembrandt’s portrait doesn’t allow us to dismiss this gardener. If this is a before-she-recognizes-him picture, why didn’t Rembrandt also paint an after-she-recognizes-him portrait? There’s no mistaking it. See, Jesus is wearing a wide-brim hat and holding a shovel in his right hand. Christ is risen, and he is the gardener.

Granted, Jesus never said, “I am the Master Gardener.” But drawing from his teachings and parables, he is obviously well versed in gardening. Even if he never placed a seed in soil, pulled a weed or picked a vegetable, it’s indisputable that he is Master over the garden where he was laid to rest.

This garden near Golgotha is a contrast from Eden, the first garden. Adam and Eve failed to trust God and were ordered to leave. The Master Gardener gives us eyes to see that soul and soil, humanity and non-humanity, are redeemed. Life’s abundance flourishes through him.

http://www.thelutheran.org/article/article.cfm?article_id=7884

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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PASSIONATE LOVE FOR THE LORD

SCRIPTURE READINGS:  SONG 3:1-4 OR 2 COR 5:14-17; JN 20: 1-2, 11-18

Do you truly love the Lord?  What kind of love relationship do you have with Him?  Is your love for Him, tepid, lukewarm or passionate?   How often do you think of Him?  Does your life revolve around Him? Do you yearn for Him as you would yearn for someone whom you love deeply?  For those of us who only have a lackadaisical love for the Lord, He is unlikely to be consciously felt or even thought of, much less yearned for.   At most, we try to ritually remember Him briefly at prayers in the morning and just before we sleep. Such a compartmentalized relationship with God cannot be love.

Why do we not have a passionate love for Christ?  It is because we love with our minds rather than with our hearts.  We may find Him, His teachings, and His values fascinating, but our hearts are unmoved. Furthermore,we delude ourselves into believing that we love Him just because we are able to produce fruits of love in our service to the Church, our generosity to the poor and our devotion to spiritual exercises.  The irony is that such intended acts of love for God can be means of consolation to make us feel good about ourselves, to justify ourselves before Him and to receive appreciation from others.

The truth is that if we love God at all, our love must be a passionate love.   Such a passionate love of course does not exclude knowledge of the one we love, or the works of love.  On the contrary, these must be included otherwise it would be a deficient love. However, mere intellectual faith or good actions if not prompted by a passionate love for Him would be deprived of power and efficacy.  Emotions and especially feelings are part of the whole experience of love.

This is where Mary Magdalene, whose feast we celebrate today, can teach us how to love passionately.  In fact, this is where she stands out from the rest of the disciples and apostles.  Her passionate love for Jesus is brought out in the scripture readings.  What better way to express her love for Christ than for the Church to permit the use of the Book of the Song of Songs to evoke in us the sentiments of Mary Magdalene in her love for Christ. Like a lover in search of her beloved in the Song of Songs, Mary Magdalene went in search of Christ on Easter Sunday morning.

So what kind of love could be appropriately classified as passionate love?  It must firstly be a love of intimacy.  Mary was intimately in union with Jesus.  Her whole life was focused on loving Jesus.  She lived for Jesus and her life was consecrated to Him and for His service.  The gospel tells us that she and the other women followed Jesus in His ministry and attended to His needs out of their own resources.

Secondly, it must a yearning love.  Mary was always thinking of Jesus.  The first reading describes this kind of love: “On my bed, at night, I sought him whom my heart loves. I sought but did not find him. So I will rise and go through the City; in the streets and the squares I will seek him whom my heart loves.”  When we love someone, we will always yearn for the presence of that person, desiring to spend all our time with him or her, being one in mind and heart.  So too, when we are in love with God, we would also long to be with Him at all times.

Thirdly, it must be a love of passion.  This must however be rightly understood.  The love of passion must be distinguished in two ways, namely, feelings and suffering.  Mary Magdalene did not simply have a sentimental love for Jesus.  She expressed her love by her desire to suffer with Jesus. The gospel recounted her faithful and courageous love for Him when she stood at the foot of the cross with Mary, the mother of our Lord and St John, whilst the others abandoned Him.  So her passionate love was beyond feelings. She was ready to suffer the shame of the cross with Jesus, even remaining behind with the women to complete His burial by anointing His Body on Easter morning.  Such a love gave her the grace to be the first to see the Risen Lord, even before the apostles.

Fourthly, her passionate love is demonstrated in her evangelical outlook as well.  She did not keep Jesus for herself.  Her love for Jesus was not a selfish and self-centered love.  On the contrary, she wanted to share Jesus with as many as possible.  Not only did she help Jesus in His earthly ministry, but after encountering the Risen Lord, she went to announce to the apostles even though they were slow in believing.  So much so the Byzantine Liturgy celebrates Mary Magdalene as “the apostle to the Apostles.”  She taught us that the basis of apostleship and discipleship is rooted in a passionate love for Him.

