Good News Reflection
Tuesday in the Octave of Easter
April 14, 2009
Ps 33:4-5, 18-20, 22
Experiencing heaven on earth
Why did Jesus tell Mary Magdalene to stop clinging to him in today's Gospel reading? Was he against hugs? Don't you wish you could feel him hugging you right now? How could Mary's embrace interfere with Jesus ascending to the Father?
In Jerusalem, the Chapel of Mary Magdalene in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre has a bronze sculpture depicting this scripture. It shows Mary full of joy in the discovery that her dearest friend has risen from the dead. One hand of Jesus is gesturing for her to stop. His other hand is raised toward heaven, and his gaze is following this hand upward. It's as if he's saying, "Look toward heaven; what's earthly doesn't matter nearly as much."
Mary's head is tilted upward. Her gaze wants to go where Jesus is looking, but her eyes are caught between heaven and earth. One of her hands wants to touch Jesus, the other is covering her heart as if realizing that this is where he will dwell after he ascends to the Father.
Have you ever wished you could see and touch Jesus in the flesh? Jesus wants you to know that it's better to focus on the blessings of heaven than to wish for an experience that's only brief and temporary. Jesus does hug us — through every hug we get from other people — but the physical touch is never enough. That's why he told Mary not to "cling" or "hold" onto him, instead of saying, "Don't hug me."
To fully embrace the eternal, we have to let go of everything that we cling to on earth. Saints have levitated in prayer because their spirits were stronger than their physical bodies, which were no longer attached to this world. Their relationship with God was stronger than the distractions of this world.
Jesus gives us his Holy Spirit to raise our spirits to the Father. What are you clinging to that hinders this? Sometimes, we hold onto the subconscious idea that God the Father is imperfect like our human fathers. Maybe we're more interested in OUR ideas, OUR goals, OUR desires (which will only satisfy us for a season) than in what the Father wants for us (which will satisfy us for all eternity).
Do we fail to make sacrifices for others because we're clinging to our own earthly comfort? Are we refusing to stretch beyond our comfort zones, because we want to hold on to what's familiar? Are we hanging on to any old habits or addictions?
Resurrected living means letting Jesus raise us from the dying, temporary world of earthly satisfactions into the joys of heaven. We don't need to touch Jesus to feel touched by him. He's inviting us to let our spirits soar heavenward while we're still living on earth. We fly to him whenever we remember that what's earthly doesn't matter nearly as much as what awaits us in heaven.
© 2009 by Terry A. Modica
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