NGO: What if Mary Magdalene did not turn around?

April 11, 2023

(Photo by James Ramos/Herald)

My friend and I were walking around the lake. We walked slowly and very carefully because of the uneven ground. I was focusing on my steps and engaging in conversation with my friend. Suddenly, she exclaimed, “Look!” “Uh-uh!” I responded. “Look! Turn around, pleeease!” she insisted.

I reluctantly turned my head around and was in awe of the gorgeous sunset sky. This breathtaking moment could never have happened had I kept my eyes down, worried I might stumble and fall.

On Easter morning, Mary Magdalene discovered that Jesus’s body had disappeared.

Words could not express her complex feelings then. Maybe a sense of helplessness: “They took my Lord away.” Maybe a sense of frustration: “Just tell me where you put my Lord’s body.” Maybe a sense of guilt: “I should have stayed by the tomb last night.” The tormented experience on Good Friday had worn her out completely, then the disappearance of Jesus’s body completely overthrew her very last hope and belief. Mary Magdalene was crying her eyes out in front of the empty tomb and did not realize that Jesus was standing behind her, waiting.

He first called her “Woman,” and she turned around. Because she was still in excruciating pain, she did not recognize Jesus. He called her again: “Mary!”

Like a wake-up call, she turned to Him and promptly responded, “Rabbouni!” After consoling her, Jesus commissioned her to announce His Resurrection to the disciples.

What if Mary Magdalene did not turn around? What if she was submerged deeply in her loss and pain and did not recognize Jesus’s voice calling her? What if she kept looking at the empty tomb and missed the resurrecting Christ was right behind her?

God’s presence in our lives is often hidden. Amid the trials, misunderstandings and ambiguities of daily living, God is there. Are we willing to let go of the past to live fully in the present? Are we learning how to love fully and freely without clinging or demanding certain results? Are we courageous enough to leave behind something that is known and familiar?

Do we strive to develop our capacity to live in the present moment and not hang on to the painful past? Do we overcome our daily sadness and busyness to take time to look up and turn around to recognize Christ in those we encounter? 

… “So let each of us, like Mary,
Sincerely seek the Lord
And if and when we find Him
Let’s be open to His word.

And just as He sent Mary
He will send each of us too
To be His Gospels of Love
So go, won’t you?
For God renews His favors
At the dawn of each new day
We can always count on Him
He is faithful in every way.

So let us go with courage,
To be His healing love today
To the people with whom we live
And work and meet
along life’s way.”

— Excerpt from poem “Easter Sunday” by Sister Sheila Marie O’Sullivan, CCVI


Sister Symphonie Giao-Huong Ngo, CCVI, pastoral minister with Special Youth Services.