Yet there is a warning as well.  We must be careful not to reduce love into mere sentimentalism.  This is where Jesus reminded her when He said,   “Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to my Father. But go and find the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”  Love must bring about a real change in our lives.  It must be a transforming love. This was certainly the case for Mary Magdalene.  She was transformed by Christ’s love, for she had seven demons cast out from her (Mk 16:9).  Rightly, the words of St Paul applies to her when he wrote, “From now onwards, therefore, we do not judge anyone by the standards of the flesh. Even if we did once know Christ in the flesh, that is not how we know him now. And for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old creation has gone, and now the new one is here.”

What then is the foundation of such a passionate love?  In the optional reading of today’s mass taken from 2 Cor 5:14, St Paul shares the source of his zealous ministry.  He wrote, “The love of Christ overwhelms us.”   If Paul too was passionate about Christ and the gospel, it was because of the love of Christ he experienced just as Mary Magdalene did.  Truly, we must first be loved by Christ before we can find the passion to love likewise.   Only with this love was St Paul able to say, “when we reflect that if one man has died for all, then all men should be dead; and the reason he died for all was so that living men should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised to life for them.”

It is true that a passionate love entails the mind, heart and action.  Isn’t this what is commanded in the scriptures and affirmed by Jesus when He said, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.”?  But it is significant that such a love begins with the heart (affective love), then the mind (intellectual faith) which is then expressed in actions (strength).  Thus, St Teresa of Avila says, “Prayer is to think less and love more.”

So have you fallen in love with Jesus?  Do you want the liberating, healing and empowering experience of His love?  We can have the experience of encountering the Risen Lord only if we make ourselves available to Him.  Unfortunately, like Mary Magdalene, we allow our sorrows; pains and fears to hinder us from recognizing His presence.  We dare not take the risk like Mary Magdalene to seek Jesus, even if it were at the tomb.  In the Church, there are many avenues; programs and retreats that offer you a personal experience of the love of Jesus.  But are you receptive and courageous enough to seize the opportunity to open your heart to His love?  He is our beloved, waiting for us to respond to His love.

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JESUS THE GARDENER                                                             

By Rev. Peter Schineller, S.J.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd,  the King of Kings,  our Lord and Savior. He is the Messiah,  the Way, the Truth and the Life.  These are among the many important names and titles we give to Jesus Christ.  There is one more worth reflecting upon especially as Christians move to Holy Week and Easter,  the most solemn week of the Church Year, namely Jesus the Gardener.

JESUS THE GARDENER

Where does this come from, what does it mean?  We go back to the first Easter Sunday. The place  is the Garden of the Resurrection.   Mary Magdalene has come to the tomb. She sees it empty and weeps. Two angels try to console here. As she explains her reason for weeping, she turns and sees Jesus, but she does not recognize him. Mary “supposed he was the gardener” (John 20:15).  Weeping, she explains that she is seeking the body of Jesus. Then “Jesus said to her ‘Mary’! (20:16) From the sound of his voice,  she immediately recognizes  that it is Jesus.

The artist  Albrecht Durer captures that scene in his etching entitled “Christ as Gardener”. Jesus  wears the cap of a gardener at work, and  carries a shovel, about to go to work.  Is it not fitting that Jesus risen in glory appears to Mary  as the gardener in the Garden of the Resurrection?

Jesus is the Gardener By Albrecht Durer, 1511 woodcut

THE GARDEN IN THE SCRIPTURES.    To picture and see Jesus as the Gardener very much agrees with the whole of the Scriptures.   In the book of Genesis,  God creates the Garden of Eden, and creates Adam and Eve to care for it. “The Lord God took Adam and put him in the garden of Eden to till and to keep it” (Gen. 2:15).  But that  garden is not only a garden place for Adam and Eve, but for God too!  After their fall,  Adam and Eve “heard the sound of the Lord God moving about in the garden” (Gen. 3:8).   Then, however, because of their sin,  Adam and Eve are banished from the Garden of Eden.

But God did not abandon his children.  In the Old Testament, he sends the patriarchs and prophets, the kings and judges to admonish, correct and  gather the people of Israel to be His people, the faithful remnant.  Eventually in the fullness of time,  God the Father sends his own Son to redeem and save his people.  Jesus, born of Mary,  goes about doing good, healing and teaching, gathering a new community of disciples. At the end of his public ministry,  Jesus makes his way to Jerusalem  the place where he will be rejected, suffer, die and rise.   Every year now,  during the forty days of Lent, Christians accompany Jesus as he journeys to Jerusalem – to the place of suffering and the place of new life.

