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Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him." Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni!" (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, `I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
Old Blind Broussard and his Seeing Eye dog were sitting on the dock behind Pierre’s Oyster Bar and Bait Shop when Thibideaux pulled up.
“Hey Broussard, I ain’t seen ya in a while. Where ya been?” Thibideaux asked as he tied off his boat.
“Thibideaux my friend, I ain’t seen you in a while either. I’ve been on an adventure!” Broussard replied.
“What kind of adventure can a blind man go on?” Thibideaux asked.
“Well, I went bungee jumping,” Broussard replied.
“Bungee jumping? For true? How was dat?” Thibideaux asked.
“It was lotsa fun, but I can’t go no more,” Broussard said.
“Why’s dat? Did ya hurt yer self?”
“No nothin like dat,” Broussard said, “It just scared the hell outta my dog!”
Scripture tells us that Jesus and his disciples “came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”.. He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” .. Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.”
So often in Holy Scripture, blindness is used as a physical condition that is pointing to a spiritual condition. In the passage, Jesus was demonstrating that the people understood a bit about who he was, but not fully – I don’t know that it is necessarily a compliment to be compared to trees walking around, but it shows that we can on occasion be a bit thick.
In the resurrection account from John’s Gospel that we read this morning, we also have an apparent case of spiritual blindness. Peter and John have their foot race to the empty tomb.. not finding Jesus, but only his grave clothes, they apparently leave… Following close behind is Mary Magdalene. She is standing there alone, staring into the empty tomb and crying… she sees two angels sitting at the head and foot of where Jesus had been lying, when suddenly she hears a voice behind her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?"… She turned, but did not recognize Jesus, she thought he was the gardener… so turning and peering once again into the darkness of the empty tomb she says, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.".. at which point Jesus speaks her name, “Mary!” and then.. in the speaking of her name she knows her Teacher.. she knows Jesus.
What was it though that prevented her from recognizing him right away.. after all.. as we said, she had been with him for quite some time? Two reasons are obvious – and both point to her seemingly physical blindness and her certain spiritual blindness.
The first reason was that she was crying… through her tears she could not see.. Like the blind man that only saw trees at first.. demonstrating those who only partially understand.. Mary had only partially understood the things that Jesus had been saying before his crucifixion... as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth…. ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’… ‘After three days I will rise again.’… She had heard these things, but did not understand.
The second reason for not recognizing Jesus was the simple fact that she was not looking at him. Where was she looking? Well, except for a quick glance, she was looking into the grave… she was looking into death.
It was only when Jesus called her by name.. “Mary!”.. that she was able to come out of the darkness of her blindness and the scales were shed from her eyes.. that she was able to see clearly.. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”.. and in that instant the full Light of Christ came pouring into Mary’s soul.
Mary Magdalene was not the only one who experienced spiritual blindness.. we too often have this unfortunate malady and for the same reasons as Mary … For one, we cannot see clearly, we fail to understand, because we try and look at the world through our own tears. We see the pain and suffering of others and of ourselves and we think, “This is it… this is as good as it gets,” but, like Mary, we also don’t fully understand the teachings of Jesus.. I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am… There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”… “Behold, I make all things new.”
And secondly, like Mary, our spiritual blindness is because we also aren’t looking at Jesus.. we’re still staring into the grave… we are looking into our past.. what has been.. We consider our lives and we believe that all is lost.. we will never be “good enough”… we see our own death and fail to recognize that the empty tomb we are staring into has nothing to do with death!.. It is all about LIFE… eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord!
Since the first days of creation.. when God knew you even before the world was created.. like Mary, He has been calling out to you by name.. calling you out of the darkness.. out of your own blindness.. and into the light. Why are you still crying? Why are you still staring into the tomb? As the prophet Isaiah declares…
“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but.. the LORD rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
Allow that glory.. that light to shine upon you.. hear your name being called and be free of your blindness and walk in the full light of Christ.… but don’t stop there.. as St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, writes, “light up all the ways of the earth with the fire of Christ that you carry in your heart,” so that others may also see.
Let us pray… I encourage you to make this prayer your own… Dear Jesus, help me to spread Your fragrance everywhere I go. Flood my soul with Your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may only be a radiance of Yours. Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Your presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus! Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as You shine, so to shine as to be a light to others. In your Name we pray. Amen.