22 July 2009

Running ahead of the Lord

Mary Magdalen: Ex 16.1-5, 9-15; John 20.1-2, 11-18
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Sisters of St Mary of Namur

The former provincial of the friars in England, Allen White, quotes a homily preached by Dominican mystic and philosopher, Meister Eckhart: “There are some who follow God: these are the perfect. Others walk close by God, at His side: these are the imperfect. But there are those others who run in front of God, and these are the wicked.” Fr. White then argues that “the true place for a disciple is not in front, not even alongside, but behind.” I dare say that our sister, Mary Magdalen, in her mourning at the tomb and upon seeing her Lord alive, would disagree—the true disciple lives by clinging to the resurrected Christ. Fortunately, for a world primed to receive its consummation in the ascension of Christ to his Father, Jesus knows that holding on to him will not bring his Word to the waiting world. He tells Mary, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, 'I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” And Mary, always the obedient disciple and friend of Jesus, does just that: “[She] announced to the disciples, 'I have seen the Lord...'” Of course, our brother, Allan White; our sister, Mary Magdalen; and our Lord Jesus are all correct. First, seduced by truth and awed in love, we follow behind Christ as his disciples. Then, knowing that he is risen and relieved that our mourning is at an end, we cling to him resurrected. Finally, in obedience and with hearts nearly splitting in joy, we go out to preach, announcing for all to hear: “The tomb is empty! We have seen the Lord!” What we cannot do is run ahead of God.

As one of the patronesses of the Order of Preachers, Mary Magdalen is often styled “the First Preacher,” “the Apostle to the Apostles.” She is sent to those who were sent to announce that Christ has left his tomb alive and well and is making his way to the Father. She reports to the apostles “what [Christ] told her.” We might call this report the “First Post-resurrection Homily”! Though Mary Magdalen ran ahead of the other women to complete her mission, she did not—indeed cannot—run ahead of the Lord. As a woman who follows behind Christ as a disciple and as a mourner who clings to him at the tomb, Mary brings her vocation as an apostle to its fulfillment by running alongside Jesus as the first preacher of his victory over death. Mary runs to the Twelve with the Word of Victory; a herald like John, she trumpets the resurrected Lord's advent, his coming again to this life before going back to his Life Eternal with the Father.

Let the apostle of the resurrection, Mary Magdalen, be our template, our exemplar. We cannot run ahead of God. We are not grasping for God when we overreach His saving Word; instead we find ourselves running headlong into self-serving fantasy and deadly deceit. Attempting to live beyond the beauty of His truth,—uniquely and finally revealed in Christ—we do nothing more than establish a virtual life of ego-made slavery to whim, trend, and chaos. Mary clings to her resurrected Lord and calls him “Teacher.” His constant lesson to anyone who will follow is: come to the Father by doing His will. . .anything less is idolatry—the worship of impermanent things, alienating philosophies; the celebrity we confer on false prophets and gurus; and the pleasure we get from works done in the name of own sense of justice. We cannot run ahead of God and be his faithful preachers.

If you have ever found yourself panicked by the apparent absence of the Lord in your family, your convent, your Church, your own life, weeping at what might look like an abandoned tomb and crying out, “They have taken my Lord, and I don't know where they laid him,” remind yourself of this: I followed behind the Lord as his disciple. I clung to him at his his resurrection. Then ask yourself: Am I running to those who hunger for his Word to announce the advent of New Life in him, or am I missing his presence because I am running ahead of his saving Word, leaving behind everything I have been taught, everything that I know to be the truth. If you were to stand still for a moment and look behind you, would you see his 21st century students following your obedient example, or would you see the Lord in the distance, calling you back to walk again victorious at his side?

1 comment:

  1. Thank you,Father, for sharing your daily homilies. As one who is in need of the presence of the Lord, your homilies really help me to pray. Thank you again.