GARDEN OF SUFFERING.   For Catholics, Lent ends in the afternoon of Holy Thursday when the  Sacred Triduum, the three most holy days of the year, begins.  Then  the Garden reappears once again. After the Last Supper, the Paschal Meal on  Holy Thursday with his disciples,   Jesus proceeds to the Garden of Gethsemane.  As the gospel of John explains “After this discourse, Jesus went out with his disciples across the  Kidron Valley.  There was a garden there, and he and his disciples entered it (Jn. 18:1).  John adds that it was familiar, “because Jesus had often met there with his disciples” (Jn. 18: 2).  He prays there in great agony. He courageously commits himself to do the Father’s will, even to death.  Later, in that garden, the soldiers capture Jesus and his imprisonment and trial follows.

On Good Friday there is another garden.  On that day Christians recall how  Jesus  is condemned  to death and carries his cross to Golgotha.  John the evangelist again notes the garden: “In the place where he had been crucified, there was a garden” (Jn. 19:41).  The place of death is a garden place. There Jesus dies into his Father’s hands.

GARDEN OF THE RESURRECTION.  But the story does not end there. Jesus is taken down from the cross and buried in the tomb in that garden.  On the third day,  Easter Sunday,  that place becomes the Garden of the Resurrection.  Jesus breaks the bonds of death and begins to appear to his followers. First of all, he appears to Mary Magdalene and the women, those who had been most faithful to Jesus,  remaining with him as he died on the cross.

As  the Gospel of John tells the story, and as the artist Durer pictures it,   Jesus very fittingly and beautifully appears to Mary Magdalene as the Gardener.  The garden is the place where the glory of God is revealed.  Gardens are places of new and recurrent life,  where plants, flowers, shrubs, vegetables come to life, spring time after spring time. The gardener is the one who oversees and does his part so the cycle of life reoccurs. The gardener  plants and prunes,  digs, fertilizes and waters so that trees and plants  bear fruit, fruit in abundance.

So just as  God walked in the original Garden of Eden, so now again the Son of God, who is the Resurrection and the Life, appears in the Garden of the Resurrection as the gardener himself!   Jesus shares this new life with Mary. Jesus instructs her: “Do not cling to me…Rather go to my brothers and tell them “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God!” (John 20:17).  Mary Magdalene, truly the first Christian because to be a Christian means to believe that Jesus is Risen Lord, must go to tell this good news to others.  She goes out to tell the Good News of resurrection,  good news that bears fruit that will last.

HEAVEN, THE GARDEN OF GOD.     The work of Jesus the gardener continues now.   United with him,  Christians like Mary go forth to witness to the resurrection and to bear fruit.   The goal of our labor is that all of God’s people will one day be reunited in the kingdom of heaven, which again the Scripture describes as God’s garden.

The Book of Revelation describes heaven as the new Jerusalem, the heavenly city with mighty walls and ornate gates.  The lamp or light in it is Jesus Christ the Lamb (Rev. 21). It also speaks of  heaven as a garden,  with the “river of life-giving water… which flowed down the middle of the streets. On either side of the river grew the trees of life” (Rev. 22:1-2).

Earlier in the book of Revelation,  we hear  the words  to the Church of Ephesus:   “Let him who has ears heed the Spirit’s word to the churches! I will see to it that the victor eats from the  tree of life which grows in the garden of God” (Rev. 2:7).  Yes, heaven is “the garden of God!”  We pray that at the end, the circle will be complete. From the  tree of life in the garden of Eden,  with Jesus from the Garden of Gethsemane to the Garden of the Resurrection, we continue on the journey to  the  tree of life in the kingdom of  heaven, the new Eden, God’s everlasting garden.

The challenge now is to follow, to cooperate with Jesus Christ, so beautifully depicted as the gardener.  We strive to  follow  the path of Jesus, from the garden of Gethsemane, with its struggle and suffering, its commitment to the will of the Father,  through the path of the cross to the new life that begins in the garden of the resurrection. Our hope is that all humankind will be re-united in the Garden of Paradise.   On the cross Jesus promised Paradise to the good thief:   “I assure you: this day you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk. 23:43).   The word “paradise” is simply is another word for garden, an enclosed and planned space of life and growth.  Our hope is that  at the end of our days, Jesus will say those same words to us and to all God’s children, so that we can all be together in the God’s garden in  heaven.

Related:

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(And be obedient to God and the Doctor!)

