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I love Mary Magdalene. I think she is the real hero of the resurrection story.marymagdalenetomb

She’s first there. She’s the last to leave. She stays to linger there at the empty tomb, not satisfied in taking the facts at face value but wanting to dig deeper. She wants to spend more time at the scene, taking it in, reflecting upon the meaning of it all, wondering… …and is rewarded by seeing Jesus! But doesn’t recognise him, thinking him to be the gardener.

Only when Jesus speaks her name, does Mary recognise him, and in recognising him, she hugs him … or maybe not! We don’t really know. But what we do know is that Jesus responds with the words, “Do not hold on to me…” – literally, ‘do not fasten yourself to me’, perhaps THE most important phrase in the whole Easter story.

[I was a little disconcerted that my Abbott-Smith describes the verb he uses, hapto, as applied, sometimes, ‘of carnal intercourse’ – but, hey, she was a girl with history. And yes, Mary M may not have been that woman, but mud sticks – and, thankfully, is washed away by love!].

When a child is growing up we eagerly await, and note, each and every momentous stage in its life – and, of course, every stage is momentous to a parent: first word, first step, first teeth, first dry night, first unbroken night…

And it continues as they grow older: first day at school, first day a ‘big’ school, first boyfriend/girlfriend, until sometimes those ‘eagerly awaiting momentous stages’ develop, with age, into ‘apprehensively awaiting tricky situations’!

But the most daunting of all stages is when we have to ‘let go’, when we have to allow our children the freedom to be themselves, to make their own way, to stand on their own two feet, to make their own mistakes. It is a ‘letting go’ that happens in our hearts, and can be the most heartrending of part of being a parent.

The time Jesus spent ministering on earth was a bit like him being a parent to the whole human race – or maybe rather more like a ‘big brother’, a big brother who always knows his Father’s will – a big brother who helps us to grow, develop, mature – helping us take our first steps as real people – becoming again ‘as little children’.

But as with all parents / guardians / big brothers, there comes a time for standing back and letting go.

The resurrection marks that point – the first independent steps for a renewed, redeemed, revitalized humanity.

It’s true that Jesus did remain around for a short time after the resurrection; but did no teaching, performed no miracles [except, perhaps, the miraculous draught of fishes in John 21 – but that was more to show the disciples what they were capable of!]

Instead, he just ‘sent the disciples out’ to stand on their own two feet.

I guess that had he stayed around in person, as it were, the Christian community would have remained small, clustered around that single figure of Jesus, dependent, leaving it all to Him.

Jesus had to shake us loose from his apron strings: ‘don’t hang on to me’!

It doesn’t mean, of course, that he abandons us…

The promised Spirit of God is given with Jesus departure. The Spirit working within us and the church and the world, drawing our attention to the Father through Jesus, strengthening us for his service, making us the Body of Christ in the world. A Body made one with him in Baptism, feeding upon his very life through the Eucharist, and replacing Jesus as a physical presence in the world today.

And this has many and great implications. All the things that Jesus did in his time with us, in his ‘big brother’ parenting role, has now been passed to us, collectively in his church as the Body of Christ!

And so when we give thanks this Easter for the great victory that has been wrought over sin and death by Jesus’ death and resurrection, giving new life and power to the people of God – we perhaps need to remember also that that life and power is given that we may stand on our own two feet as mature people, carrying on Jesus ministry in and to the world.

In the words of St Teresa of Avila:

Christ has no body on earth but ours
No hands but ours
No feet but ours
Ours are the eyes through which is to look out Christ’s compassion to the world
Ours is the feet with which he is to go about doing good
Ours are the hands with which he is the bless people now.

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