This year, more than ever, I’ve been thinking a lot less about the Easter holiday and a lot more about the specific role Mary Magdalene played in this blessed event – a woman who, according to the Gospel of John, was the first to recognize, and to be recognized by, the risen Jesus.
It would be hard to overestimate the significance of that moment when Jesus calls Mary by name and she replies, “Rabboni” – another name for Master or Teacher (see John 20:11-18). Never before had anyone been given the opportunity to bear witness to the full magnitude of Jesus’ teachings that life is eternal – as he proved in his resurrection.
That encounter with Jesus represents a kind of call to action, not just for Mary, but for all of us, to live more fully the life exemplified by the master Christian – to begin to understand our inherent relationship to God, to be kind and courageous, forgiving, compassionate, patient, and so on.
To be moved by the Christ is to see who and what we really are and what we’re capable of. Christ Jesus showed us that we are all children of God, and that our life is in God. Although in Mary’s case this involved a face-to-face meeting with Jesus, we can all discover, in our own way, God’s unique and wonderful purpose for us. All it takes is the humility and the courage to accept it, and the willingness to look beyond materiality to the spiritual reality Jesus demonstrated for all of us.
“Through all the disciples experienced, they became more spiritual and understood better what the Master had taught,” writes Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy: “His resurrection was also their resurrection. It helped them to raise themselves and others from spiritual dulness and blind belief in God into the perception of infinite possibilities” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 34).
As indicated in Jesus’ teachings, this includes the possibility of being healed of whatever challenges we might be facing – mental, physical, or otherwise.
In one incident that took place well before his resurrection, we find Jesus being approached by a woman – described simply as “a sinner” – entering the home of a respected Pharisee (see Luke 7:36-50). She begins to wash Jesus’ feet with her tears, wiping them with her hair and anointing them with oil – an unmistakable indication of her deep affection for the spiritual goodness and purity Jesus embodied.
“Her reverence was unfeigned,” writes Mrs. Eddy, “and it was manifested towards one who was soon, though they knew it not, to lay down his mortal existence in behalf of all sinners, that through his word and works they might be redeemed from sensuality and sin” (Science and Health, p. 364).
Jesus says to the woman washing his feet, “Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.”
To the degree that any one of us accepts and begins to adopt the goodness and purity of the Christ – “the spiritual idea of divine Love,” as Mrs. Eddy describes it on page 38 of Science and Health – as the essence of our own identity, we begin to see changes in our lives. Sin and sickness become less real to us, less a part of who and what we understand ourselves to be. As that happens, healing occurs and we find ourselves free of challenges that had limited us.
Certainly none of us will ever encounter Jesus as this woman or Mary Magdalene did. But we can encounter the ever-present Christ, Truth, he represented. We can entertain the same sense of pure affection for the Christ, benefit from the same holy sense of love, and experience the same redemptive and healing effect.
In this way Easter becomes for us not just a once-a-year event, but an everyday celebration.