“I Have Seen the Lord!”

"Christ appears to Mary Magdalene" 1894 - by Franz Emil Gnant - photo by Andreas Praefcke under CC BY 3.0

This post is based on Week Eight of An Ignatian Prayer Adventure.

Mary of Magdala visited the tomb of Jesus early in the morning and came back distraught, weeping, with an emotional tale of an empty tomb. Peter and John went racing out to investigate, but what they found was inconclusive. A short time later, Mary was back, radiant as she proclaimed, “I have seen the Lord.”

Whenever I read this familiar passage (John 20:1–18), I always pause at those few words. Imagine Mary’s face, suffused with the light of grace. Imagine her voice, clear and firm about what she knows, yet still filled with awe at the wonder of it all. Taking in the beautiful, simple words, we can experience her wonder and joy.

The disciples, however, were less impressed. In fact, “when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it” (Mark 16:11).

Why should they? The testimony of women in the ancient world was worthless, as it is in some parts of the world even today. The idea of a woman as an evangelist, commissioned by Jesus to “go and tell my brothers” must have been inconceivable to the compilers of the Gospels. Over the succeeding centuries, scholars identified Mary of Magdala with the “sinful woman” who scandalized the Pharisees when she bathed the feet of Jesus (Luke 7:36–50). The pre-Vatican II liturgical calendar described her as a “penitent”; this designation was undoubtedly connected to the tradition, with no basis in Scripture, that she was a prostitute. Others imagined even more bizarre life stories for her. Her witness to the Resurrection faded into the background. Only in our own century has her role as the first evangelist begun to be recognized.

In our secular, often anti-religious, society, the Resurrection may indeed “seem like nonsense” (see Luke 24:11), or at best a myth made light of by people who regard themselves as rational. Yet we, like Mary of Magdala, are called on to proclaim the Resurrection. Those of us who are not preachers or teachers proclaim it by the way we live our lives. St. Ignatius urges us “to ask for the grace to be glad and to rejoice intensely because of the great glory and joy of Christ our Lord.” As our churches fill with songs of celebration this Easter season, let us take the joy deep into our hearts, reflecting back the radiance of the knowledge that Jesus is alive!

Where have you seen the Lord?

Image: “Christ Appears to Mary Magdalene” by Franz Emil Gnant, photo by Andreas Praefcke [cropped] under CC BY 3.0.

About Barbara Lee 8 Articles
Barbara Lee is a practicing spiritual director who lives in New York City. She is a retired attorney, a former U.S. magistrate judge, and a long-serving member of the Ignatian Volunteer Corps. She is the author of God Isn’t Finished with Me Yet: Discovering the Spiritual Graces of Later Life.

12 Comments on “I Have Seen the Lord!”

  1. One of my favourite readings in particular the continuing passage, “.. the disciples went home again but Mary stood outside the tomb weeping… John 20 v. 10-20.

  2. Barbara, Thank you for your beautiful reflections.
    Is it possible to contact you privately? with a question.

    Thank you again

    Ellen

    • It’s generally preferable for questions to go through the website. Thanks for your interest and your kind words.

  3. Great reflection. The fact is we should see Mary for not what she was but what she became, she allowed the Lord to use her life and in spite of any possible opposition she shared what she saw! (great thought)
    Gal 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”

    Blessings!

  4. Thank you for this commentary….I regard being born on her feast day a privilege. Have read .the Gospel of Mary Magdalene. Consider how brave and filled with faith she was to be at the crucifixion, to be the first at the tomb…It is truly God inspired that this is written in Scripture..because women didn’t have a voice. I just found out there is a movie being released “Mary Magdalene ” in Great Britain.

  5. This was a beautiful reflection! I never imagined Mary’s face “suffused with the light of grace.” How happy she must have been to see her Lord, again. Imagine her joy and wonder! What a wonderful writing this is… Thank you, Barbara.

  6. So many people ;one, even a priest, I have heard say Mary of Magdalene was a prostitute! I wanted to correct him (This was in Church). There were so many Marys , I thought and am Still not sure, if she was Martha and Lazarus sister. There are so many stories about her, probably lots of them untrue. She was certainly a great evangelist and friend of Jesus.

    • Some Scripture scholars identify her with Mary and Lazarus’ sister; others do not. I’m not qualified to join the debate, but in praying with Scripture I have imagined her at first listening to Jesus while Martha worked, and then in John’s version, attending to her guests while Mary went out to meet Jesus. Thank you for your very thoughtful comment.

  7. We can name many male saints who were profligate in their early years (St. Augustine for one), so why does it matter if Mary Magdalene was profligate in her affections too? The patriarchy of our Church owes women the same value of sainthood as is given to males. No wonder young women don’t go to church, but go to the Church of Facebook and Twitter. They can speak out for themselves no matter what kind of women they are. As Christ said, even the Pharisees loved their families. Everything I’ve ever read about MM is that she loved Christ and humbled herself before him. Which males of His time did that for Him?

  8. Thank you, Barbara. As a woman born long before Vatican II, it is only in recent years that I have come to understand the important role of Mary Magdalene as a witness and, indeed, to the witness of other women to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. May your thoughts be an inspiration to younger Catholic women.

  9. Great post, Barbara.
    In our church today, we must be very cautious of discounting the voices of people who are not in powerful positions.

  10. Indeed, I have thought of Mary of Magdala as being a “penitent sinful woman”…a prostitute also. What wonderful words to remember Barbara, Mary was indeed a witness to the Resurrection…a much better label.
    Thanks

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