 (MED-IT-ATION not MED-IC-ATION)

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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Over and over again in the scripture we see the words “do not be afraid.” God expects us to know and believe that he has our back!
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This little “anti-anxiety” prayer was a part of every Catholic Mass for centuries:
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Deliver us, Lord, from every evil,
and grant us peace in our day.
In your mercy keep us free from sin
and protect us from all anxiety
as we wait in joyful hope
for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
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Another anti-anxiety prayer is this one:
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God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help
of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!
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Related:
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Praise Jesus for St. Teresa of Ávila who gave us one of the simplest and finest prayers, “Let Nothing Disturb You” –
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Let nothing trouble you,
let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing;
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
He who possesses God lacks nothing:
God alone suffices.
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Nada te turbe;
nada te espante;
todo se pasa;
Dios no se muda,
la paciencia todo lo alcanza.
Quien a Dios tiene, nada le falta.
Solo Dios basta.
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Teresa of Avila
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Related:
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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, April 7, 2015 — Jesus Says “I am with you always.”

April 6, 2015

Tuesday in the Octave of Easter
Lectionary: 262

Two disciples — Peter and John — at the tomb, Henry Ossawa Tanner

Reading 1 Acts 2:36-41

On the day of Pentecost, Peter said to the Jewish people,
“Let the whole house of Israel know for certain
that God has made him both Lord and Christ,
this Jesus whom you crucified.”Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart,
and they asked Peter and the other Apostles,
“What are we to do, my brothers?”
Peter said to them,
“Repent and be baptized, every one of you,
in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins;
and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
For the promise is made to you and to your children
and to all those far off,
whomever the Lord our God will call.”
He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them,
“Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”
Those who accepted his message were baptized,
and about three thousand persons were added that day.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 33:4-5, 18-19, 20 and 22

R. (5b) The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield.
May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us
who have put our hope in you.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia Ps 118:24

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
This is the day the LORD has made;
let us be glad and rejoice in it.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Art: Jesus Appearing to the Magdalene by Fra Angelico

Gospel Jn 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.
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Art: Christ and St. Mary Magdalene at the Tomb by Rembrandt c.1638 (She thought Jesus was the gardener)
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Commentary on John 20:11-18 from Living Space

After going off to tell Peter and the other disciples about the empty tomb, it seems that Mary of Magdala went back there to grieve over her lost friend and master. She sees two angels sitting inside the tomb and asks where her Lord has been taken. When asked why she is weeping, she replies that her Lord has been “taken away” and she does not know where he has been put.

Then, as she turns round, there is Jesus before her but she does not recognise him. This is a common experience with those who meet Jesus after the resurrection. He is the same and he is not the same. In this transitional period they have to learn to recognise Jesus in unexpected forms and places and situations. He asks the same question as the angels: “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” A question we need to ask ourselves constantly. Like Mary, we may say we are looking for Jesus – but which Jesus?
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She thinks the person in front of her is the gardener. How often we jump to conclusions about people, about their character and personality and true identity! Maybe this man has taken Jesus away and knows where he is. It is also another lovely example of Johannine irony. First, that the one she took to be the gardener should know where Jesus was to be found. Second, it is John who tells us that the tomb of Jesus was in a garden (19:41). All the world’s pain and sorrow began with the sin of the Man and the Woman in a garden (Eden) and now new life also finds its beginnings in a garden. Mary was unwittingly right – Jesus is a Gardener, the one who produces life from the earth, and is the Word of his Father, the Gardener of Eden.
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Then Jesus speaks: “Mary!” Immediately she recognises his voice, the voice of her Master. It reminds us of the passage about Jesus the Shepherd. “The sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name… the sheep follow him because they recognise his voice… I know my sheep and they know me” (John 10:3-4,15).
Immediately she turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni”. This is a more formal address than just “Rabbi” and was often used when speaking to God. In which case, Mary’s exclamation is not unlike that of Thomas in the upper room – “My Lord and my God!” We should also note that earlier she had already turned to face Jesus so this turning is different. It is an interior turning from strangeness to recognition, from sadness to joy, from a sense of loss to a close bonding, from doubt to faith.
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With a mixture of joy and affection and partly out of fear of losing him again, she clings on to him tightly. But Jesus tells her to let him go, because “I have not ascended to the Father.” A sentence which may be better read as a rhetorical question: “Have I not ascended to my Father?” In John, the glorification of Jesus takes place on the cross at the moment of death.
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At that moment of triumph, Jesus is raised straight to the glory of the Father. In that sense, it is the glorified Jesus who now speaks with Mary not the Jesus she knew earlier. This Jesus cannot be clung to. In fact, there is no need. From now on “I am with you always.”
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The phrase “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” echoes a sentence in the Book of Ruth (1:16): “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” The Father of Jesus now becomes the Father of his disciples as they are filled with the Spirit that is both in the Father and the Son. Thus they will be re-born (John 3:5) as God’s children and can be called “brothers” by Jesus.
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Mary – and all the others – have to learn that the Risen Jesus is different from the Jesus before the crucifixion. They have to let go of the earlier Jesus and learn to relate to the “new” Jesus in a very different way.
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So she is told to do what every Christian is supposed to do: go and tell the other disciples that she has seen the Lord and she shares with them what he has said to her. “I have seen the Lord.” She is not just passing on a doctrine but sharing an experience. That is what we are all called to do.
It is significant that it is a woman who is the first person in John’s gospel to see and to be spoken to by the Risen Jesus. Not only that, if she is the same person mentioned by Luke as one of Jesus’ women followers (Luke 8:2), she was formerly a deeply sinful woman from whom seven demons had been driven out. Often no one is closer to God than someone who has been converted from a sinful past. We think of people like St Augustine or St Ignatius Loyola. We remember the example of the sinful woman in the house of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:35-50). Of her Jesus said: “Seeing that she loved much, her many sins are forgiven. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little” (Luke 7:47).

