“DON’T HOLD ON TO ME” (Jn 20,17) – An Easter Message from Dr Ivo Coelho, Philosopher, Priest and Supporter of Live Encounters Magazine
This Easter, I am thinking of the fact that all the first appearances of Jesus are to women. And this in a culture where the testimony of women was not valid, not accepted. If the stories were invented, they could have done better, in other words.
Commenting on Mary of Magdala in the gospel of John, Rossi de Gasperis makes some wonderful connections that I had never thought of. Twice in the text (Jn 20,1-18) Mary is called Woman. Like Mary, the Mother of Jesus (at Cana, and on Calvary). Like Eve, the first Woman, in another garden. And then the pairs: Mary-Rabbuni in Jn 20; the ‘Adam who is man and woman in Genesis; the lover and the beloved of the Song of Songs; and the Bride waiting for the Spouse in Revelation. “Orizzonti sterminati,” in the words of Rossi de Gasperis. Who would have imagined that there was all this in the text.
The embrace implied by the words of Jesus: “Don’t hold on to me!” And the passionate search of the girl for her beloved in Song 3,1-4, till she finds him and embraces him…. “How I wish you were my brother… that I could embrace you in the street when I met you.”
And again, the words of Jesus: “Don’t hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to my Father and yours, to my God and yours.” The time of the loving embrace has only just begun, it has not yet been fulfilled. With him, he would like to have all his brothers and sisters, in the loving embrace of the Father: all of us, called to rise with him who is the first fruits, to ascend with him to the Father. This is the joy that was set before him, for the sake of which he endured the cross and the shame: the joy of having together with him, all his brothers and sisters, good, bad and ugly. All, of whatever religion, colour, caste, creed. All – even those we hate, and those who hate us.
So the time of the definite embrace has not yet arrived. But winter is over, the spring has come (Song 2,11-13), the time of the love without a face is over. Now Love has a Face. “No one has ever seen God; the only begotten, who is nearest to his heart, he has made him known.” Jesus, the Face of the Father. “Have I been with you all this time, and you still ask, Philip? He who sees me has seen the Father.”
So we live in the blessed in-between, the time of the mysteric embrace, veiled, sacramental. It is the time of the love of Mary of Magdala, who is asked to release her embrace and to run and tell her brothers, his brothers, the good news.
It is a time of joy – but a joy that makes place in its bosom for sadness, for suffering, for sorrow. And so, once again, we pray for Tom, who is for us the face of all those who are, at this moment, in sorrow, in pain, in untold suffering. And, like Him whom we celebrate and love tonight in a special way, we forgive, and we ask for the grace to keep our hearts open, like him, open and full of tenderness for this humanity that refuses to learn, for our humanity that runs the risk of hardening up and closing.
A blessed Easter to you all.