While I am a little embarrassed to admit it, there are times when I feel some kinship with Mary Magdalene. As you will remember, Mary was the one who, in John’s Gospel went to the tomb early in the morning and upon seeing that the stone had been rolled back from the tomb, ran off to Simon Peter and John, and told them: “The Lord has been taken from the tomb! We don’t know where they put him.” (Jn20:2) Mary had gone to the tomb expecting to find the body of Jesus. And when she did not find Jesus where she expected to find him, she was distraught and fearful, and probably more than a little uncertain about what she should do.
Mary’s experiences of not finding Jesus in an expected place is one that is very familiar to me. Most often I expect to find/experience the presence of Jesus in my prayer. And, in fact, prayer is indeed the place where I regularly do find and experience Jesus’ presence. There are times, in my prayer, though, when this has not been the case. At these times it feels as though Jesus has been taken away, and I don’t know where he is.
I suspect the above is something that is true for all of us. There are places/activities/special moments in our lives where we have felt Jesus’ presence in the past, and as a result, we continue to expect that we will find/experience the presence of Jesus in those places/ activities/moments. When this turns out not to be the case, we wonder what happened, and we feel as though Jesus has been taken away and we do not know where he is to be found.
When the above happens, we need to remind ourselves that Jesus is still present, even though it is not in the place or in the way that had been the case in the past. Certainly, this is what happened with Mary Magdalene. When she went to the tomb, she did not find Jesus where she expected to find him. At that point it would have been easy for her to give in to discouragement and give up the search, but instead she sought help and went looking a second time, and it was then that she experienced the presence of Jesus in a new and glorious way.
This same thing can be true for us. If we don’t find/experience the presence of Jesus in the usual ways/places, if we can persevere in our search, if we can wait in hope, seek in love, and believe in Jesus’ resurrection and his promise to be with us always, even until the end of the world, we will discover anew Christ’s abiding presence with us in new and unexpected ways.
On this Feast of Easter, my prayer is that all of us will continue to look for and discover the presence of Jesus in our lives—in familiar as well as in new ways—and that the grace of Christ’s resurrection will sustain and support us in our search and ultimately reward our efforts.