Jesus is Risen! Alleluia! The celebration of Easter is a wondrous one indeed. But the glory of the Resurrection was not immediately realized. When Mary Magdalene, Simon Peter, and the other disciple saw the empty tomb, they did not know what it meant. Peter and the other disciple returned home, probably confused at what was happening.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (John 20:11-16)
Why didn’t Mary recognize Jesus? Certainly she had spent enough time with Him to know what He looked like. And only a few days had passed since she had last seen Him. She purposefully went to the tomb to look for Him, so how is it that when she sees Him, she does not recognize Christ?
First, Christ appeared fully resurrected in all His glory. The fullness of His divinity was now evident. He was not beaten, bloodied, or weak. Even so, wouldn’t she know Him when she saw Him? Perhaps the better question is, do we know when we see Him?
Mary did not recognize the Lord because she was not expecting to see Him. She knew He had died. She was looking for a lifeless body and instead came face to face with the very source of life! Despite His teachings, the human mind took control. And that human mind said that Jesus had died. He couldn’t possibly be here again. Her grief, her sorrow, her confusion at the events that had taken place blinded her to the presence of Christ right before her eyes.
What about us? Do we recognize Christ? Do we hear His voice and know it is Him? We may not see Him standing beside the tomb, but He is still present among us. When we see others in need, are we too blinded by our own worries and our own earthly needs to see Christ standing before us in them? When we see others caught up in sinful behavior, is our vision clouded by our own judgements, perceptions, and anger? Or do we recognize that each and every person is made in His image! We only need to open our eyes and open our hearts to see the face of Jesus in every one of us.
Sometimes we see Him but fail to recognize the full glory that is present. When we behold the Eucharist, we are in His presence! When we receive communion do we see bread, or His Body? God is not dead! He is risen from the grave! We do not need to search for Him within the tomb. We need to instead see Him in those around us, in the Holy Eucharist, in all of creation! His glory is abundant if we only open our eyes to see it! Christ is all around us. When worry and doubt clouds our vision, let us pray that the Holy Spirit will open our hearts and allow us to recognize the glory of the Risen Lord that is present among us today.