The following is a reflection given by Sister Janet M. Peterworth on April 12, 2020, Easter Sunday Mass via Zoom to Saint William Parish in Louisville, Kentucky.
It wasn’t natural…a woman going out early in the morning without a man while it was dark. It wasn’t natural for a woman to be walking in this darkness in a cemetery toward a tomb. It wasn’t natural to see a large stone that was certainly there before, removed as if by magic or earthquake, from the entrance of that tomb. It wasn’t natural to see an empty slab where a really dead body had been only three days before. It wasn’t natural for someone to leave their tomb so orderly…to take time to roll the head covering neatly and set it aside. It is not natural to speak with two angels sitting there in the tomb. And it isn’t natural for us to be here on this Easter morning looking at each other through tiny rectangles on the Zoom app.
But what is natural? It is natural for a woman who anticipates the dawn to brave the darkness. It is natural for a woman to get direction from others when the way is confusing. It is natural for two-thirds of any group to run away when fear takes over. It is natural for a woman to face fear through her blinding tears when love is involved. It is natural for Jesus to ordain a woman to go tell the others, because women have a way with words—even though their words are often not believed as credible. And it is natural for us to be here celebrating, shouting Alleluia and singing and smiling at one another albeit in little rectangular boxes because we are community.
Though synoptic writers namely, Matthew, Mark and Luke suggest the number of women including Mary of Magdala varied from two to four, it was Mary Magdalene, the woman anticipating the dawn, the woman staying and weeping, the woman sent to tell the brothers that Jesus had gone to his Abba, it was that woman who was constantly mentioned in all four gospels as the first witness of the Resurrection. She was an incredible believer in Jesus and an incredible spokesperson of his resurrection. Jesus had sent her to tell what she saw and heard in their great moment of intimacy together. But it wasn’t long before Mary, that name whispered so softly and sweetly in the garden that morning, became Magdalene “that woman.”
Little is known of Mary of Magdala after her first-time mission of apostleship. I want to believe she stayed the course. I would like to believe she came away from delivering Jesus’ message to the brothers singing and twirling and jumping and dancing. I like to believe that her first-time mission turned into a lifetime mission of apostleship.
According to Judy Cannato, author of Fields of Compassion, the empowerment to Christ consciousness came through the experience we call resurrection. She says that “while we cannot know exactly what happened at Resurrection, we know that it was more than a resuscitation of a corpse…what we do know is that somehow the risen Christ made himself known to those he had called friends and from this new way of knowing Jesus, this formerly fear-filled band of followers became bold and wise.” And I submit that Mary of Magdala was the first of these followers to experience this. Ms. Cannato goes on to say that Jesus was God enfleshed and now God wanted Jesus’ followers to become God enfleshed. “Resurrection changed their consciousness in every way, and the world has never been the same.” Thank God, Mary delivered her message whether it was natural for a woman or not.
And what if resurrection would change our consciousness in every way? And what if we became God enfleshed because of Jesus? And what if we were offered the possibility of being Christ in the world? What if we were all invited and empowered to manifest God-consciousness brought about by resurrection? What if we manifested it in the here and now, just as Jesus did? Would that be natural? I think so, because that is what Easter is all about. So, when we get out of our little rectangle boxes, let us deliver Jesus’ message and sing and twirl and jump and dance in solidarity with Mary of Magdala. And shout Alleluia—Whether it seems natural or not.