The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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April 20, 2001 Issue
Bishop Banks' Corner

Bishop Robert J. Banks
Bishop Robert J. Banks

Where have you seen him today?

Mary Magdalene shows us that seeing the Lord is life-changing

(The following is the prepared text of the homily Bp. Banks gave at the NCEA Convention in Milwaukee on April 17.)

"Mary Magdalene went to the disciples. 'I have seen the Lord,' she announced. Then she reported what he had said to her."

It is very fitting that the Gospel for the opening Mass of the NCEA should always be about Mary Magdalene, a woman, announcing the good news to Jesus' disciples. Just looking at this congregation, we know that the pattern established 2,000 years ago by Jesus is still the pattern for his Church - women announcing the good news to his disciples. Not that the pattern is exclusive. Jesus also believed in the importance of diversity so he also chose men to be his messengers.

I realize that I am on dangerous ground right now, talking about men and women. It was with more than a bit of trepidation that I chose the Gospel to preach on today. I have not had the chance to consult a commentary on this passage by a woman, so I am flying blind. It probably would have been wiser or safer to preach on the first reading.

A very human meeting

But I like this Gospel story and I like the fact that Mary Magdalene had a prominent part in the Easter story. There is something very human about the meeting of Mary and Jesus.

For instance, those lines about Mary reaching out to touch Jesus, and his saying, "No." The scholars have a field day exegeting that exchange between Mary and Jesus. At the risk of being flip, I am tempted to say it is only a case of Men being from Mars and Women from Venus. Mary eager to re-establish her relationship of friendship with Jesus; Jesus with his mind on the business at hand.

But John, the evangelist, is into deeper things than psychologizing that exchange. He is telling us that it is human to want Jesus to be present like he always was, but Jesus had a better plan.

Jesus the keynote speaker

And isn't it true that we would like it if Jesus were here in person as the preacher rather than I? Granted Abp. Weakland is a great speaker, but wouldn't we like to have Jesus as our keynoter? Then we could surround him after the talk, shake his hand, the kids could ask for autographs. And maybe there are some here who would love to ask him to help them walk, or cure their cancer, or restore to life a loved one. Wouldn't it be great?

And then we could gather around as he got into a car to head to the airport for his flight back to Jerusalem. And next week, we could see him as he traveled to another meeting in Africa. Wouldn't it be great!

Or is it better that Jesus left his Spirit to his Church and to each of us? So Jesus is present here now, living in us. And Jesus is here in the Scriptures we read, and even in this poor homily, and especially when we gather at the table to be nourished by him. Isn't it better that he is present wherever two or three are gathered in his name? And present in nursing homes for the residents as they are wheeled in for Mass, and in the prisons when the interested inmates come together for Eucharist? And present to each of us when alone, in silence, we open the Scriptures and he speaks to us?

More than Mars, Venus

Oh, that exchange was more important than something about Mars and Venus.

But Mary speaks again in this Gospel. She finally arrives to give the disciples the message that Jesus entrusted to her. But she begins with some words of her own, "I have seen the Lord."

Now that could seem like a mere statement of fact - Mary saying to the disciples, "Relax, fellows, no one stole the body. I have seen Jesus and he is alive and well."

She is not saying that. She is saying, in effect, " I have seen the Lord! My life is changed. He is the Lord of my life." She is saying to the disciples, " And the lives of all of us are changed. We belong to him and to one another with a bond stronger than flesh."

She is not saying, "Relax!" She is saying, "Our lives are changed and we have to get the word out to the whole world." That is Mary's message, "I have seen the Lord."

Disappeared, not gone

With those words, Mary Magdalene disappears from Scripture. We hear no more about her in the Acts of the Apostles or the letters of St. Paul. But she did not disappear from the life of the Church. For two millennia, her words have announced the Resurrection to millions all over the earth. Her words ring out still, "I have seen the Lord."

May that be the message that our lives and ministry bring to those we serve: "I have seen the Lord."

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