So Mary, who (who with Mary, Jesus’ Mother, stood by the cross of Jesus to the very end – unlike the men disciples), is now rewarded by being the first to meet him risen and glorified. She is truly a beloved disciple.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/e1013g/

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Art: Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene by Fontana Lavinia

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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ENCOUNTERING THE RISEN LORD ON HIS OWN TERMS

07 April 2015, Tuesday within the Octave of Easter

SCRIPTURE READINGS:  ACTS 2:36-41; JN 20:11-18

Many people are seeking to encounter the Risen Lord but never encountered Him.  What could be the reasons for failing to encounter the Lord?  The truth is that we all want to encounter Him on our own terms rather than in the way the Lord wants us to encounter Him.  We are basically self-willed and self-centered.  That is what many of us do in relationships. We profess that we love them when in truth we love ourselves more.  We want to love them but only on our own terms rather on the terms of our beloved.  So what is frustrating is that many of us are imposing our friendship on others and making demands on our relationships or loving them the way we like to love, so much so that those whom we “supposedly” love feel pressurized, stifled or even made use of, since they are being loved, not for their sake but for our sake.   If we truly love someone, then it is important that we love the person in the way that the person wants to be loved, for only then can he or she feel our love, since we are putting their interests before ours.  This is the true meaning of love.  In the same way too, in our encounter with the Risen Christ, we must be ready to meet Him on His terms and not ours.  What then are His terms?  Repent and receive the forgiveness of sins!  This was what Peter said when the Jews asked Him, “What must we do?”  He replied, “You must repent and every one of you must be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  Before we can see the Risen Lord, we must seek repentance of heart.  So long as we remain in our sins and refuse to acknowledge and confess them with a contrite heart, we will not be able to see Jesus. The crowd, we are told at Pentecost, “were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the apostles, ‘What must we do, brothers?’”  Are we cut to the quick upon hearing a homily or reading the Word that convicts us of our sins?  If not, there will be no change in our lives.  The truth is that for many of us, even if we know our sins, we are not cut to the heart and therefore we have neither real contrition nor repentance of our sins.

What could be some of these sins?  Firstly, we could be wallowing in self-pity like Mary Magdalene.  She was crying and weeping apparently for Jesus, but in reality, it was for herself.  In her sadness and grief, she could not recognize the Lord.  We too could be allowing our self-preoccupation to hinder us from recognizing the Lord who comes to us in so many ways each day, through nature, events and persons.  More often than not, we allow our hurts, un-forgiveness, pride, envy and our loneliness to lead us into self-pity.  Today, the Lord is asking us to reach out instead, to look out and to look up if we want to find Him.  Indeed, we are told Mary did that.  Initially, she was looking down and then it was the second time when she looked up that she could recognize Jesus when He called her by name.  Yes, we must stop thinking about ourselves and start loving God and others, for it is in reaching out to them that we allow God to find us through them.

Secondly, if we cannot encounter the Risen Lord, it is because we are clinging to our own vision and idea of how the Lord should be meeting us.  We heard how others have experienced the Lord and we think that we, too, will experience Him in the same manner. This is tantamount to clinging to the earthly Jesus that Mary Magdalene knew and loved.  But Jesus comes on His own terms, in a new way and in a way beyond our imagination.  That is why Jesus wanted her to move to another level of faith and relationship with Him, in spirit.  He told Mary, “Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go and find the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”  Similarly, Peter told the people,The whole House of Israel can be certain that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ. … The promise that was made is for you and your children and for all those who are far away, for all those whom the Lord our God will call to himself.”  The resurrection of Jesus too was an amazing event, for how could a carpenter and a condemned criminal of Nazareth be raised from the dead!  So are we ready to be open to the impossible, or do we restrict the power and the wisdom of God from act in the way He has chosen for us?

