The Final Word
As we go through life, we all have moments when we ask questions and wonder where God is. That is only human. This Easter season we remember especially the despair, the doubts and the agony of the first disciples as they saw their Saviour, Jesus of Nazareth, so senselessly abused, betrayed and crucified.
Yes, the first disciples lived their journey of faith just like us. It was lived out in the ups and downs of daily life. God rarely gave them (or gives us) the complete answers or made everything appear blindingly obvious.
One woman in particular is presented to us in the gospels as a disciple who had the courage to keep on searching for the Lord even amidst great questions, doubts and anguish. She is Mary Magdalene—the first witness to the Resurrection.
Mary Magdalene, who begins her journey with the intention of finalising burial rituals for the corpse of Jesus, ends by acknowledging that she has seen ‘the Lord’.
Pope Gregory the Great reflected in one of his homilies on this wonderful witness of Mary Magdalene:
We should reflect on Mary’s attitude and the great love she felt for Christ; for though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, and while she sought she wept; burning with the fire of love, she longed for him who she thought had been taken away. And so it happened that the woman who stayed behind to seek Christ was the only one to see him.
Mary Magdalene did not abandon the empty tomb, lonely and desolate. She remained to wait for him. Mary did not have the answers—she just showed up when all the male disciples of Jesus abandoned him!
And, in some ways, Mary Magdalene is, for us, the ‘patron saint’ of just showing up. Showing up means just being present and faithful, even in darkness.
She didn’t necessarily know what to say or what to do, or even what to think; but none of that is nearly as important as the fact that Mary Magdalene simply showed up. She showed up at the cross where Christ became a victim of violence and terror. She witnessed the man who had set her free from her own darkness take the evil and violence of the world upon himself and yet, despite everything, she still showed up.
And maybe, to be a disciple like Mary Magdalene is to remember to show up. It is to be a church, a people who stand at the cross and stand together, despite opposition, despite evil; and even if we are uncertain or afraid, we show up.
And to be disciples like Mary Magdalene is also to be a people who weep—a people who show up at the tombs, at times of loss, and weep. We weep for ourselves and weep for each other, in the times when weeping is what we need to do.
This Easter, I thank all Melbourne Catholics for continuing to ‘show up’. Despite your questions, doubts and disappointments, you give such faithful witness to the Risen Christ as you serve others—in our families, parishes and schools and especially in your care of those who suffer. Like Mary Magdalene, let us all continue to seek our Risen Lord and show up—even in the darkness of a tomb.
† Denis J Hart
Archbishop of Melbourne