She thought it was the gardener and said to him,

“Sir, if you carried him away,

tell me where you laid him,

and I will take him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary!”

Jn 20:11-18

In his shadow I delight to sit,

and his fruit is sweet to my taste.

He brought me to the banquet hall

and his glance at me signaled love.

Song of Songs 2:3-4

The recurrence of biblical passages year after year in our liturgy offers an inner exploration of the many interpretations one can give to the same passage. Take today’s. Jesus and Mary Magdalene in the garden.

What struck me this year is how much their encounter reminds me of the Song of Songs. How much Mary Magdalene’s soul and love for Jesus want to become one with the One she has followed for several years.

Another aspect of the Triduum and of this morning in the garden in particular which has impacted me: how much the women and men disciples of Jesus must have not only feared and trembled for Jesus and themselves, but also how much they must have wept during these days of trial and crucifixion and loss.

It is thus a very teary Mary Magdalene whom I see coming to the tomb, inquiring from the angels, and turning to the gardener. Anyone who has felt “filled” by a time in a retreat can imagine and feel how Mary Magdalene’s heart and mind were full of love and longing for Jesus.

I sense the intensity of their encounter: the faithfulness of the woman, Jesus no longer the man who walked the earth. The woman’s hunger for his presence, his comforting touch, his soothing words. An encounter both in time and out of time. Out of time in the sense that anyone who wishes to join them and experience their connection can.

For years, I felt desolate for Mary when Jesus tells her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father…” This morning, I realize that her possible desolation at having to let him go is replaced by the energy she feels when she hears his command, “go to my brothers and tell them…” Her love for him sends her into action, the way Gabriel’s Annunciation to Mary has her immediately leave to visit her cousin Elizabeth.

Is it really possible to love Jesus and not feel sent on a mission?

Mary Magdalene will rush out of the garden and announce the good news to the others. I choose to stay in the moment before she goes, when Mary Magdalene hears a beloved voice call her name, that instant of recognition, of connection, of oneness, however ephemeral, that moment she will surely revisit again and again till death brings her back for all eternity to the One who loved her and saved her.

Illustration: Rembrandt, Noli Me Tangere, 1638