Saturday, April 15, 2017

Noli me tangere

Noli me tangere   (nolee may tongray)
Alleluia! Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!
We may notice that the Resurrection in John is not, as William Temple has observed [Readings in St. John’s Gospel, (Macmillan, London: 1952)], a mighty and dramatic act such as Matthew paints it with an earthquake, the curtain in the Temple being torn in two, and the graves of all the dead opening and disgorging ghostly spirits to wander through the streets of Jerusalem. Nor do we see the hosts of evil routed and destroyed, but rather in the early morning pre-dawn darkness we witness the quiet rising of the Sun (The Son) which has already on the cross “vanquished the night. The atmosphere has all the sweet freshness of dawn on a spring day.” [375]

And the first witness is a woman, and she formerly one beset with demons and whom Jesus had returned to her right mind, Mary Magdalene – one of the few witnesses who remained with Jesus at the foot of the cross while the other fellow travelers and friends had run off to hide behind closed doors. Although after the events of the previous day it wouldn’t do for a disciple and follower to be caught on a lonely road on a night after Jesus has proved that we were the stronger than Caesar and his entire Empire, this once lonely and confused woman makes the trip to the tomb by herself.
Alleluia! Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

She sees that the stone has been removed. The enemies must have removed his body in the night. She races to tell Peter, who despite his repeated denials is still the leader of the remaining 11 disciples. Then she runs to tell the other disciple Whom Jesus Loved. She tells them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have laid him.” We? Have the demons returned? Who else is with her? Seeing no one else, they race to the tomb, and the other disciple gets there first but puts on the breaks and just peeps in to see the linen wrappings lying there but does not go in. Peter goes in. Sees the linen cloths, and the cloth that had been on his head was “rolled up in a place by itself.”

Now who, after being tortured and nailed to a cross unto death, then wrapped with one hundred pounds of spices and linen cloths, upon being raised from the dead takes the time to roll up the head scarf and neatly place it just there? Never you mind, this is Jesus we are talking about after all. The other comes in to look more closely and all we are told is that he “saw and believed.” Not what he believed or what he saw. But believe he did!
 Alleluia! Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!
The narrator, the invisible hand who offers this account as an eye-witness, tells us they run home and are effectively clueless as to exactly what is going on. Not Mary. She remains at the door of the tomb, weeping. She peeps in to see what Peter and the Other Disciple saw, but instead there are two beings in white, one at the head, one at the foot of where Jesus had lain. There had been two criminals on either side of him on the cross, and now two of what can only be angels asking her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Why am I weeping she screams inside of her head, why am I weeping? What kind of question is that? You are sitting in his tomb? Why aren’t you weeping? Why?!

She gathers herself and steadfastly replies, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Her confidence is back. He is now “my Lord,” not the Lord, and now I do not know, not we do not know. Before the angels can reply, she turns and sees Jesus, but she does not know it is Jesus. Evidently after the resurrection we do not look like we look here and now. And this unrecognizable person is also asking her why she is weeping. Why is everyone asking me why I am weeping? Isn’t it obvious? His tomb is empty.

Then comes one of my very favorite lines in all of scripture. I don’t know why I love it so, but it is so Nero Wolf or Raymond Chandler or Benjamin Black sounding: “Supposing he was the gardener … the gardener! She proceeds to accuse him of stealing his own body, which in a sense one might say he has since, after all, he is God’s Word made flesh who dwelt among us, and surely it is only God’s Word that can bring himself back from the dead.
Alleluia! Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

Then “the gardener” says just one word: her name. “Mary.” Only one voice had ever said her name like that. Only one voice could make her feel healed and whole and as if she really is one of God’s Beloved children. Rabbouni! she shouts!! It is him. He’s not dead. Or, is he? She must reach out to see if it’s a ghost or a real person for the next thing Jesus says, in Latin of course, “Noli me tangere!” (nolee may tongray) Which roughly translates, “do not touch me”, “do not hold on to me”, or as Temple’s translation has it, “don’t cling to me!” [379]

Which is really the heart of the matter is it not? Once we come to see Jesus and recognize Jesus for who he really is; once we come to understand what he was doing in the world is what we are meant to be doing in the world, the temptation is to cling to him. Because like Mary, Jesus is able to make us feel healed and whole. And, like Mary, he gives us something to do. He makes her the first evangelist, sending her back to the sisters and brothers of the community that has gathered around him and tell them that just as he came from Love he is returning to Love; he has come from the Father and is returning to the Father. My God and your God, my Father and your Father! That is, you are God’s beloved. God is your Father just as God is my father. Mary Magdalene: this woman once beset with demons becomes God’s chosen messenger to announce the Good News of Jesus’ Resurrection and that we are all children of the one Father in Heaven!

But there is to be no clinging. Because I come, says my Lord, to set you free. And if you cling to me you won’t be free to do the things I do, and greater things than these. Let go and set me free so that you may be as free as the wind, as free as the Spirit, as free as the very breath of God in the cool of the garden in the early morning as the Son is rising! 
Alleluia! Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

Know, my sisters, my brothers, he calls you to be with him.
He calls you to know he is here, even now.
He calls you to do something beautiful with your life and bear much fruit.
The world needs you, The church needs you, Jesus needs you,
They need your love and your light.
There is a hidden place in your heart where Jesus lives,
This is a deep secret you are called to live, Let Jesus live in you, Go forward with him!
Alleluia, Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia!
Alleluia, Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia!
Alleluia, Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia!

And so are we! And so are we! 

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