Who are you looking for?

This is the question Jesus asks the distraught Mary of Magdala as she stands weeping by the tomb (John 20:15). She has found it empty and there is no word or sign of the missing body. Jesus breaks though her turbulence with just one word; her name.

It is evident from the text that she not only relaxes but is exhilarated by the sudden change. She had been looking for a dead body and she has found a living person. She runs to him and holds on to him until he gently tells her she can’t do that now. She has to get on with her life.

Mary is one of those in the gospels who has really experienced the pits. Mark’s gospel says (16:9) Jesus cast seven devils out of her. Whatever her history, she had suffered terribly and, if she is the same woman as appears in Luke 7, she shows such great love because she has had so much forgiven.

Once again we are faced with this disturbing truth: it is those who suffer or have suffered who appear to be on a short road to God. It is disturbing for two reasons. Those who are comfortable – and many in our world are – live in danger of not knowing or sensing any need for God. And, secondly, suffering is not a sure way to God. It can have the opposite affect of making people bitter.

A woman in Australia recently, whose daughter was involved in a car accident and ended up a quadriplegic, asked her priest son, “Where the hell is God?” Being a priest he thought he had the answer but he learnt he hadn’t. It would have to come slowly and through God himself revealing it.

After the triple disaster at Fukushima in Japan on 11 March – earthquake, tsunami and damage to the nuclear plant -, a little Japanese girl was seen on Easter Sunday on Japanese TV asking the pope what was the meaning of it all. What so impressed the Japanese was the Holy Father’s reply; “I don’t know.”

For the pope to admit he does not know is startling to us who so often do not know the meaning of the terrible suffering we so often witness or hear about. It puts us in the company of that other Mary, the Mother of Jesus, who stood by the cross with unbelievably painful questions in her heart. Why? Why? Why?

So when our gaze shifts back to Mary of Magdala and we see the swift response to her desperate search we can perhaps pause and listen to our own name being called when we desperately search in the wrong places for the wrong things.

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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