Thirdly, it could be because we have no real love for Jesus.  Mary truly loves the Lord.  Her love for the Lord was not an intellectual love.  She loved Him deeply from her heart.  This love is shown in her desire to see Him.  This love is manifested in her devotion to Jesus, going to the tomb to anoint His body, crying when she discovered His body was missing.   How much do we long for Jesus?  I think we long to see our loved ones much more than we long to see Jesus or be with Him.  We pay lip service of love to Jesus but we hardly spend time with Him and we hardly miss His presence in our daily life. We come to Him only when we need Him, not because we love Him but because we want Him to do something for us.  If we truly want to seek Him, we must long for His presence and desire Him.  When we love Him sufficiently, we will be able to recognize His presence when He comes.  Indeed, for those whom we love, we can instinctively recognize their presence. 

But it is not sufficient to give up sins; we must receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The truth is that we cannot find Him unless He first finds us.  We must initially desire Him by our repentance.  Once we give up our sins, He will see our sincerity and desire and seek us out, just as He sought Mary in the garden.  Mary was able to recognize Him only because the Lord took the initiative of calling her.  We too can find Him, but only when we see Him with our whole heart.

To encounter the Lord, we must be called by name.  Indeed, in all the conversion experience stories in the bible, one common thread is that all of them were called by name.  Abraham, Jacob, Moses, the prophets and of course the apostles, were called by the Lord by name.  To be called by name implies a certain intimacy.  All of us get excited or pay attention when someone addresses us by name.  Without a name, we are nobody.  When someone does not know us by name, we are impersonal to him/her.  That is why a personal relationship begins with calling the other person by name.   To call a person by name in the bible means that we know the person and the person knows us.  To encounter the Risen Lord, have you heard Him calling you by name, as He called Magdalene who immediately could then recognize her master?

But how can we hear the Lord calling us by name unless we are available to Him?  We must listen to Him calling us.  And how can this happen unless we listen to Him?  He comes to us through the Word of God, through the teachers of the Church, through our superiors and through our brothers and sisters.  The question is, do we listen to Him and allow Him to speak to us?  Unless we are ready to be like Mary Magdalene who pondered and prayed at the tomb of Jesus, we can never listen to His voice calling us by name.  How could any good Catholic live his  Christian life without withdrawing from the world for a few days in a retreat to spend time listening to the voice of the Lord speaking to him and affirming him of His personal love for him?

To encounter the Lord deeply, there is one more thing we must do.  We must not possess Him selfishly for ourselves.  We are called to share what we have received, namely, the joy of being with Him.   Obedience in faith is what is required of us if we want our relationship with Jesus to grow and deepen.   Again, that was what Mary did.  She was instructed to go and tell the brothers about what she saw.  Even though she was ridiculed, yet by sharing the marvelous event of the resurrection, her faith grew because the disciples’ faith eventually grew as well.  This is true also in friendships.  Only when we are ready to share our friends with others, can we find real happiness.  So let us continue during this Easter Octave to remain with Jesus the Risen Lord in prayer so that having encountered Him and heard Him calling us by name, we too can also proclaim to others convincingly and joyfully that we have seen the Lord.

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.Lectio Divina from the Carmelites.Reflection.

• Today’s Gospel describes the apparition of Jesus to Mary Magdalene. The death if her great friend urges Mary to lose the 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, disillusions, betrayals! So many things which may cause us to feel in the air, without standing on firm ground and which can lead us to fall into a deep crisis. But other things also happen. For example, that 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.
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• Chapter 20 in John’s Gospel, besides the apparitions of Jesus to Magdalene, it also speaks about diverse episodes which reveal the richness, 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 that of leading persons to believe in Jesus, and believing in him, to have life (Jn 20, 30-3).
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• In the way of describing the apparition of Jesus to Mary Magdalene one perceives, one is aware of the different stages of the road that she had to follow, of the sorrowful search up to the time of the encounter at Easter. These are also the stages through which we all have to pass, throughout our life, seeking God and living the Gospel.
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• 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 met 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 during three years.
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• John 20, 14-15: Mary Magdalene speaks with Jesus without knowing him. The Disciples of Emmaus saw Jesus but they did not recognize him. She thinks that he is the gardener. And just as the angels had done, Jesus also asks: “Why are you weeping?” and he adds: “Who 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 to recognize the living Jesus, who is present before her.
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• John 20, 16: Mary Magdalene recognizes Jesus. Jesus pronounces the name: “Mary!” This was the sign to recognize him: the same voice, the same way of pronouncing the 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).
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• 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.
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Personal questions
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• Have you ever had an experience which has given you the impression of loss and of death? How was it? What is it that gave you new life and gave you the hope and the joy of living?
• Which 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?
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Concluding Prayer
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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)
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Tuesday After Easter; Prayer and Meditation, “You will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”

April 2, 2013

Tuesday in the Octave of Easter Lectionary: 262

Reading 1 Acts 2:36-41

On the day of Pentecost, Peter said to the Jewish people, “Let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
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Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and they asked Peter and the other Apostles, “What are we to do, my brothers?” Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call.” He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day.

