Reflection on John 20.1-18 (Easter Day)

Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’

It always makes us feel special and valued when someone remembers our name, and especially when the person who, without hesitation, calls us by name is someone we only see occasionally. Our names form an important part of our identity. Even though there may be millions of others who share our names, they remain that which separates us from others. Sometimes our names are shared with older members of our families. It is not unusual for a name to be passed down the generations, connecting us with a time long past. Similarly, our names may be a conscious break with the past, the drawing of a line, the beginning of a new era. Our names are important to us, and that is why new parents spend so long choosing them. It is also the reason we feel diminished and demeaned when someone forgets our name.

In earlier times we were very protective of our names and how they were used. The use of a Christian name was a privilege that was only bestowed upon someone after its use had been earned through long acquaintance, through repeated acts of kindness, or some other rite of passage. Today we are more casual about such matters, although the stealing of our identity, that is the misappropriation and misuse of our names, is still considered one of the worst violations anyone can perpetrate upon us.

In today’s reading we hear of Mary Magdalene visiting the tomb of Jesus while it was still dark. Then having found the tomb empty, and all the other interaction with two of Jesus’ disciples and the two angels in white, she is confronted by a stranger whom she presumes to be the gardener. Then comes the important moment for her, and for us. The risen Jesus calls Mary by her name. Suddenly the darkness is swept away and the full joy of the resurrection is revealed … in the saying of that one word: Mary.

We spend so much of our time in darkness. The pressures of modern life crowd in upon us. Too often we struggle to hear Jesus calling us by name, extending his guiding and loving hand to lead us into the clear and radiant light of the resurrection. Therein lies the challenge for us on this Easter Day. As we proclaim the great truth: Alleluia! Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia! let us never forget that he knows us so well that he never forgets our names, even if we sometimes forget his. Let us pray that when the darkness seems impenetrable we might remember to listen for that still small voice which calls us by name, inviting us into an ever closer relationship with him.