Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Better to Follow than to Arrive

Copyright © 2011 by Chris R. Glaser. All rights reserved.

Mary Magdalene discovered Jesus’ body missing from his grave, perhaps a final insult after his shameful execution.

She turns to see a figure through her tears who asks, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?”

She had been the leader of the women who followed Jesus for three years, learning the transformation needed to fully welcome the reign of God. What had she expected?

“If you have carried Jesus away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away,” Mary blurts out, supposing that Jesus is the gardener. Her only consolation is the lifeless body of Jesus, to protect him from further humiliation by taking him someplace safe.

Put your own name there, and imagine yourself in a place of great grief, a place of bitterness, a place of anger at “the powers that be” including God “himself”—imagine in such a place hearing your name being called by none other than Jesus! 

Mary knew him instantly, “Teacher!” she cries as she hears her beloved’s voice again as if for the first time. Her first feeling, her first thought, is to grab him, to cling to him, so that he doesn’t get away.

“Do not hold on to me.”

What? Are you crazy? I want to hold you, to touch you, to bring you close to my heart! To never let you out of my sight! To never let you leave me again!

“Do not hold on to me.”

The other disciples. His family. The multitudes. The mobs. The priests. The rulers. The soldiers. The cross. The tomb. If these couldn’t hold on to Jesus, how could Mary of Magdala?

“Do not hold on to me.”

And think of all who have tried to hold on to Jesus since? Gospel writers. Epistle writers. Gospels and epistles that didn’t even make it into the Bible. Theologians. Preachers. Priests. Liturgists. Ethicists. Artists. The church. Popes. Church councils. Reformers. Fundamentalists. Literalists. Contemplatives. Progressives. None of these can hold on to Jesus either.

Not being able to cling to Jesus serves as a metaphor for the spiritual life. Believing we have “arrived” or that we’ve “found it” is when we’re in the most spiritual danger. Better to follow Jesus than to nail him down.

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