Responsorial Psalm PS 33:4-5, 18-19, 20 and 22

R. (5b) The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord. or: R. Alleluia.
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Upright is the word of the LORD, and all his works are trustworthy. He loves justice and right; of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
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R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord. or: R. Alleluia.
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See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him, upon those who hope for his kindness, To deliver them from death and preserve them in spite of famine.
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R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord. or: R. Alleluia.
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Our soul waits for the LORD, who is our help and our shield. May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us who have put our hope in you.
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R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord. or: R. Alleluia.

Gospel Jn 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.

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Saint Mary Magdalene approaching the Sepulchre by Girolamo Savoldo
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(Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb….)
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Homily For  Acts 2:36-41
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When the Apostle Peter first preached this sermon in Jerusalem 50 days after Jesus’ Resurrection, he addressed a crowd of Jews and Gentile proselytes from many different nations. They were living in a corrupt and wicked generation just as we are today. It can hardly be questioned that today’s generation is every bit as corrupt as it was in the first century A.D.
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Despite the fact that statistics claim the United States is largely a nation made up of Christians, our generation’s morals don’t always reflect that claim. Instead we find widespread moral permissiveness, and the collective conscience of society is growing more and more numb. Things that were once considered unacceptable to society, such as homosexuality, are gradually gaining more and more acceptance in our generation. We are witnessing what St. Paul described as people “glorying in their shame” (Phil. 3:19). In areas of scientific research, technology has progressed to a point where life can be manipulated in ways not possible until now, and science and medicine are crossing into realms that ethics haven’t yet explored. Often the rationale for doing such things is simply, “If we can do it, we should.” An “end justifies the means” philosophy is prevalent in this generation. But who will save us from this corrupt generation?
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It’s at this point that I have to make a very important side note about the NIV translation of Acts 2:40. The NIV reads, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation,” which is a major mistranslation, that also occurs in several other English translations. What it should say is “Be saved from this corrupt generation.” And this is not just a matter of translator’s preferences, or some ambiguity in how the original Greek reads; the grammar is simple and clear, “Be saved.” And why is that so important? Well, for Peter to have told the gathering of Jews and Gentiles to “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation,” would have been about as useful as telling them to grow purple wings and fly. It’s just that absurd. They could not save themselves from their corrupt generation any more than you or I can save ourselves from our corrupt generation. “Save yourselves” makes us the ‘actors’; make us the ‘doers,’ when in fact we don’t have the capability to save ourselves. Rather, with Peter I say to each of you, “Be saved” because there is One Actor who is capable of saving us from this corrupt generation, and He is Jesus Christ. When Peter said “Be Saved” it was clear that he was telling them to be saved by Jesus Christ, in the same way as he had just said a few verses earlier “Be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.” Jesus is the One whom the Father made both Lord and Christ, who is powerful to save us.
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So if Christ is the One who saves us, where are the cries of sorrow and repentance from this generation? Where are the cries of “What shall we do?” The Apostle Peter’s listener’s were cut to the heart when they realized the wickedness of what they had done, and said with sincere grief and mourning, “What shall we do?” Peter had made it clear that the Messiah promised to the Jews, for whom they had waited for so long, was the very man Jesus who they despised, rejected, and crucified. What greater guilt could they feel than that from killing their promised Lord? There they were, standing guilty of a man’s blood, and it was not just any man, but the very Son of God! And knowing that the One they had killed had risen from the dead probably struck fear in their hearts as well. Who was this man who defeated death, and was He coming back for vengeance? They were very clearly convicted by Peter’s words, and their cries of “What shall we do?” showed their sorrow over their sin.
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But where is the sorrow of this generation over our sin? Instead of being sorrowful over sin, our culture seems to glory in it. People are dying in unbelief and unrepentance, quite content with their sins, and with no visible signs of remorse. How can our generation be brought back to repentance and sorrow over sin? The answer is that we need to shine as lights in this world, in the midst of this crooked and twisted generation (Phil 2:15), to awaken our corrupt generation to its sinfulness. And we shine as lights because we are light in the Lord Jesus. It is His light that shines through us to awaken this corrupt generation. Our present culture and society needs to hear God’s Law, because the world needs to have its conscience reawakened to recognize the sins we have committed against God. People of our generation will see no need for a Savior until they realize that they have sinned against God, and are in need of saving. This starts with us standing up for what is right even when it isn’t popular. Among our families, and friends, and at work, we must be Christians of conviction—not willing to let the sins of this corrupt generation go by unnoticed and uninhibited. But rather we are to call our generation to repentance, so that they may receive Christ’s forgiveness.
