Readings: Genesis 1:1-2:2; Genesis 22:1-18; Exodus 14:15-15:1; Isaiah 55:1-11; Romans 6:3-11; Matthew 28:1-10
Religious skeptics sometimes cite factual inconsistencies among the four gospels as grounds for doubting the authenticity of their message. Over the next few days and weeks we will be hearing some of the inconsistencies in the differing accounts of the resurrection. However, tonight’s gospel seems to contain even an inconsistency within itself. The angel, assuring Mary Magdalene and the other Mary that Christ has risen, explains that he is going before [them] to Galilee–there [they] will see him. But then we are told that while still on their way–and nowhere near Galilee–they are met by Jesus who directs them to share their incredible news with the other disciples.
And so we might wonder if there was some kind of divine miscommunication with Jesus not seeming to have been aware that Galilee was the designated post-resurrection meeting point for him and his disciples! This seems a little unlikely and it is more likely that this wasn’t a divine miscommunication (with either the angel ot Jesus getting it wrong) but perhaps an unanticipated change of plan that may well reveal a beautiful and consoling truth about Christ in his relationship with us.
For, at the risk of reading too much into this apparent inconsistency in the gospel account, I can’t help wondering if Jesus’ appearance along the way–and not in Galilee–might actually signal his eagerness and holy impatience to reunite with Mary Magdalene, his dear friend and faithful disciple. In other words, the plan may have been to show himself in Galilee, but in his great love he found himself unwilling to wait until she and the other disciples had gathered in Galilee. And so spontaneously abandoning his earlier plan he revealed himself to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary while they were still on the way.
If there is any truth to this interpretation, it helps give a very different perspective on our own experience of Jesus and what can seem like his unwillingness to reveal himself to us. For, in contrast to the women’s experience in today’s gospel, we often seem to journey on in the darkness and obscurity of faith and Jesus seems to delay rather than anticipate us along the way. Explanations for this delay may vary: perhaps we are not on the way, that is, we are not actively seeking Christ with the eagerness that filled Mary Magdalene, but have given up the quest. Or perhaps he does strive to meet us along the way but our sinful self-centeredness blinds us to his presence. Or again, perhaps we eagerly are seeking him, but our spiritual sight is still too impure and crude to actually discern his glorified presence and his efforts to encounter us.
But whatever the cause, today’s encounter with Mary Magdalene assures us that any failure to encounter Jesus along the way is not because he lacks the desire or longing to reveal himself to us. On the contrary, Christ is so intently seeking us out and so desirous of our salvation that Saint Augustine can affirm that he desires our salvation far more than Satan desires our damnation.
Accordingly, as we come forward to receive the one whom Mary met along the way in the Eucharist, let us renew our commitment to pressing forward on the way and trust his immense desire to reveal his face to us. In doing so, let us heed that stirring admonition from the Letter to the Hebrews: Do not throw away your confidence; it will have great recompense. You need endurance to do the will of God and receive what he promised. “For after just a brief moment, he who is to come shall come; he shall not delay. But my just one shall live by faith and if he draws back I take no pleasure in him.” We are not among those who draw back and perish, but among those who have faith and will possess life.