In his “Spiritual Exercises” St. Ignatius Loyola gives two bits of advice to the retreatant when the time comes for contemplating the resurrection. One should “be glad and rejoice intently because of the great joy and the glory of Christ our Lord.” He also suggests that the retreatant consider the office of consoler that Christ exercises and compare it with the way in which friends are wont to console each other. The readings of today’s Eucharist manifest the risen Christ as a consoler full of joy and glory.
When Jesus meets Mary Magdalene in the garden she expresses great distress, for someone has violated the tomb by removing the body of the crucified Lord. In her sorrow she thinks she is talking to the gardener. Jesus does not immediately relieve her confusion; rather he allows her to explain that she will take the body, if only he tells her where it is.
When Jesus finally says her name, “Mary,” she realizes she is indeed talking to her master and Lord. This touching scene shows the Lord having a little bit of fun with Mary. Since resurrection is a new experience for him even he is learning. This encounter between Mary and Jesus encourages us to rejoice in the resurrection.
The Gospel scene manifests Jesus acting as consoler as he encounters Mary. He reveals something of the future to her: he is ascending to the Father. He missions her to announce the resurrection to his disciples. What had started out as sorrow becomes consoling joy for Mary who spreads the good news to his followers. Ultimately, the disciples too will spread that good news to the whole world.
In our own lives we must remember that Jesus is indeed risen, and because of his resurrection we too are missioned to be consolers. Sometimes it is easy to console. When something good happens to another person we rejoice. When a young couple marries and has their first child all the relatives and friends rejoice.
There are times, however, when it is more difficult to rejoice with another person. Perhaps a person receives a promotion at work and I feel that I should have been given that promotion. As followers of the risen Christ we step away from our hurt and rejoice with the person who was promoted. By expressing joy and consolation even in difficult situations we allow Christ’s risen life of joy and consolation to shine through us into the world.
Paul’s final statement in the reading from 1 Corinthians tells us how rejoicing in the good that happens to another fulfills the promises of the resurrection. “Therefore, let us celebrate the feast not with the old yeast … but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
Fr. Treloar, an assistant director at Jesuit Retreat House, Oshkosh, has served as a professor, lecturer, author and academic administrator.