Celebrating a new life in Christ
The paschal mystery - the heart of our faith - has two aspects. In the resurrection of Jesus the Christ, we are freed from our sins. This gift then opens for us a new way of life. St. Paul writes in Romans 6:4: "Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life." It is a newness of life sung in our hymns, proclaimed in preaching, acknowledged in our prayers, and painted countless times.
One of my favorite paintings is by Titian, entitled "Noli me tangere" or Christ and Mary Magdalene. The scene painted is inspired by John 20:11-18. This painting is to be read at different levels to grasp properly the message given. It begins with Jesus, the Risen One, who says to Mary Magdalene that He has not yet ascended to "my Father and your Father, to my God and your God." That is the reason why Mary Magdalene must not hold on to Jesus. And yet, Jesus remains the Good Shepherd. We see the sheep in the background on his right. Speaking earlier, Jesus had said that "I know mine and mine know me" (John 10:14). When Jesus called Mary by name and she recognized Him, it only confirmed what Jesus had said earlier: "The sheep hear his voice, as he called his own sheep by name" and "the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice" (John 10:3,11).
Now look at the picture. It is very clear that Jesus is gazing upon the face of Mary Magdalene, but look at the face of the Magdalene. She is not gazing at the face of Jesus as would be expected. Rather, she gazes at the space above the burial cloth bundled in the right hand of Jesus. She is gazing at the heart of Jesus, the throne of His love for her and also the source of His fidelity on the cross. It is His love for her that has brought Jesus to the garden to console her tears. It is her love for Him that gives her the ear to hear and recognize His voice. It is that gaze of Mary Magdalene that we are left with, that tells the story of what this new life is all about. Like Mary Magdalene, we are invited to be on our knees in gratitude, wonderment, and love that flows into eternity,
V. Rev. Jean-Paul Labrie, VF
Pastor, St. John Vianney Parish, Fort Kent