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We too, as believers need to have sorrow and contrition over our sin. We are regularly taught God’s Law; so we, of all people should know our own sin when we break those commandments. We should be cut to the heart whenever the Law rightly strikes home in condemning our sin. Here we stand, guilty of a man’s blood, and not just any man, but the very Son of God, Jesus Christ. We too are guilty of His blood, not because it was we who hung Him on the cross and crucified Him, but it was for our sins that He died. But the miraculous thing is that His blood is not on us for guilt, but for innocence! God does not condemn us for our guilt in Jesus’ death, but rather He counts us as innocent by faith in Jesus. And so we, along with the Pentecost crowd who asked Peter “What shall we do?” find great joy in Peter’s answer. “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” There is great joy in these words, and these words welcomed about 3,000 souls into the Christian church that Pentecost, and these words continue to call people to the Lord today.
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And these words need to be spoken to our generation today. For a wicked generation that has broken God’s commands, Jesus Christ comes, not bringing vengeance, but forgiveness and salvation. And He offers it to all who hear His Word, repent, and receive His baptism. From this short verse we learn so much about God’s gift of Baptism to us. Peter teaches us how forgiveness and the gift of the Holy Spirit are brought to us—by baptism into Jesus name. How great a miracle it is that by simple water God cleanses our corruption? But Christians especially of this generation, and of the past few hundred years, stumble at these words of St. Peter. How can baptism bring forgiveness, they ask? To answer, we must not forget that it is not just plain water, but the “Word of God in and with the water that does these things, along with the faith which trusts this Word of God in the water.” And that very Word of God which gives baptism its power, is the Name of The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, into whom we are baptized. It is the power of God’s name, of Jesus’ name, which gives baptism the power to forgive.
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Peter not only said “Be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins,” he also showed the power of Jesus’ Name by performing miracles and casting out demons, as recorded in Acts. Jesus’ Name will one day bring every knee to bow and tongue to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord; so how much more will that name bring forgiveness to those who are baptized into it? The forgiveness Jesus won at the cross is washed over you in your baptism, as His Holy Name is marked on your forehead.
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And Peter also promised that in baptism we would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For us who are living in this present corrupt generation, baptism is essential to our survival. It brings us Christ’s forgiveness, as we fail and sin along our way, and it brings us the Holy Spirit, who teaches us Christ’s Word and focuses our faith on Jesus. The Spirit guides us in right paths and battles for us and with us against the attacks of the sinful world against our flesh. See how great God’s love for us is? He repays our sin with grace and our rebellion with free gifts! The Holy Spirit also teaches us to know our sins, so that we may continually live in repentance and forgiveness, so that we are not swept away with this unbelieving generation. So here we learn from St. Peter how closely tied together are baptism, the forgiveness of sins, Jesus’ Name, and the Holy Spirit. All this is God’s way of pouring out His mercy on poor repentant sinners.
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This is certainly an amazing promise for Peter to make to guilty sinners, asking “What shall we do?” But who does he make this promise to? To just anyone? To any broken sinner, no matter how great their sin, no matter how deep the hurt? Yes, ABSOLUTELY Yes! This promise of forgiveness by baptism into Jesus name is for everyone! “Repent and be baptized, every one of you,” Peter says. “This promise is for you AND your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Peter explicitly says this promise is for adults and children, and all afar off. Adults and children alike need this promise, because all are sinners in need of grace. And Christ has lived in and redeemed every stage of life, from the womb to the tomb, to eternal life! This promise is open for all, and it will be given freely to every person called to the waters of Baptism by the Lord our God—irrespective of age, gender, race, social status, and irrespective of the greatness of our sins. Since God valued each person’s life so much, that He sent His only Son to die for us, He wants to have each one of us for eternity with Him. And so He has blessed the waters of Baptism by the Word of Jesus Name, so that forgiveness of sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and a renewed life in His name are literally poured out on us in a cleansing flood. And so Christ saves us from this corrupt generation. Not by our own efforts at purification, but by the purifying waters of Baptism in Jesus’ Name. For He has made those waters pure and holy, and He has called us to be clean in Him. Amen.
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Now may the peace of God, which passes all human understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.