As I’ve written in previous posts, my patron as a Benedictine Oblate is Mary Magdalene, chosen because of her ardent attachment to Christ. Recent problematic events in the lives of close friends move me to once again revisit and share my attraction to this saint.
The Gospel passage in John where Jesus speaks to her after the Resurrection – and she’s the first to receive this favor – contain those troubling words: Don’t cling to me. Magdalene’s instinct to cling to Jesus always seemed to me so natural, so very intuitive! After all, she had seen him slowly die, taken down from the cross, wrapped in burial cloths, and sealed away in a tomb. And now, here he was in the flesh, moving and speaking to her – calling her by name. What else could she do but cling? Why did he tell her to let go of him?
There was something daring in her gesture: How could anyone have the nerve to touch someone they had actually seen die?
Daring and so incredibly confident, confidence born from an unswerving love. Confident, yet also fearful of having this loved one leave her once again. Clinging must prevent that.
Because it seems unkind of Jesus to tell her not to cling, I try to imagine his point of view in speaking so (apparently) harshly.
First, he had an urgent commission for her. Jesus tells her she must now Go, tell my brothers (and your brothers) that I’ll meet them in Galilee.
The brothers, obviously, have not gone to check on Jesus. Instead, they’ve remained holed up in a safe place while Mary had boldly gone to the tomb (guarded by Roman soldiers, no less!) to tend to burial ministrations for him. Now risen, Jesus needs to give them instructions for continuing his mission, and wants to meet them at that place where he selected the first Apostles.
Second, there’s no need to cling because he’s not leaving – yet. I’ve not yet gone to the Father: I’ll be around for a while.
Third and most difficult, she must learn how to love without clinging. Clinging implies a kind of desperation. Desperation indicates, very clearly, great fear and a lack of trust, an inability to allow the loved one adequate space to be who they are.
Since perfect love casts out fear, it also enables total trust.
I’ve found that it’s much easier to trust where my own welfare is concerned, but not where the welfare of my family or friends is concerned. When they are ill or having problems, I tend to fret more readily, more deeply and longer. Why do I think I can be their savior?
For me, this is the real test of trust: they are in God’s care – not mine. I don’t own them; God does.
Which doesn’t mean, of course, that I don’t care and that I don’t try to help them as best I can. But in my mind and heart, there remains a nagging sense of failure that I haven’t done enough; I can’t save them. Why do I think that my useless fretting is going to help them? Do I need to prove to myself (and them) that I really care?
Do what you can, Rosalie, and leave the rest to God.
Trust, let go. Scripture is full of passages about the need to put everything and everyone in the hands of God. He even knows how many hairs are on your head. God knows not only me, but those I love as well. His knowledge of us all is intimate, caring loving, and complete.
And so, I learn to surrender the loved ones to those infinitely more loving and powerful hands.