Sunday, April 5, 2015

when Jesus speaks our name

Jesus and Mary Magdalene in the garden, that Sunday morning. I’ve been reading and re-reading this passage for years, wondering and pondering and haunted by the vulnerability and intimacy it captures. Can you imagine being Mary, weeping outside the empty tomb? How grief wracks you and you need something to hold onto. These women, broken and impatient throughout the anguished hours of their Sabbath rest, longing to go find their Lord’s body and pay their last reverence, cling to what they had left of this carpenter from Nazareth whose life had changed everything. What were they supposed to believe when his death, again, upended the world?

I imagine being Mary, longing to just cling to his body and anoint him with my tears, and then he is gone. Again. And there is not even his body to hold, not even this final way to show my love. And I can feel the choking grief, the desperation.

How the darkness must have weighed. I wonder if she could hear her demons howling, rising up to choke her again. I wonder if she was terribly afraid that all the light, all the healing in her life would be gone with Jesus? They have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they have put him.
Her healer and teacher that she had followed, her Lord, stolen away, and now she didn’t even have his body, the proof that he had been real and that light and love were possible, that the last few years of healing in her life had actually happened.

And then she sees Jesus and doesn’t recognize him, just again begging to find his body, willing to go anywhere to find him, when he’s standing victorious and humble before her.

And then the moment that makes me reel.

Mary! Jesus said.

What holy intimacy is this when he speaks her name?

We are told that we love him because he first loved us, but I think also we know him, because he first knew us.

Mary does not recognize Jesus until he recognizes her, calls her by name, and she knows it’s him, her Jesus, because no other voice could say her name like that.

She knew his voice. The voice that knew the names of her demons, and the face of her fear. She had been a woman acquainted with death, with a life that yawned black like the tomb, with darkness and demons inside.

Mary, called Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven demons. Seven, the Biblical number of completion. Her life had been completely consumed by darkness before Jesus, and then there was his voice, cutting through her prison cell existence and bringing light. The voice that with the Father had swirled the constellations into being, breaking into her life, calling her to freedom.

I don’t know her demons, but I know mine. Self hate, shame. Whatever her demons were, Jesus named them, faced them fully, went into the darkest corners of her soul and cast them out. He brought light into her shame and broke every chain.

She recognized him, because no one else could know her like that, through and through to the hidden broken places no one else could go, and no one else could love her like that.  Through and through.
Fully known and fully loved, isn’t that the cry of our human hearts? To have all our darkness seen and to be loved anyway?

And it was that impossible miracle that was in the voice of Jesus that morning, standing by an empty tomb. Full knowledge and full love, as he said Mary.

It was that love that conquered hell and death, in his voice as he spoke her name.

And she cries Rabboni, teacher. And I can picture her, falling to his feet and clinging to him as she’d longed to, but not to his empty body, but to the resurrected man: victory over darkness in miraculous human flesh.

Don’t cling to me, Jesus says, but tell my brothers that I am going to my Father and your Father, my God and your God. And she goes out, because what other response is there to a love like this than to proclaim it loudly to the word? This love that speaks into every crevice of our cracked and bleeding souls.

Come and see.