April 10, 2012 - Tuesday in the Octave of Easter

Today's Readings

Our interpretation of the Gospel today, and, indeed, of the Resurrection itself, relies on how exactly one sentence was pronounced. If the story had been passed down orally, with a certain way of saying the line passed down along with the line, we would know how to understand this Gospel and we would know more about the Resurrection.

The line in today’s Gospel that causes this difficulty is translated as, “Jesus said to her, ‘Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.’” The literal Greek can also be said to begin with “Do not touch me.” In one way of interpreting the verse, Mary recognized Jesus after he called out her name. She calls him Rabbi and reaches out to embrace his feet and he stops her. He says this line. It is all very theological. There are books written on why Mary could not touch Jesus. If this were all true, we should read those books and understand the resurrected body of Jesus as something so far beyond our own bodies that no one should dare touch it without being invited or that Mary should not try to hold Jesus down to earth when he is going to heaven.

However, there is another interpretation. Jesus calls out her name. She looks up and recognizes him. She calls him “Rabbi” while running to embrace his feet. She reaches him, embraces his feet and does not let go. She thought he was dead. He was dead. Now he is alive. Minutes pass. Jesus looks down at her, laughing gently, and says to her “You can let go now. I am not going anywhere yet. I am not going to rise up to heaven the moment you let go. I am really here. It is really me. This is not a dream. Stop holding on to me, I am not going up to the Father yet.” This interpretation means the opposite of the other. It means that the resurrected Jesus, while completely transfigured, was not living a life so completely outside our understanding. He even makes a joke.

Myself, I like the second interpretation better. I think the other Gospels support it too. There is some danger in interpreting the words of Jesus as if he were too high and mighty to be touched. He came down to earth to be touched. And he who invited Thomas to stick his finger in the nail holes, would have welcomed the love shown by Mary Magdalene’s embrace.