There were many initial witnesses to the resurrection—but who was the first to actually see the resurrected Christ? Answer: St. Mary Magdalene, at least according to the Gospel of John. In Chapter 20, we read that as she came across the empty tomb, St. Mary Magdalene ran to tell Peter, who comes, sees the empty tomb for himself, and then takes off with the other disciples. But Mary Magdalene stays behind, weeping outside the tomb. A man later appears to her, asking why she was weeping—that man turned out to be Jesus.
What can we learn from Mary Magdalene? Here is what Pope St. Gregory the Great tells us in one of his homilies:
We should reflect on Mary’s attitude and the great love she felt for Christ, for though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, and while she sought she wept. Burning with the fire of love, she longed for him who she thought had been taken away. And so it happened that the woman who stayed behind to seek Christ was the only one to see him. For perseverance is essential to any good deed, as the voice of truth tells us: “Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved.”
Mary Magdalene’s story speaks to us today. In some sense, all Christians are standing with her outside the tomb, waiting for God, longing for Christ. All of us can relate in some way to the unease and anxiety that nagged at her soul when she was confronted with the absence of Christ. May we also share in the same earnest seeking for God. May we too persevere in faith to the end.
Note to readers: For the first week of this Easter season, I will be profiling five saints who all have a direct and special connection with the Easter story of Christ’s resurrection. May reflecting on their lives and words enrich your devotions as we celebrate and commemorate the Easter story. This is the first of five profiles.
Coming tomorrow—How should we respond to the resurrection?